Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Wakuden  わくでん

An unexpected treasure at Isetan Kyoto station. The Wakuden restaurants are proud purveyors of Kyoto style cuisine - both the food and sake, brewed especially for them, are excellent. Fresh and sharp flavours and a view to kill for. Sit at the counter overlooking the city and bliss out.  
Plum and Kombu tea
Buri sashimi with warm ankake poured over the top and lightly pickled vegetables
Creamy saikyo miso with red Kyoto carrot, taro and toasted mochi
Tai grilled with fresh kinome leaves over the top, yuzu jelly knot and pickled daikon "chrysanthemum"
Tataki Gobo - burdock with sesame dressing

Reflection of Kyoto tower
thick dashi with crab, daikon, shiitake, ginger and mitsuba
Tai ochazuke (with dashi instead of ocha over rice) with a chunky miso topping and sansho flavoured tsukadani on the side

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Home cooking

Masayoshi Maeeda is an enterprising young man. One day in the distant future he  plans to open a country B&B (or at least the Japanese equivalent) and being currently in between jobs has decided to gain some experience (at the same time indulging his culinary passions) by cooking hearty, healthy dinners and inviting people over to join him in his one room apartment  - for a small fee. 

 This night he was joined by his gorgeous friend Kika who not only came to meet us on a designated corner so she could guide us to his address but also helped dish up and pour wine (and I am pretty sure stayed to do the washing up too!). Hasuoka san - a fascinating character (owner of a local children's bookstore and kindergarten and well- travelled part time monk), Myong Hee and myself made up the rest of the party. 

We feasted on a chicken and vegetable saute with miso and tomato, Sabuchi ( an indian spicy potato and cabbage dish), Shiroae ( vegetables mixed with a tofu dressing), a wonderful broth with nikudango (meatballs) and fungus - and of course rice and pickles - eggplant narazuke (made by a friend in Nagano) and Tsukudani  - kombu simmered in soy and mirin - made by another local friend. 

For dessert we chomped on piping hot annoimo - a very sweet, sweet-potato roasted in an japanese style dutch oven on the stove top - which also doubles as a room heater... It was the perfect finish. 

We talked about Buddhism, food (of course), Okinawan shamisen music, and how antique Japanese teapots made of iron can help if you have vertigo. We drew with chopstick tips on leaves that were the forerunner to paper  - the pictures and words magically appearing after a minute or so - while we sat warming ourselves under the old style kotatsu that uses charcoal instead of electricity.  

It was a lovely, cosy experience with an interesting group of strangers and I hope that Masayoshi might just realise that dream sooner than he thinks... Gambatte ne!  

Proud moment....

Paper Moon Cafe

What a gorgeous little place to trip over after a day's work. All the cakes and desserts at Paper Moon cafe   are made on the premises by the owner - and are to die for. You can pop in for a slice and an excellent bowl of coffee (mine was a caramel cafe au lait  - with real caramel. I know... girly - but bloody great) or order a whole cake to take away. Seriously sinful chocolate mousse cake/tart, chiffon "keeki" (the Kyoto dessert of the moment) and the specialty of the house a rolled crepe cake with a variety of creamy fillings. 

Mascot "Ocha"   -  a gorgeous champagne poodle is crazy for cuddles and quite the cunning linguist!  And infinitely more welcoming than the chick who was sitting above my shoulder - you can see from below that she quickly looked away when I snapped her photo for evidence of her leering... silent and deadly. Anyone seen Barbarella?? 

(Scroll down on the link for a map - its about a block down South from Oike dori (street) approx half way between Karasuma and Kawaramachi streets)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Yoshoku - Its BAAAAAAAAaaaaaaack..... ようしょく

My first born has been on sabbatical but has now returned with a colourful new frock! 
You can meet her from 01 February in Australia then she'll be flitting about in the UK from 01 March so keep an eye out will you? If you see her leaning on a shelf in a bookstore somewhere please carry her home and make sure she puts herself to good use in the kitchen??  

If you are new to Japanese cuisine and find it all a bit daunting this is a friendly way to jump on in.  The book shows you how to utilise traditional, often healthy, Japanese ingredients in more familiar "western" style recipes, using simple techniques.

The origins of Yoshoku cuisine stem from the opening of trading ports within Japan and consequently an  influx in available international foods in the 70's. The clever Japanese adapted these strange foreign foods to suit their own tastes, shaking it all up with ingredients and flavours both familiar and comforting to them - and doozo! a newly blended cuisine was born.  The cooking style went out of fashion for a while but is now making a comeback - becoming "cool" again with the young folk. 

Popular and old fashioned Yoshoku recipes include Omu-raisu (a thin omelette wrapped around seasoned rice), Katsu-Kare (pork cutlet curry) and Hambaagaa (hamburger) and while you will find a nod to this standard Yoshoku fare within the pages of the book  -it is really more about contemporary ideas and flavour combinations  - all easy to prepare and 'totemo oishii!!' (if I do say so myself...). If you missed out last time around - please look out for the re-release of 'Yoshoku' on February 01 2011. 

For those of you who already own a copy and have cooked from it I would love to hear your feedback.
My next book, on sale next year, will delve a little deeper into traditional cuisine and food culture - but more on that later. 

Yoshoku by Jane Lawson
Published by Murdoch Books 
Photography by Mikkel Vang
Styling by (the rather gorgeous and talented) Christine Rudolph

Chilled tofu and tomato salad
Pork with Nashi
Umeshu (plum wine) granita
and yes! sake cocktails! of course...


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dinner with the K-man!

What do you drink when you dine with a sake brewer? What about when there are two of them  - each enormously proud of their own brand and wanting you to sample as many as possible? 

You may note that the table becomes very messy and photos a little blurry? well that about sums up the state I was in by the end of the evening. We were also dining with a passionate food importer/exporter so no prizes for guessing that we were also royally stuffed!

Yaoya is a cracking izakaya in Demachi-yanagi run by a very friendly husband and wife team with a great sense of humour - and hospitality of course. Seafood is king here however, Yaoya, meaning vegetable shop is named for the chef's family's history in the veggie trade and as such the greens are also handled with great respect. The bespoke Kozaemon junmai sake below displays a caricature of the chef  - illustrating his quest for good times. The long box in front contains salts from all over the world - although I am not sure when you would need them as every morsel was perfect just as it was. 
The standard izakaya "over-pour" - a generous sign of things to come... . 
Famously rare Kaiza crab - ordered in for us by cuisine savvy Kozaemon san.
Tamagoyaki (omelette), Fresh nishin (herring) with Koji (rice mould also used in sake manufacture) and Tara (re-hydrated cod) cooked in soy and mirin.
Sashimi of Buri ( yellowtail) and its belly
Kue ( longtooth grouper) - served with ponzu for dipping
Daruma shibi ( a type of Maguro/tuna that is very round in the middle like a daruma doll) - it is quite young when caught so is aged for 2-3 days and eaten with strips of toasted nori.

Crisp skin from the maguro - fish crackling - yum!
An excellent Oden in the background containing slow simmered gyuusuji (beef tendon), daikon, hanpen and chikuwa (both fishpaste cakes), egg, konnyaku, fried tofu

The deconstructed Kaiza Kani...
thick, slightly sweet, cloudy sake - containing the same bacteria as yoghurt

Kinoshita san from Amabuki sake (they make their brew from the yeast of flowers only) is sipping away from the crab shell in which hot sake has been simmered - forming a potent crab broth. ... Nakazawa san from Top Trading Co. patiently awaits his turn
You know the night is on a slippery slope when the sweet n pretty drinks come out - a refreshing  blood orange sake from Amabuki.
Kozaemon san with the chef's wife - the gorgeous Tomoko san - carrying a bottle of Kozaemon sake after yet another top up...
The night ended with "TKG" - Tamago Kake Gohan - beaten egg is poured over piping hot rice and mixed in with chopsticks,  cooking it very lightly. The sloppy but incredibly delicious end to the meal (why are eggs so good in this country?!?!) was accompanied by miso soup and pickles, preserves and toasty nori for in between bites... sooooo good. An excellent way to soak up the insane amount of sake that was floating around our systems. 

To find the restaurant - exit out the west mouth of the Demachi-yanagi shotengai (shopping arcade)  - turn right and walk a few minutes  -you will find it on your left - just look for the bottle display out the front as per the first pic in this post.