Sunday, September 25, 2011

Snack attack no. 1

The Japanese eat a predominantly healthy diet - but they like their snacks too! 

The variety is huge and ever-changing  - and a lot more fun than at home so I will post a couple every now and again just for the heck of it.... snacks are for sharing after all...

Please allow me to introduce you to snack attack no. 1

Osakan gyoza flavoured senbei (rice cracker) - very light, thin, crisp wafers with a hint of garlic and soy. These were actually pretty good for a store bought snack

Okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise flavoured.. they weren't bad as it happens... Also Kansai (Osaka/Kyoto area) style! 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Not a bad way to return to A Womb....

My second full day back in Kyoto had been planned for several weeks - there would be a lovely morning shiatsu session with the fabulous Bridget Scott then lunch at an old favourite - A womb.

Bridget's place is near Shisendo - so peaceful and green I took a few moments to take in the surrounds before heading in for a quick pre-shiatsu tea.

In the summer it is popular to grow vines, like this bitter melon, in front of the windows to keep rooms cooler. I was surprised by the amount of growth at this time of the year - I also spotted these chillies and over the last couple of days have also found pomegranates and persimmon and some less familiar fruits. 
What a precious gift - after I'd flippantly expressed an interest, several weeks ago, in tasting some of Bridget and Tad's freshly grown edamame (soybeans) they generously reserved the last of their plants for me to pull out of their veggie patch with my very own hands - the same hands that would cook and eat them that night!  (And for my friends and family who don't believe I was actually "working" in the garden - here, check it out for yourselves...ok so I wasn't really dressed for it but it was sprung on me rather suddenly!
Here they are above - ready for the plucking...
so very chuffed...

A few moments later a small snake slithered past ( WHAT!?!?) then a large praying mantis/stick insect ( I dunno - one of the two - I don't really do insects!) came out to play - can you see him below.... and a fat, horned (dangerous looking) caterpillar was also found lurking nearby...then I noticed the spiders.... god, I thought I was getting away from all that. Having really only been here for longish stints in winter or spring I had not previously experienced such critters. Or the chirping of crickets in the evening - which I ain't complaining about! They can stick around if they like - but the rest of you - bugger off - winter is on its way - go hibernate....
critter alert - bottom left hand corner of window..... 
you can't see him? 
here... see below - ENORMOUS!
sayonara spidey!

My lovely friends and suppliers of warming cups of tea, soybeans , shiatsu and critters (except monkeys which apparently only appear when I leave) - le Tadget!
This is a taro plant in Tadget's garden - it appeared out of the blue. WTF?? See Bridget above - this plant is taller than her - god knows what size taro is brewing.... 
After the terribly hard work in the garden had been completed I unwound with an amazing shiatsu session with Bridget before walking to lunch at A Womb. The charming owners remembered me and engulfed me with a warm, effusive welcome  - its good to be back!

This lunch plate was only ¥1050 (around $12AUD) and worth every cent. Starting from the middle square at the top and working left to right...

row 1: Cabbage, shimeji and nama yuba (fresh soy milk skin) + Nama fu maple leaf with aka konnyaku (fresh wheat gluten maple shape and jelly of red devil's tongue starch)

Row 2: eggplant with dengaku sauce (miso sauce with egg yolk) and toasted almonds, chestnut in a bed of white fish paste, coated in somen noodles and deep-fried, yaki (grilled) yuba with spring onions and white miso

Row 3: simmered pumpkin, chicken simmered in soy broth and fresh sansho pepper, sashimi hamachi (yellowtail - one of my least favourite fish  - cooked or raw...)

The little dessert in the top, left corner was some black sugar warabi mochi and a little white chocolate pudding. 

In the bowl next to it were some somen noodles in broth with some grilled age-tofu and an onsen tamago (egg cooked at the same temperature as a natural hotspring - which is the place a real onsen tamago is cooked! they are very soft and gooey - love it!) There was also rice and kombu tsukdani on top. 

Because one dessert is never enough when they are the size of a thimble we simply HAD to order some Matcha - which always comes with something sweet - this time a lovely cheesecake  with sesame crust. 
I bid farewell to Bridget and walked for a little while - admiring the fulsome ginko trees which are always bare when I'm here in winter.

Its the end of a long hot summer - I really wasn't expecting the lushness or the flowers... in Australia everything is pretty dry and barren, even scorched post the heat... 
So back at home it was time to prepare my edamame... 
I snipped them from the vine with scissors then rinsed them well to remove any dirt. I then rubbed them with some salt to help soften and remove the slightly spiky hairs. 
then into well salted boiling water they plopped for 2-3 (long!!) minutes
And there they were... so nutty and sweet it was like eating the world's best popcorn...I sprinkled a little smoked local salt on top....
Another generous foodie gift from my landlord was left in the fridge for my arrival - this gorgeous bowl of plums, grapes and mikan (a type of mandarin - this version green on the outside and orange within) have been a godsend on a couple of warm days. At the  back were  kabosa (a lime variety) 
Below are a few pantry items needed to get me started - the bottle in brown paper on the left is soy, rice vinegar to its right, then sake, sesame oil and mirin. On the very far left is a jar of hachimi - that's one spice more than shichimi (7 spice mix) - purchased during my dinner at Omen.
More from the kitchen later...  x

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Typhoon departs...dinner starts

My first morning back in Kyoto was spent filling the fridge and pantry and tackling internet and phone issues. Nothing out of the ordinary - just the usual settling in bibs n bobs. I did however run into the person I was sitting next to on the plane-ride over... on a bus near my place... random.  I'd barely spoken two words to her on the plane but I'd had a feeling I might run into her again and even suggested we might bump into each other at the sunday market... she laughed it off of course thinking that the sheer number of people in Kyoto might make that impossible... and looked at me as if I was perhaps a little simple or... just being unnecessarily polite. The flippant nature in which I delivered the possibility may have made it seem less than likely however that kind of thing just happens in Kyoto. The look on her face, when I approached them on the bus with a "would you guys please stop stalking me", was priceless. As I told them when I hopped off the bus - that's Kyoto!

In the afternoon I retreated to the safety of my apartment due to threat of a rather nasty typhoon. It turned out to be a bit of a fizzer as far as Kyoto was concerned but many other areas of Japan were badly affected  - including unfortunate Fukushima where the swollen rivers threatened to burst through the village and many were forced to evacuate - mother nature could you give these guys a break please?? Landslides in other areas nearby have caused some concern too but Kyoto, once again, has avoided disaster... knock on wood and all that. 

When the typhoon subsided I received a message from the lovely Michiko-san inviting me to an impromptu dinner with her and a mutual friend and I jumped at the chance. 

Omen is a noodle restaurant near Ginkakuji temple and worth checking out if you are in the area. They have an English menu. 

Omen, the restaurant's name-sake dish, was our choice for the evening - handmade udon noodles that one dips into a broth (hot or cold) which includes your choice of several healthy, aromatic ingredients added to it for flavour and texture and bulk! 
Of course the specials menu above tempted us into ordering the nama yuba with plum soy. And Mark couldn't go without his tori no sansho yaki (succulent chicken grilled and served with aromatic sansho pepper). Michiko also ordered her favourite - sabazushi (sushi with vinegared mackerel). All were superb, and light on a humid, late summer's eve.  
 chicken with sansho
 Ingredients for adding to your broth - burdock and carrots simmered in soy, myoga (ginger bud), ginger, daikon, greens, cabbage, snow peas, spring onions. That's the nama yuba (soy milk skin) at the front with the shiso flowers and leaf.
First step - add as much sesame as you like. Then add your veggies. 
Dip your noodles in and lift them out to eat them. You can drink a little of the broth if you like but it is quite salty and many Japanese choose not to consume much of it these days. 
Japanese garden expert Mark Hovane giving me instructions on how best to eat this refreshing dish. Thanks Michiko and Mark for sharing dinner with me - my first real meal back in Kyoto!

So long, farewell and a dolphin serenade...

Saying goodbye when you know you won't be back for a while is always difficult. Its particularly hard when there are little people involved. 

My last few days in Australia were filled with friends and family dropping by to wave me off and ply me with wine and well wishes. The morning before I left my gorgeous cousin Julie took me to Manly for brekkie with her double trouble twinnies and even the dolphins came out to flap their fins at me! Curiously I have never seen these beautiful creatures in "the wild" so I read this first encounter as a most auspicious sign. 

Picture perfect
Deni and Blossom showing off for the camera
And being too darned cute as they pondered the daisies
see ya girlies xx

Then of course there was the day before that spent with my immediate family (and a few close friends who popped over in the afternoon and evening). Its inevitable that, even though I might be having a fabulous time living away from my home country, that I will miss some key people, more than a handful as it happens. But there's nothing quite like leaving the little ones who haven't really worked out that you won't be around. They think you will be back in a week of course - having no concept of what a whole year might be like... or longer.  I am guessing they will be too easily distracted with their own daily entertainments anyway and that it is me that will miss them far more than the reverse. And they grow up so damn fast. But there is always Skype!! So take note parents of my small friends!! 

It kills me to leave my niece and nephew but ya know, you gotta do what you gotta do. Life is short and you have to get out there and live it in the very best way possible - for you. Live your dream if you can. If you dare. That's what I'm attempting right about now. Its all a bit of a leap of faith and a bunch o' frightening and scary all rolled into one.  But who knows what my new life will bring. Its deliciously mysterious at the minute. 
my beautiful niece and nephew...

 After brunch cooked by mum ( thanks mum!) we played games and sang songs and my brother took the kids on their first sprinkler run!  My nephew was timid at first - then we couldn't drag him away from the thing - he was spectacularly drenched. Little miss was less than impressed.... the stereotypical reaction added much humour to my day.

 Touching rainbows....

don't grow up too fast my Jakey and Chloe xxxx
Then of course there are my "sista's" kids.... Jaz and TJ I will miss you guys very much. Look after mummy and daddy for me ok!! See you on Skype soon chickies xx Aunty Wippy xx

 Rainbows and dolphins... seriously??? ... seriously??
Let the adventure begin