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Tokyo, never really considered a culinary Mecca by most, in my humble opinion belongs near the top of any Foodie’s list of the world’s great cuisines.
A bold statement I know, and I will most likely receive some comments from my French, Italian and American foodie friends, asking if I have finally lost my mind. These retorts I am sure will come from those who have never visited this world class gastronomic city.
First, I would like to send my heartfelt thanks to my new friends Sara, Akemi and Iwoo who took me under their wings and showed me places and things I would never have found on my own. They took me to unbelievable restaurants and introduced me to some of the best food that has ever passed through these lips. Their warmth and hospitality was second to none and indicative of their city’s citizens and culture. Thanks!
The Team Cuisine event was a great success, in large part due to the quality of the ingredients. I have been fortunate to travel to many great “eating” cities but never have I had the good fortune to work with ingredients of such high quality. The shrimps (with heads still on) were so fresh I could swear they were moving. The produce was fresh and bursting with flavor. Everything looked and tasted as if it was picked or caught that day.
Prior to the event I was a bit nervous about the language barrier as most of the participants did not speak English and I can’t count to three in Japanese. I guess the old adage “ Breaking Bread together brings people together” is true. Imagine what making and breaking bread together can accomplish. Cooking has shown itself to be the true international language.
So, what did I eat in Tokyo and why was it so good? Those wonderful ingredients were served in every establishment I ate in, be it a formal high end restaurant or a street stall with 10 seats serving Yakatori (usually chicken or strange chicken parts, hearts, liver etc.) grilled on skewers with some sort of terrific BBQ type sauce, Yum. Needless to say I ate my share. IF I saved all my skewers and brought them home, my bag would have incurred overweight charges from the Japan Air. One of the items I needed to close my eyes before putting it in my mouth was a Yakatori of raw chicken. Well not really raw but seared on the outside and very rare on the inside like we cook Tuna here. Delicious once I got passed the cultural thing…. Don’t try this at home.
The weather was hot, very hot and humid to boot, but that doesn’t stop the Japanese people from eating hot soup. It seems that some kind of soup was served at every meal, breakfast included. In the USA we have Starbucks on every corner, in Tokyo they have Ramen Shops (Noodle Shops serving mostly big steaming hot bowls of rich noodle soup with veggies, seafood , pork or beef). The hot weather didn’t stop me from having a bowl just about everyday. The culturally correct way to partake is to “slurp” the noodles and soup. With every chop stick or spoon full, I thought about what my mom would say about slurping. Ramen has become very popular in New York and new shops are popping up almost every day. Some are very good but for the most part don’t measure up to Tokyo’s rich broth and hand pulled noodles. Will I continue to eat Ramen in the summer? You bet, and all fall, winter and spring too.
I’m getting a bit long winded and have lot’s more to say, stay tuned in to my next Blog installment. In the meantime try your hand at this week’s trivia question. The first person to e-mail me the correct answer will win a copy of Japanese Cooking A Simple Art, 25Th Anniversary Edition
• By Tsuji, Shizuo
Since its release twenty-five years ago, Shizuo Tsuji’s encyclopedic and authoritative work has been the acknowledged bible of Japanese cooking. Unrivaled in its comprehensive explanation of ingredients, tools, and techniques, the book guides readers through recipes with clear prose, while technical points are made understandable with deftly executed line drawings.
After introducing ingredients and utensils, the twenty chapters that make up Part One consist of lessons presenting all the basic Japanese cooking methods and principal types of prepared foods—making soup, slicing sashimi, grilling, simmering, steaming, noodles, sushi, pickles, and so on—with accompanying basic recipes. Part Two features 130 carefully selected recipes that range from everyday fare to intriguing challenges for the adventurous cook. Together with the recipes in Part One, these allow the cook to build a repertoire of dishes ranging from the basic “soup and three” formula to a gala banquet.
Trivia Question: New York boasts some 40,000 restaurants… How many are said to be in Tokyo?