Saturday, January 24, 2009

"In my best behavior I am really just like him."

It's been a while since I did a food post. ne?

Potatoes are cheap, of course, but if I buy the local kind that come caked with dirt they're even cheaper and not much bother to wash. The other day I grabbed a bag and didn't look farther than the "imo" which means potato. I failed to notice that on this occasion it was "satoimo" which is a vegetable of a different color altogether. I realized my mistake after a half hour of solid scrubbing to no noticeable effect. I did some research - also known as "taro root" the satoimo is noted for its sliminess. Oh, that doesn't sound appetizing. But I made some into mashed not-potatoes - they have a slightly chesnutty flavor - and some into curry - which disguises any texture - and fried some - which dries out normal potatoes too much but with these remained moist. So I'd describe satoimo as an interesting alternative to normal spuds, but the difficulty of preparation defeats the pros.

I tend to become obsessed with flavors and will consume any product that comes with that flavor - previous crushes include green tea and pina colada. Since I came here a favorite has been yuzu, a citrus similar to the mandarin. There are the predictable products - a beautifully light yuzu drink in the vending machines and various yuzu candies. But it's also in savory products. My homestay mother made a miso soup with lemony tang and she revealed her secret ingredient to be the local yuzu. And after the winter vacation, one of the omiyage gifts a teacher brought me back was a jar of yuzu salt. I immediately felt extremely guilty about the small, dry cookies I brought back - though cutely in the shape of Nara deer and Buddah, and the most I could carry a pack of 60 onto an overnight bus along with all my other souvenirs. I sprinkled my special gift yuzu salt on salmon and rice noodles. I've been on a big rice noodles kick lately - I found them in the ethnic foods section, and there's never more than one bag of them. They probably keep them supplied for a single local Thai immigrant and I am stealing it from his homesick mouth. But as long as they're this delicious I feel no guilt:

(Also a tiny bit of umeboshi salt for color.)

Real Japanese ramen is so far separated from the sad top ramen we know in America that it makes me wince to even associate the two. Japanese ramen stalls are ubiquitous and unique, recognizable by the curtain over the door and the bar that single customers can sit at and distinguished by local specialities and preparation. I'd been curious since I first

It comes in a huge bowl, the sort of meal one should only attempt if you don't plan to eat the rest of the day. There's four basic broths you can choose from - miso, shio, shoyu, and tonkatsu which I'll admit guiltily is my favorite even though it involves some arcane process of boiling pork bones. Then there's the noodles - at some places you can get a refill of noodles put into your leftover broth for less cost than a new bowl. Then there's all sorts of toppings - nori, green onions, thick white bean sprouts, egg, thin slices of meat, and the distinctive spiral-patterned fish cake called "naruto." It's an adventure in a bowl <3

But obviously if I went out for ramen very often I wouldn't reach the age of 30. So I thought I'd try a healthier variety at home. I found a packet of three bundles of noodles for 150 yen. Ramen noodles have their own pleasant, slightly eggy, flavor, unlike somen which have almost no taste or soba where you're fighting against the bitter buckwheat taste. My broth is simpler and lighter, just dashi and shoyu. I put carrots and potatoes in which isn't at all traditional but they were all I had on hand. It was different from stall ramen but it was still really good - and miles better than instant noodles.

Also in food news, influenza is sweeping through the first years again - which means half of them are absent which means a lot of their daily milk is not being drunk which means I get sent home with four cartons a day.

1 comment:

woody said...

Onions are cheap---they are usually the last thing in the cellar come wintertime----onion soup and such.