10 little-known rules for eating Japanese food

Japanese food

RocketNews 24 (by Michelle Lynn Dinh):

Japanese food, called washoku in Japan, has just been registered as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, but you didn’t need an official declaration to know that sushi and tempura are absolutely delicious. But while enjoying Japanese food, have you ever mixed wasabi and soy sauce as a dip for your sushi? Or how about using your bowl as a chopstick rest? If so, you’ve committed an etiquette faux pas. Take a look at our list of 10 little-known rules for eating Japanese food and save yourself some embarrassment while enjoying a traditional Japanese meal.

1) Never use your hand to catch falling food

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 5.59.40 AM

Cupping your left hand under your food to catch any falling morsels or drippings is actually bad manners. Using tezara (手皿), literally “hand plate,” may seem polite, eliminating any errant spills or stains on the table top or your clothing, but this common eating habit should be avoided when sitting down to a Japanese meal.

2) Avoid using your teeth to bite food in half

In general, you should always try to eat things in one bite and avoid using your teeth to tear food into smaller pieces. Since it’s impolite to place half-eaten food back on a plate, cover your mouth with your hand when chewing big pieces of food.

3) Never mix wasabi into your soy sauce

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 6.54.35 AM

This improper eating method is seen in many restaurants all over the world, but should be avoided. Instead, place a small amount of wasabi directly on the piece of sashimi and then dip the fish into the soy sauce.

4) Don’t invert the lid of your bowl

Inverting the lid of your bowl is mistaken as a cue for being finished eating, however, the proper cue is to replace the lid on top of the bowl, just as it looked when brought to the table. This is because you could damage the lid by turning it upside down.

5) Don’t place clam shells in the bowl’s lid or on a separate plate

shijimi clams

When served clams or other shellfish, many people tend to put the empty shell in the lid of a bowl or on a separate plate once they’ve finished the meat. This is actually impolite and should be avoided; diners should instead leave the shell inside the bowl it was served in.

6) Don’t hold your chopsticks before picking up your bowl

When eating a Japanese meal, you should first pick up the bowl or vessel you will eat from and then pick up your chopsticks. When changing bowls, first put down your chopsticks, then change bowls. Only after you have picked up the second bowl should you pick up your chopsticks again.

7) Don’t hover or touch food without taking it, and always pause to eat your rice

Mayoi bashi

Not sure which food to eat first? Hovering your chopsticks back and forth over the side dishes before finally choosing is a breach of etiquette. It’s such bad manners that the practice has an official name, mayoibashi (迷い箸), literally “hesitating chopsticks.” Touching a food with your own chopsticks and then pulling them away without taking anything is called sorabashi (空箸), or “empty chopsticks,” and should also be avoided. You better pause to eat some rice between those side dishes, if you don’t you are committing utsuribashi (移り箸), literally “transition chopsticks.”

8) Never rest your chopsticks across the top of your bowl

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 7.34.38 AM

You’ve probably seen this done so many times it seems like the correct thing to do, but using your bowl as a chopstick rest is a breach of etiquette. If you want to put down your chopsticks, you should do so on a chopstick rest, or hashioki (箸置き). If none are available, use the wrapper the chopsticks came in to make your own. If a wrapper isn’t available, you should rest your chopsticks on the side of a tray or other similar item on the table.

9) Don’t use the opposite end of your chopsticks to take food from a communal plate

Since the backsides of the chopsticks are where your hands rest, it’s actually not a very clean area and shouldn’t be used to pick up food. Asking the waitstaff for an extra pair of chopsticks or politely saying, jika bashi de shitsurei shimasu (excuse me for using my own chopsticks), and taking food using your chopsticks is actually the proper thing to do.

10) Never raise your food above your mouth

Many people raise their food to about eye level while saying, itadakimasu before eating. However, proper etiquette states that you should never raise your food above your mouth, the highest level your chopsticks ever reach.

***Bonus***

Many people already know this, but you should never raise chopsticks to your mouth that are dripping with soup or liquid and never stab food with your chopsticks. You should also never leave your chopsticks standing straight out of your rice or pass food between chopsticks as these are reminiscent of funeral customs and seen as a bad omen if performed anywhere else.

10 distinctly Japanese comfort foods

RocketNews 24:

Comfort food” is traditional cooking that tends to have a nostalgic or sentimental connection, often one related to family or childhood: the grilled cheese sandwiches your mother used to make; the thought of your grandmother’s bread pudding makes your mouth water; the way the whole house would be filled with the intoxicating aroma of roasted turkey or ham at Christmas? Because of such memories, these foods comfort us, especially when we’re longing for home or feeling especially vulnerable.

Not surprisingly, the sentimental Japanese have their own comfort foods. While you might think they’d be waxing over the octopus tentacles of home, very few of the dishes we’re about to talk about have much to do with seafood. Many Japanese comfort foods have a rice connection and may even center around the unique relationship between mothers or wives and their role in family food preparation. And in Japan, make no mistake about it–her kitchen rules!

Here are 10 distinctly Japanese comfort foods:

1. Miso soup and rice (味噌汁とご飯)

miso soup

Miso soup and its companion bowl of rice are sometimes described as a “marriage.” This is the food Japanese miss most when they leave home to live on their own for the first time or if they travel abroad and tire of “Western breakfast.”

Miso soup is hardly ever served without its faithful rice. For centuries this edible couple has been considered the main part of a classic, healthy Japanese breakfast. “Mom’s miso soup” is, quite simply, to die for. And each Mom adds her own touch to the recipe, so the subtle flavors vary according to household. So powerful is this aromatic duo that the mere thought of smelling miso upon waking up in the morning can leave a study-abroad student salivating as he or she is transported temporarily back to the mother ship.

Other than the miso base, other ingredients in the soup may include dashi broth, tofu, chopped green onion, wakame seaweed and a plethora of others. See some miso soup anime ads that bring out the true miso spirit.

Try making it! Learn how to make miso soup in the Rocket Kitchen. No miso? No problem–miso can be made at home too!

 

2. Onigiri (おにぎり)

onigiri

While women’s hands are said to be too warm to become sushi chefs, those ostensibly hot hands surely come in handy when it comes to making rice balls. This favorite snack, made from either fresh steamed rice or leftover rice from the night before, is standard fare for bento lunches and picnics. All good outdoor gatherings feature the highly portable and nutritious triangular-shaped sticky rice ball, which is geometrically formed by squeezing it just so in the palms of the hands. Each ball is filled with one of a number of ingredients from sweet salmon to sour plums, and the triangle of rice is girthed with a seaweed belt so moist, it doesn’t actually stick to your lips like the papery convenience-store kind.

According to Japanese aesthetics, any food tastes better with proper scenery, so you’ll find rice balls at every “Hanami” cherry blossom party.

 

3. Tempura (天ぷら)

Tempura

This favorite food of foreigners is also a favorite of the Japanese (even though tempura is thought to have originally come from Portugal). Surely, worldwide, everyone loves tempura! And mama’s home made has gotta be the best. But I can’t help think that the nostalgia surrounding this food (the taste of which doesn’t vary that much from kitchen to kitchen) has to do with the method of preparation: the wife dutifully stays in the kitchen throughout the meal, only emerging occasionally when the next batch of piping hot veggies are ready to be served to her expectant family. And of course a Japanese wife is happy, perhaps even ecstatic, to do this, in order to fulfill the expectations of the perfect mother who, at least in the old days, was said to “make and serves food with all her heart” (kokorokomete ryoriotsukurimasu).

Tip! Be sure to have fun with your tempura–make it colossal!

 

4. Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)

okonomiyaki

A close runner up as an all-time favorite by foreigners and Japanese alike is oknomiyaki (literally “grilled as you like it”). What could be more fun than playing with your food? Mix up the cabbage with a combination of okonomiyaki flour and milk, add a raw egg, then ingredients such as mochi, cheese, fish, pork, or corn (anything really–as you like it!). Leave it on the grill to cook then top it with sweet okonomiyaki sauce!

Whether Hiroshima style or Osaka style, oknonomiyaki satisfies even the most unsophisticated pallets. It’s what I serve to my parents who don’t like Japanese food (surely the only two people left in the world). This pancake-like food is certainly interactive and gets everyone communing at the table.

Not only that, but such comfort foods pull at the heartstrings of boys when they become myopic, nostalgic adults missing their mommies. In Japan, the relationship between mothers and sons is supposed to be extra special (sorry girls!).

Watch it! A video of one man’s gourmet food trip through Japan, including oknomiyaki.

 

5. Tamago Kake Gohan (卵かけ御飯)

TKG

This simple dish is so fast, so simple, and so good! Just a raw egg, a little soy sauce (if you like) and some cooked white rice will give you a meal on the go. One of our RocketNews24 writers who grew up eating TKG, says it’s her go-to comfort food. Just pour the raw egg yolk over the rice and mix it together: ta-da! Isn’t that convenient?! Who said you couldn’t cook Japanese food?

Make it! Try Rocket Kitchen’s Ultimate TKG

6. Nabe (鍋)

nabe

Nabe is one of those foods in the “cooked in large earthenware pot” family. It is stewed in a vessel that sits in the middle of the table. Meat and vegetables are added throughout the entire dinner session, with each person around the dinner table reaching into the pot with their chopsticks to pick out their own vegetables or meats (or perhaps dished out by mom) as the ingredients slowly cook. This dish is only shared with family or good friends who you’re absolutely sure don’t have any contagious diseases. The constant dipping of your chopsticks into the broth to dig out mighty morsels means that you’ll be sharing your germs. On the other hand, you can console yourself that the boiling broth may kill most of the cooties someone might unknowingly be passing on. Nabe, a winter food, is usually associated with close friends and family, the equivalent of sitting around a bonfire with a guitar and singing songs together. Being invited to a nabe party is a definitive indication you’ve been accepted into the inner circle. Try yosenabe–or “fling it all in” nabe!

Make it cute! Tips on how to make your nabe look as kawaii as possible!

 

7. Okayu (おかゆ)

okayu

When Japanese feel a cold coming on, they reach for okayu–a warm, easily digestible watery mush made from rice. It’s also the food of choice if you’re missing your teeth. Even Kiki, the heroine of the anime film Kiki’s Delivery Service, can be seen eating okayu in a scene when she is sick. So next time you’re feeling a bit under the weather, do what Kiki does and try some rice porridge!

Make it! Ghibli-inspired rice porridge

8. Udon (うどん)

udon

While both ramen and udon noodles are loved by the Japanese, I’m going to stick to Udon here because, well, it’s Japanese (whereas ramen in technically Chinese) and udon is the Wall Street Journal of noodles–it’s way more sophisticated than ramen. Ramen’s reputation is that of an easy, greasy food eaten when you’re in need of something filling and moreish but not especially good for you–often after a night out drinking. But while ramen satisfies, udon nurtures. The warmth of steam emanating from a large bowl of udon, and enveloping your face in the wintertime is enough to warm you to your toes. It’s no wonder that in Kagawa Prefecture, the udon capital of Japan, and where they are known to eat udon while in the bath, that they’re using the long unleavened egg dough to generate power. How cool is that?!

9. Curry Rice (カレーライス)

katsu curry

Curry rice doesn’t sound like it’s Japanese, and surely its origins aren’t (Japanese curry comes from India by way of the British navy, would you believe), but the way the Japanese have modified their knock-off version is distinctly their own. It’s sweet, gooey and heaped over sticky rice! And it’s usually not spicy at all. Kids and adults alike love this cheap, easy-to-prepare food, usually made from boxed curry you buy at the store. And anything can be added to it including meat and veggies. For me, I prefer the real thing, but the fact is that Japanese kids grow up eating and loving the Japanese version. Curry rice is served in school lunches, at ski resorts, on the beach, and at restaurants everywhere. It’s ubiquitous, which means it’s a fallback food anywhere, anytime. Except abroad, where you’ll rarely, if ever, find it.

Tip! Twelve meals to make using leftover curry

10. Ochazuke (お茶漬け)

171285540_cebe50c478_o

We saved ochazuke for last because this dish is consumed at the very end of a meal. Ochazuke is most likely only encountered by foreigners who dine with Japanese, so may not be well-known to mere tourists. But most foreigners’ first encounter is similar: You’re at the end of a meal, feeling like a total pig because you’ve eaten so much amazing food. You’re sitting back in your chair, hands folded over the swollen stomach, thinking you couldn’t eat another bite of anything even if it were apple pie, when suddenly, someone at the table pipes up, “Let’s have ochazuke!” They tackle the waiter who dutifully takes away one thing from the table: the leftover rice. This is taken back to the kitchen, where the chef mixes it with green tea (and perhaps some other things). The rice concoction is brought back out to the table and presented as the last course, like a sort of savoury dessert. It’s warm, it’s delicious, and you somehow find a little extra room in your distended stomach for it before completely passing out.

Tip! Just combine green tea and rice.

 

Disney’s Baymax appears in curry, hot pots, and more, thanks to cheesy food-based pun

B 3

RocketNews 24:

You might not guess it, given the country’s well-known acceptance of stoicism as an admirable virtue, but Japan absolutely loves puns. In fact, the characteristics of the Japanese language, such as multiple potential pronunciations for the same kanji character, make it a veritable pun-producing machine.

For example, the character for “rice,” 米, is usually read as kome. When it’s combined with other characters, though, it’s read as mai or bei, with the latter being pronounced like the English word “bay.”

Of course, that also means bei is pronounced like the first half of Baymax, the loveable caretaker/combat robot from Disney’s Big Hero 6. And now that Japanese fans of the film have figured out how to put a little rice into Baymax, they’re also coming up with ways to put a little Baymax into their meals by making Baymax curry rice, rice balls, and nabe hot pots.

You can thank pop idol Haruna Kojima for kicking off the culinary trend. Earlier this month, the AKB48 member found herself with some extra time on her hands, so rather than make a plain old plate of curry rice, she decided to shape the fluffy white grains into a likeness of Baymax, adding two small, connected circles of dried seaweed to recreate his simple facial expression.

BM 1

Identifying her creation as Baymax, but written with the kanji for rice, Kojima posted the above photo to her Instagram account, where it put smiles on the faces and rumbles in the stomachs of all who gazed upon its appetite-stimulating cuteness. Even better, in contrast to the difficulty in trying to craft an edible version of Pokémon’s Pikachu or Yo-Kai Watch’s Jibanyan, Baymax’s soft, simple form and almost entirely white color scheme means that just about everyone can manage this cooking project, as proven by the steady stream of Rice-max photos that have been popping up since.

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 2.47.04 PM

View image on Twitter

Even six weeks after its release, Big Hero 6 is still going strong in Japan, wherepositive word of mouth about the films variety of action, comedy, and heartfelt emotion made it the highest-grossing movie in the country last weekend, just like it was for the three weekends before that. It’s a testament to the film’s broad appeal that stretches beyond just the kiddie demographic, and includes fans old enough to enjoy a little alcoholic refreshment with their Baymax curry.
View image on Twitter

Of course, Japan has a lot more ways to eat rice than just covering it with curry roux. How about a Baymax oyako-don, a rice bowl with chicken, egg, and the cuddly robot?

View image on Twitter

If you’re after even lighter fare, you can combine rice and miso soup, which is also a great way to make use of leftovers of the two Japanese staples.

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 2.49.31 PM

It’s also worth bearing in mind that the rice/bei/Baymax pun still holds up even if you’re not using plain white rice. For example, mochi (rice cakes) are just as appropriate for adding a dash of Disney to your hot pot.

Screen Shot 2015-01-31 at 2.51.09 PM

10 Asian soups to keep you warm over the holidays

mieayam

 Audrey Magazine:

On a blistering cold night, a steaming hot bowl of soup is the tastiest cure to the shivers and well, almost everything else right? Now that winter is full steam (sorry) ahead, here are ten different Asian soups, from the popular to the underrated, that you should try eating and possibly try making this winter!

1. Kuy Teav

Image courtesy of khatiya-komer

A Cambodian delicacy, kuy teav is a Camobidan Chinese pork noodle soup made from a clear broth and flat rice noodles. Kuy teav is usually enjoyed as a breakfast dish from street vendors, but we feel that it’s comforts will last throughout the day!

2. Soba

Image courtesy of kampai.us

Unlike the popular ramen, soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour. Soba can be a year round dish and is typically served either hot and in a soup for winter or chilled with a dipping sauce for summer. Also, soba differs from udon in that soba noodles are thin while udon noodles are genuinely thicker.

 3. Laksa

laksa5

A spicy MalayasianChinese fusion dish. There are three main types of laksa: curry laksa, asam laksa and sarawak laksa. Curry laksa has a coconut curry base, while asam laksa has a sourfish soup base, and sarawak has a sambal belacan base. No matter which type of laksa you choose, it’s sure to give you a kick!

4. Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup

Image Courtesy of S.O.F.A.T BLOG

There are many different types of beef noodle soups out there. However, the red-braised beef noodle soup was invented by Chinese refugees in Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War. Today, Taiwan considers this red-braised beef noodle soup a national dish. With it’s tender beef and spicy broth, it is sure to be a comfort during those chilly months.

5. Tong Sui

tongsui

Tong Sui literally means “sugar water” in Cantonese and is a soup dessert that is a Cantonese delicacy.

6. Bakmi Ayam

mieayam

Bakmi ayam, or often shortened to mei ayam, is an Indonesian noodle soup that is very simple but delicious. The main ingredients are wheat noodles, chinese bok choy (cabbage), and slices of chicken and mushroom. Eaten separately or together with the broth, the soup is delicious either way!

7. Sinigang

Image courtesy of PanlasangPinoy

Sinigiang is a Filipino dish. A tamarind-based soup, Sinigiang is usually sour because of ingredients such as guava and ripe mango.

8. Soondobu Jjigae

Image courtesy of LTHforum

Soondubu jjigae is a spicy Korean tofu soup. It’s typically served in a hot stone pot with other dishes such as rice, meat, or banchan on the side.

9. Milagu Rasam

milagurasam

Milagu Rasam is a pepper tamarind-based South Indian soup. Supposedly, both the black pepper and tamarind are natural heat-inducing ingredients for the body. Either way, milagu rasam is a tasty method to staying warm!

10. Bun Mang Vit

Image courtesy of PhamVo's Kitchen

Pho is probably the most famous Vietnamese soups, but Bun Mang Vit, a duck and noodle soup, is also another tasty option! The main ingredients here are duck, bamboo shoots and vermicelli noodles, but the lemongrass, ginger and chili give this soup a nice kick.

London’s best ramen bars


Time Out:

From Kyushu-style tonkotsu made with long-simmered pork bone broth, to simple soy sauce based soup, we’ve seen a spate of ramen joints open in London.

Here’s a pick of where to grab a steaming bowl of thin wheat noodles in broth. Do you agree with the choices?

Ippudo

3 Central St Giles Piazza, WC2 8AG

The speciality here is tonkotsu with pork loin slices, crunchy kikurage (cloud ear mushroom) and thin, own-made noodles (in the dish called Shiromaru Hakata Classic). Vegetarians are not left out at Ippudo: there’s a seaweed and mushroom broth-based version that’s topped with fried tofu. Sadly, this is another no-bookings restaurant, and despite running to 80 covers, queues have been enormous so far.

Kanada-Ya

64 St Giles High St, WC2H 8LE

Founded in Japan in 2009, this award-winning tonkotsu specialist arrived in London in September 2014. Small, brightly lit and minimal, it is not the place for a leisurely meal. And it has a serious downside: lengthy mealtime queues outside its doors. But this is exceptional ramen, using smooth, rich, seriously savoury tonkotsu broth – one of the best we’ve tried in London.

Bone Daddies

30-31 Peter Street, W1F 0AT

The flavours are bold; the dining room is tightly packed; the staff are friendly. Bone Daddies is a gusty New York-style ramen bar with blaring rock music and a range of seriously rich ramen dishes.

Sasuke

32 Great Windmill Street, W1D 7LR

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In Tokyo there’s a whole, maze-like restaurant devoted to ninjas with stealthy staff dressed the part. Now London also has its own ninja-inspired venue, named after the fictional Edo period warrior Sarutobi Sasuke. But you won’t find any trick doors or throwing stars at this Soho ramen bar. As for the ramen, our miso version was hearty enough to fuel any covert mission.

Seto

5-6 Plender St, NW1 0JT

There are just a handful of varieties on offer at Seto, like soya sauce (shoyu), miso and Korean pickled cabbage (kimchi). All are made with an earthy chicken and pork bone broth and filled with pleasingly chewy noodles. Another ramen shop staple, pork gyoza dumplings, make a good choice too with crisp bottoms and bouncy wrappers.

Shoryu Ramen

9 Regent Street, SW1Y 4LR

Shoryu Ramen, japanese noodle joint, 9 Regent Street, SW1Y 4LR

Run by the same people as the Japan Centre across the road, Shoryu mix authentic Japanese flavours with a little bit of innovation. Specialising in tonkotsu ramen, made with a long-simmered pork bone broth, the bowls are filled with bouncy noodles and include a choice of unusual toppings like wasabi stalks and spicy-pickled mustard leaves. There’s a second branch in Soho.

Tonkotsu

63 Dean Street, W1D 4QG

Another champion of the long-simmered pork bone broth variety of noodles in soup stock, Tonkotsu serve theirs topped with slices of tender pork, beansprouts and half a marinated soft-boiled egg. They also offer a veggie noodle soup here – something you don’t see so often at ramen joints. There’s a second branch in Haggerston.

7-Eleven Japan introduces the Eggs Benedict Sandwich

IMG_5815

RocketNews 24:

 

For a Westerner in Japan, breakfast is just incorrect. If North Americans living in Japan had to pick the one thing they miss most about home, a lot of them would probably scream, “Breakfast food!

Traditional Japanese breakfast is completely different and usually consists of rice, fish and miso soup. It’s boring, lacking in any real taste and basically good for you, unlike our favorite breakfast dishes. Of course, some places serve a “Western-style” breakfast, but that usually includes ham that they call “bacon”, in other words, facon! Get outta here you fake bacon!

So when 7-Eleven dropped this “Eggs Benedict Sandwich” onto its shelves, we figured it couldn’t possibly be worse than any other breakfast food out there, or could it?  Better prepare yourself Eggs Benny, we won’t play nice. Get ready for the toughest food review yet!

It always starts with a random venture to the convenience store to find a drink or a quick snack and ends up being an adventure. There is a new food to try? Excellent, throw it in the basket! So when we saw this non-assuming plastic wrapped English muffin sandwich on the shelf, we only gave it a cursory glance because it was new. But then we read:

Eggs Benedict Style Muffin
IMG_5811

No way! Hollandaise sauce, ham, and egg sandwich?!? We looked at the main ingredients.

IMG_5814

Muffin, half-boiled egg, bologna sausage, and hollandaise sauce! Pretty much the same! But, hollandaise sauce in Japan?  That is a tough sauce to get right and already so many Western foods have been ruined by Japanese hands.

 

IMG_5812

After heating it up (500W, 1 min or 1500W, 20 sec) we delicately started to unwrap the packaging.

 

IMG_5818

The wrapping was obviously done this way so that someone could use it to hold the sandwich and catch any sauce droppings.

 

IMG_5819

IMG_5820

It definitely smells like hollandaise sauce. Let’s inspect it a little more.

IMG_5823

IMG_5836

 

The egg certainly wasn’t runny like the picture indicated, but that was the least of our worries. It’s the sauce that remains questionable. Here goes nothing.

IMG_5841

 

It’s actually pretty close to what real eggs benedict tastes like! The hollandaise sauce is definitely not made from scratch but it could compete with any of the instant sauces in the States. The ham is thick enough to provide its own distinct taste and the egg completes the sandwich. It is certainly not the best eggs benedict ever, but it’s an adequate substitute for one you could find in a restaurant. While it is a bit pricey at 320 yen (about US $2.75) for only one sandwich, it seems to be available any time of the day, as long as it’s in stock. Our final thoughts?

IMG_5844

IMG_5828

 

Japanese people list 10 ingredients they never, ever want to find in their miso soup

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 3.17.26 PM

 

RocketNews 24:

 

Miso soup is a staple food in pretty much any Japanese household. Served morning, noon or night, this thin, slightly salty broth is tasty, filling, and, as you’ve probably already realised, is the perfect accompaniment to rice. It is so deeply ingrained in Japanese culture that in some areas of the country there even exists a joke that a man may indirectly propose to a woman simply asking, “Will you make my miso soup for me every morning?

But one person’s idea of a perfect bowl of miso soup can be another’s salty soy nightmare. With so many ingredients that go, or at least seem to go, well in a bowl of Japan’s favourite broth, it can be difficult to find a bowl that ticks all the boxes, and there are some ingredients that – depending on one’s upbringing, personal tastes or geographical location – are considered simply unacceptable.

Japanese web magazine My Navi Woman recently conducted a survey asking people aged 19 to 77 to share their most hated miso soup ingredient. 286 respondents were more than ready to comply, naming ingredients that range from the perfectly ordinary to the genuinely stomach-churning.

Let’s take a look at these supposedly “unforgivable” ingredients, shall we?

 

9. (tied) Carrot (2.1%)

Carrot may be a staple ingredient in the likes of 豚汁 tonjiru (miso-based pork soup), but it turns out that lot of people in Japan simply can’t abide the things in their miso soup. That being said, lots of kids in Japan claim to hate carrots, so seeing the humble ninjinon the list perhaps shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

9. (tied) Cabbage (2.1%)

Cabbage features in a lot of Japanese dishes, and generally speaking the cabbage in Japan is much tastier than that in my native UK. Perhaps the thought of eating soup that looks like something served to old people in a Dickens novel is all too depressing for some to abide?

7. (tied) Bean sprouts (2.4%)

Another curious entry. Bean sprouts crop up in all kinds of dishes in Japan, and the enormous selection you’ll find in any Japanese supermarket is enough to make any visitor’s head spin, but apparently the water content in bean sprouts makes an otherwise delicious bowl of miso soup “taste gross”, with 2.4% of respondents naming them as their most hated ingredient.

7. (tied) Fruit of any kind (2.4%)

This one I, and hopefully any other moderately sane human being, can more than understand. What kind of sadistic cook puts fruit in their miso soup and expects people to like it!? At least three, it would seem, as two people surveyed reported having been served miso soup with apple in it, while one poor soul said they’d seen miso soup with pineapple floating on its surface. Pardon me while I dry heave over the bin.

6. Nameko  (3.5%)

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 4.11.06 PM

Nameko, or pholiota nameko to give its full name, is one of those ingredients that you either like or loathe. Due to their texture and small size, nameko can be tricky to get hold of with chopsticks, and for some they are simply too slimy for their own good.

 

5. Natto (3.8%)

This next entry should come as no surprise to anyone. Natto may well have its fans, but those gooey fermented soy beans are also one of Japan’s most hated foods, so the very idea of mixing them into miso soup is enough to make this writer feel a bit queasy. Unless that’s just the thought of pineapple miso soup still in the back of my mind.

4. Cucumber (5.6%)

Probably about on par “any kind of fruit” in terms of texture, cucumber is another very strange choice for a miso soup ingredient, and we pity those who have ever had it served to them. Some people really do just want to watch the world burn, don’t they?

3. Potato (7.0%)

This one could be a something of a controversial ingredient since potato appears in plenty miso-based broths in Japan, especially up in the north where potato and satoimo are commonly seen in miso soup. Does it really belong, though? I’m going to have to agree with the respondent who stated that potato’s habit of breaking apart in miso soup makes it a wholly unpleasant ingredient, and cast it into Room 101 forever.

2. Tomato (7.3%)

Our sparkling tomato-juice loving writer Preston might disagree, but I’m going to join the 7.3% of people who named this as their most hated miso soup ingredient – including the woman who said she was once served it by a friend and couldn’t bring herself to eat it – by giving this one my stamp of disapproval. Tomato in miso soup? Ew.

 

1. Eggplant (8.7%)

Screen Shot 2014-09-25 at 4.21.18 PM

In at number one, it’s the humble eggplant (or aubergine if you’re from my corner of the globe). Quite why, we’re not sure, since eggplant goes with pretty much anything and positively soaks up flavour. Perhaps those slivers of purple-skinned vegetable simply look a bit too slug-like for some?

Let this be a lesson to you, Rocketeers: not all miso soups are created equal, and not everyone will be a fan of yours, so make doubly sure the object of your affections can knock up a good one before asking if they’ll make your miso every morning!

Link

Tokyo Station’s top 5 breakfast spots

 

tokyoeki2

RocketNews 24:

 

As one of Japan’s largest train stations, Tokyo Station is the central hub for many of the JR lines as well as the Shinkansen (bullet train). You can expect some standard grub in most stations, but Tokyo Station has plenty of food places that go beyond the basics. Before setting out on a trip, why not arrive a bit early and enjoy a delicious breakfast before boarding your train? It’s the perfect start to your adventure.

Here we introduce five of the best breakfast spots within the station itself:

 

  • Juicy fruit at Senbikiya

brekky1

For anyone who loves fruit for breakfast, you can’t go wrong with Senbikiya’s breakfast waffle set (600 yen/US$6).

Senbikiya is a specialist luxury fruit store, and it can get pretty pricey with one parfait setting you back over 2,000 yen ($20). But with the breakfast set you can experience the store’s sense of luxury without breaking the bank.

The waffle set includes fruit, yogurt, waffles, salad, and a drink. All this for only 600 yen! Unbelievable!

If you ask a Senbikiya fan what their favourite fruit is, a lot of people will probably reply with the cantaloupe (musk melon), and the waffle set comes with beautifully prepared slices of this delicious fruit. It’s sweet and juicy, and perfectly complemented by the rest of the light foods – recommended for anyone with a sweet tooth in the mornings!

<Kyobashi Senbikiya Tokyo Station  First Avenue Store>

■Breakfast time 8:30~11:00(Open until 20:30)
■Address Tokyo Station First Avenue B1F North Street
■TEL 03-3212-2517
■Holidays None
■Breakfast also available on weekends

 

  • Hearty noodles at Japan’s leading tsukemen restaurant

brekky2

Rokurinsha is one of Japan’s most famous tsukemen (noodles with separate dipping sauce) restaurants. Since opening on Tokyo Station’s Ramen Street in 2009, it has become one of the most popular stores and is always overflowing with people.

The best time to get into Rokurinsha is during the breakfast period between 7:30 and 10:00 a.m. (last orders at 9:45). You usually need to be prepared to wait for around an hour before getting a seat, but in the mornings you can enter in less than 30 minutes, or straight away if you’re really lucky.

There are two choices of ramen for breakfast: Morning Tsukemen (630 yen) and Deluxe Morning Tsukemen. The shop’s speciality is its noodle soup, a rich, thick concoction made from boiling tonkatsu (pork cutlet), katsuobushi (dried tuna flakes), and other ingredients together for 13 hours. The Morning Tsukemen soup is lighter and easy on the stomach, while still retaining its rich flavor, making it perfect for breakfast. Recommended for those needing a stamina boost before setting out on a grand adventure.

<Rokurinsha TOKYO>

■Breakfast time 7:30~10:00 (Last orders 9:45) ※Opening hours 11:00~22:30(Last orders 22:00)
■Address Tokyo Station First Avenue B1 Tokyo Ramen Street 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
■TEL 03-3286-0166
■Holidays None
■Breakfast also available on weekends

 

  • Traditional Japanese breakfast at Yaesu Hatsufuji

brekky3

Opening at 7am, Yaesu Hatsufuji is an izakaya (Japanese pub) that serves traditional Japanese breakfast sets.

They offer seven different kinds including fried salmon (550 yen), pork miso soup (500 yen), omelette (500 yen), and meat & tofu (530 yen). With so much choice it can be difficult to make up your mind, but the meat & tofu and fried ginger sets are popular with particularly hungry folks, while the fried salmon and omelette options are more popular with girls with smaller appetites.

Yaesu Hatsufuji uses the best ingredients, and uses them in abundance. Of course it’s also delicious, and the chef who skillfully prepares it will bring it to you himself, so you can enjoy it freshly made and piping hot.

It may be an izakaya, but the interior is bright and clean rather than dark and smoky, and girls don’t need to worry about going there on their own. Recommended for anyone wanting a traditional Japanese-style breakfast.

<Yaesu Hatsufuji Yaesu chikagai Store>

■Breakfast time 7:00~10:00 ※Opening hours 7:00~22:00(Last orders 21:30)
■Address Yaesu chikagai, 1-9-1 Yaesu, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
■TEL 03-3275-1676
■Holidays None
■Breakfast is also available on weekends

 

  • Hotdogs for breakfast?!

brekky4

Right next to the ticket gates for the Tohoku Joetsu Shinkansen, you’ll find a bunch of restaurants and bars. The Gransta North Court zone hosts 16 stores mostly sellingobento (Japanese lunch boxes) and sweets to take with you on the train. Standing out in the midst of them is Tokyo DOG, proudly displaying its range of hotdogs.

The hotdog you see in the photo above is the “Iwate Prefecture fried chicken cross hotdog”, released in commemoration of the renovation of Tokyo Station’s red brick station building in October 2012. Stamped into the bun are the Japanese characters for “Tokyo Station”. The meaty filling is drizzled with ponzu sauce (citrus-based soy sauce) and topped with grated daikon radish – sounds like an incredibly delicious creation! A hotdog may not sound like much, but they don’t skimp on the fillings here!

After purchase you can enjoy your hotdog in the communal North Court eat-in space.

Products except for the hotdogs are served cold for take-out, so for those who want something warm for breakfast we recommend the “Tokyo Grill Hotdog” with a hot grilled wiener sandwiched between the bread (420 yen).

<Tokyo DOG>

■Opening hours 6:30~22:30
■Address North Court, Tokyo Station Gransta Dining, 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
■TEL 03-3217-4144
■Holidays None
■Breakfast also available on weekends

 

  • Specialist soups at Misogen

brekky5

The above photo might look like cloudy coffee, but it’s actually shijimi clam soup!

This is the shijimi espresso (250 yen), served at Misogen, a specialist miso soup store found in KITTE which opened in Tokyo Station in March 2013.

If you want the clam espresso then you’d better get their early, because this delicacy is limited to only 30 cups per day. It’s very popular and sells out early, so arriving at opening time (10 am) is probably your best bet. According to the store, it’s the dark-brown miso paste that really draws out the flavour of the shijimi clams which come from Lake Shinji in Shimane Prefecture. The deliciousness of the shijimi is concentrated into a 70ml espresso cup, so take your time savouring it.

Anyone who loves miso soup has to visit Misogen, and try and get their hands on theshijimi espresso!

<Misogen KITTE GRANCHE Store>

■Opening times (eat-in) 10:00~20:30(Monday – Saturday)、10:00~19:30(Sundays & holidays)
■Address KITTE B1F, 2-7-2 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
■TEL 03-6256-0831
■Holidays January 1st only
■Breakfast also available on weekends

All the above shops are open on weekends as well as weekdays, so whatever day you’re travelling you can be sure of somewhere to full up in the morning. No need to wander aimlessly around the station in search of something more palatable than cold combini food – any of these five restaurants will set you up with a delicious start to your trip.

 

Check out this link:

Tokyo Station’s top 5 breakfast spots

Link

Why you should eat wasabi with your sushi – the secrets behind 10 Japanese food pairings

 

RocketNews 24: 

FP 11

Traditions are taken very seriously in Japan, and one of the most noticeable examples is Japanese food. Certain foods and seasonings are always paired together, and while it may be tempting to dismiss this as just another example of the cultural homogeneity of an island nation, in several cases there are legitimate health benefits to these standard combinations.

Following are 10 culinary collaborations that won’t just fill you up and satisfy your taste buds, but leave you a little healthier, too:

Sushi and wasabi

FP 1

Let’s start with one of the most iconic teams in Japanese cuisine, sushi and the fiery paste that is wasabi.

Ordinarily, diners get a double punch of wasabi with each piece of sushi, as a dab of the condiment is placed in the rice, which is then dipped into a mixture of soy sauce blended with yet another dollop of wasabi. Although purists can’t imagine eating raw fish without it, some more casual sushi fans can’t handle the heat, and ask the chef to make their orderssabi nuki, or without wasabi.

But you’re actually missing out on a number of benefits if you’re passing on the wasabi, which helps to soften the smell of the fish, as well as drawing out more of its flavor. More importantly, wasabi is effective in suppressing microbes and bacteria that can cause food poisoning. So if you’re worried about eating your food raw, bear with the spiciness of the wasabi. It’s got a job to do.

Miso soup and seaweed

FP 2

Almost as ubiquitous as sushi and wasabi is the combination of miso soup with seaweed. Given its flimsy texture and near total lack of flavor, you’d be forgiven for assuming the seaweed isn’t there for anything other than aesthetic purposes.

It turns out, though, that seaweed helps compensate for one of the only health drawbacks to miso soup: its high sodium content. Nutrients in seaweed help to reduce both blood pressure and sodium levels in the body.

Rice balls and laver

FP 3

While we’re on the subject of plants from the ocean, what about the type of seaweed called laver that’s used to wrap onigiri, or rice balls?

At first this seems like something done strictly for the sake of convenience. You eat onigiri with your hands (nigiru is the Japanese word for “grab”), so if you don’t want to get rice all over them, you need some kind of covering. Onigiri predate plastic though, and the rice would stick to paper, depriving you of a few morsels when you unwrapped one. A thin strip of dried laver just seems like a natural, edible solution.

While that’s true, the laver also provides a huge nutritional benefit. Rice balls, by their nature, are almost entirely carbohydrates. In order to convert those carbs into energy, the body needs vitamin B, which laver is packed with. Conveniently, the quantity of vitamins in the B group necessary for one onigiri’s worth of carbohydrates is almost exactly equal to that contained in the amount of laver it takes to wrap one.

Raw tuna and yam

FP 4

Seafood makes up a large part of the Japanese diet, with tuna being one of the nation’s favorite fish. Raw tuna is often served with grated yam, which adds a little variety to its visual presentation (and also makes for a more economical meal than trying to fill up completely on pricey sashimi-grade fish).

The stickiness of Japanese yam takes some getting used to, and not even everyone born and raised in the country cares for it. The reason for its polarizing texture, though is the protein mucin, which helps the body to absorb the other proteins which tuna is rich in.

Saury and grated daikon radish

FP 5

Saury is another commonly eaten saltwater fish in Japan, which is almost always accompanied by grated daikon radish.

The saury is a small, slender fish, and since it’s usually grilled, you tend to end up with a lot of char on the skin. In general, the skin of fish are eaten in Japan, both for their flavor and their nutrients. However, that char isn’t exactly the healthiest thing, as it contains carcinogens. The grated daikon, usually mixed with a bit of soy sauce, helps to purge those carcinogens from the body.

Tofu and bonito flakes

FP 12

Saury and grated daikon is a decidedly old-school combo. They often appear as part of a traditional Japanese meal that involves several side dishes, one of which is likely to be tofu topped with bonito flakes.

Like the laver in miso soup, this again seems like a cosmetic choice at first. But while tofu has a plethora of amino acids, one that it’s decidedly lacking in is methionine. Methionine is essential for maintaining hair color as you age, as well as numerous other things we’re too vain and unintelligent to understand or care about. Thankfully, dried bonito is packed with the stuff, making it the prefect finishing touch for this amino acid cocktail.

Freshwater eel and sansho

FP 6

All of this talk of dainty health foods is making us hungry, so let’s move on to heartier fare, like unagi, or freshwater eel.

Unagi is usually butterflied, slathered with sauce, grilled, then topped with a dash of the slightly bitter, pepper-like powdered seasoning sansho. Aside from giving the unagi a little color, sansho helps cut down on the eel’s smell, and the condiment is also said to warm the digestive organs and help in breaking down the oils of the unagi, both of which aid in digestion.

Pork cutlet and cabbage

FP 7

But if you’re really hungry, nothing will fill you up quite like tonkatsu, or pork cutletTonkatsu always comes with a pile of shredded cabbage, which we assumed was simply the closest someone ordering a hunk of deep-fried pig could come to eating a salad.

Once again, though, the cabbage has a vital role to play. The vegetable is rich in vitamin U (something we honestly didn’t know existed), which helps prevent gastric hyperacidity. In other words, that cabbage will keep you from getting a tummy ache. There are limits to what even cabbage can do, though, so don’t assume you can chow down on a second cutlet with no ill effects as long as you finish the cabbage served with it.

Pork curry and pickled shallots

FP 8

Still hungry? Then how about some curry. At just about any curry restaurant in Japan, you’ll find a jar of pickled shallots on the table, from which diners can take as much as they want. On the surface, this may seem like some ill-thought out method to improve your breath, reasoning that the combined negative effects of curry, onions, and the pickling process will somehow wrap the scale back around and make your breath smell fresh and clean again.

The bad news is that no matter how many pickled shallots (called rakkyo in Japanese) you put away, you’re still going to need a breath mint or four. The good news is that those shallots have plenty of allysine, an amino acid that promotes absorption of the vitamin B1 in pork.

Beer and edamame

FP 9

Last, and by no means least, one of our favorite pairings in Japan: ice-cold beer and a bowl of edamame, or soybeans.

Edamame are lightly salted and served in the shell. Aside from the fun of popping them directly into your mouth, they’re a much lower calorie beer companion than peanuts or potato chips. Best of all, edamame contain methionine, like the bonito flakes mentioned above, plus vitamins B1 and C, which together help the liver in processing alcohol.

Of course, you could sidestep the whole problem of having to process alcohol by simply not consuming it in the first place. You could easily make the argument that pairing edamame with beer isn’t any better than edamame and tea, or edamame and juice.

And now, with a rebuttal, is beer.

Check out this link:

Why you should eat wasabi with your sushi – the secrets behind 10 Japanese food pairings

Source: Naver Matome

Link

This cool freeze-dried food shop lets you customize your own unique miso soup

RocketNews 24: 

m9

At the end of a long, cold winter day, have you ever found yourself craving a bowl of steaming hot miso soup to go? If you live in Tokyo, then you happen to be in luck. There’s a shop selling freeze-dried products that lets you customize your own miso soup, and even down it on site. Furthermore, you can try different varieties of miso soup from around Japan. Read on to learn more about this awesome jewel right outside Tokyo Station.

First of all, just what is freeze-dried food? A freeze-dried food is preserved by being “dried in a vacuum system while being maintained at a temperature below that of its crystallization point.” The food can then be restored to its original state by simply adding water. Supposedly, this method of food preservation retains the taste, flavors, color, and vitamins of the original food better than other preservation methods.

Freeze-dried food specialty shop

Japanese company Amano Foods, which specializes in freeze-dried food items, runs a specialty shop called “Amano Freeze-Dried Station.” It is located a one-minute walk from Tokyo Station. The shop sells five varieties of miso from around Japan, including Hokkaido, Sendai, Haccho (Aichi Prefecture), Setouchi (Okayama Prefecture), and Kyushu variations. Once you’ve selected your miso, you can choose your desired seasonings packet to create the miso soup of your dreams! Each packet comes individually wrapped, so if you come with a friend, you can each try a different flavor. No more fighting with your family and friends about what kind of miso soup to make!

▼Screenshot from Amano Food’s official website showing you the five varieties of misoand the eight varieties of seasonings to choose from:

m10

▼So many flavors to choose from! Indecisive people, beware.

m7

▼A map of Japan showing where each of the five versions of miso originate from

m1

▼Close-up of the miso packets

m2

▼The available seasonings

m4

▼An example of how to create your own unique flavor

m5

Hot water dispensers are available for use at the shop

Of course it’s OK to buy the packets of miso and seasonings and take them home. There’s also a wide selection of foods that would make good o-miyage (souvenirs). But on a cold winter day, wouldn’t you rather have your miso soup as quickly as possible? The staff members completely agree with you, so they always have a ready supply of hot water in the store for people who just want to indulge there.

▼Add hot water, and voilà!

m3

Storefront boasts many limited edition items as well

Products that are preserved through freeze-drying retain their flavor and nutrient content better compared to other instant food items. There’s no harm in trying some out, right? There are many limited items in the store, so next time you’re in the area, be sure to stop by and take a peek!

Shop Information:
Shop name: “Amano Freeze-Dried Station” (『アマノフリーズドライステーション』)
Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Marunouchi 2-7-2, JP Tower B1F, Inside “KITTE GRANCHE”
Hours of operation: Weekdays/Saturdays: 10AM-9PM, Sundays/National holidays: 10AM-8PM

▼Location of the store relative to Tokyo Station (a one-minute walk from the Marunouchi East Exit)

m8

Original article by Yuniman

Check out this link:

This cool freeze-dried food shop lets you customize your own unique miso soup