8.30.2011

Living in Japan Series - The Food

Ok on to the food of Japan, sorry I am just heading straight into this topic, sorry for the lack of greeting. When people think of Japan, sushi comes to mind. And yes Japan has a plethora of sushi restaurants. Quick tip to note to, Japan does not have stinky smelly fish. Why? Because it is all fresh and fish that is not fresh is stinky and smelly. Keep that in mind the next time you buy fish, the smellier it is, the farther number of days it has spent away from the ocean. Where does Japan get it fish? In Tokyo, the biggest and most well-known fish market is called Tsujiki and it is no laughing matter. The fish comes in fresh, the market opens up at 4am, even earlier than the first train, and it is just as busy as New York City is on Times Square during New Years Eve. People are driving around in small trailers, others are getting orders on the phone from restaurants throughout Tokyo and the entire country itself, still others are at the tuna auction which is serious business. Whenever my family would have visitors in the U.S., the day after they arrived we would take them to the fish market, and one main reason was because of jet lag at 5am Japan time, it would be about 3pm in the U.S. So they were wide awake and ready to start touring. Here are a few photos from Tsujiki. 
This is an aerial shot of Tsujiki, and right next to a river very convenient for boats to come in and unload their catch

This is the tuna auction, wholesalers bid on a fish


They are moved by cart
To be cut by huge bandsaw because they are frozen solid
When they have melted then they are cut into smaller pieces for restaurants and sushi bars

Overview of a section of the market


The small trucks driven around Tsujiki, do not get in their way!
The last time my dad went to Tokyo, he tried to go to Tsujiki but found out that you can only visit the fish market by a tour guide now and those start well often Tsujiki has sold out for the day.
Japan does have quiet of a wide variety of foods. From sushi to ramen, a noodle soup that can vary from region to region. In fact, Japan across the country, food will vary from region to region, just like we do in the United States. In Japan, each region will use the foods that are most common in that particular part of the country. In the northern most island of Japan, called Sapporo, that region is popular with crab, other seafood, dairy products (typically dairy is not a common food group in Japan), produce especially melon, and of course beer you know Sapporo beer!

Some of my favorite foods of Japanese is a dish called katsu-don, which is basically a breaded pork cutlet that is fried then cooked in a fish broth with onions and eggs until the eggs are cooked and then dished out over a bowl of rice. There was one restaurant that I craved their katsu-don and I would eat there myself sometimes just because I loved it so much. When you see the words don at a restaurant in Japan, it means a rice bowl and the word in front of don describe what is on it, katsu is the word for pork cutlet.
Here is a photo of my favorite dish!
YUM!
Some of my other favorite dishes in Japan are tempura, deep-fried vegetables, fish or shrimp,
ramen and yakitori.
Tempura

Ramen, which varies region to region
Yakitori, which is grilled pieces of meat of chicken or beef and then grilled vegetable
For today's recipe instead of Tuesday Treats, I want to provide you with a easy, at home teriyaki sauce which is used in Japan. I don't like to buy teriyaki sauce from the store because usually it is high in sugar and high fructose corn syrup. This recipe is really really easy and you can feel better at serving this to your family because it is loaded up with sugar.

To make homemade teriyaki sauce you need 1/2 cup sake, which is Japanese rice wine, 1/2 cup of soy sauce, 1/2 cup of mirin, which is a sweet rice wine and can be found in the Asian section of a grocery store, and 2 tablespoons of sugar. In a pot, combine all the ingredients and simmer until greatly reduced, which should be thick enough to brush on chicken or vegetables and enjoy!

As you know most of my Tuesdays are filed with lovely baked goods known as Tuesday Treats. I can't leave you without some of Japanese desserts! Japan is not known for having many sweet treats like cakes or pies. What Japan has for desserts is called wagashi or confectionary that are often served with cake. Usually wagashi consists of mochi which is rice pounded together until it is sticky, and red beans called azuki in the center. These are what the beans look like and they are cooked and mashed until it is the consistency of refried beans.


Then taking a piece of mochi, the pounded rice it is pressed into all types of shapes and sizes and decorated very pretty. Some are decorated to look like different fruits, vegetables, animals or other items found in nature in Japan.
Here are a few samples of the wagashi!

Pressed into a lantern shape

Here is a flower, a permission, an apple and a rabbit
The azuki beans are quite popular as a sweet and the most common item found in any Japanese desserts. Thank you all for letting me share with you my experiences growing up in Japan, your sweet comments mean a lot to me and I will definitely be doing a post to answer the questions asked so far, please if any questions do pop into your head, ask away!



41 comments:

Live Joyful said...

This is so interesting to me. I have a friend going over there for ten days in a week or two. How would I do as a vegetarian over there?!

Krysta said...

This is fascinating! Look at those huge tuna! Wow!

Meg {henninglove} said...

@live joyful you can definitely do fine as a vegetarian over there, if you like tofu, rice, noodles, you can do just great! japan in compared to countries like china and korea are not as big meat eaters you can find plenty there for you!

@krysta, they are huge! seriously it is no joke!

Lacy in the Sky with Diapers said...

Meg- lets meet up and have Sushi.. deal? Deal!

Aubrey {All Things Bright and Beautiful} said...

Meg, I am loving this series....it is so much different to get an insider's point of view...of course, I think it is almost impossible to really explain to someone exactly how it is to *live* in a foreign country, don't you? I love seeing all these pictures and getting your experiences attached to them!

Alexis @bloomedinjune said...

i love love love japanese food-so this post was great :)

and i really like your teriyaki sauce recipe and i'm definitely going to have to try it!

Rebekah said...

Wow, I always figured the fish market would be big but it seems huge! The food would be interesting to me. I'm sure living there, I would get used to it, but it does look good!

Jenny in Ohio said...

wow...I think I've seen that fish market on Tv. Maybe the Anthony Bourdain show or something.

I do love tempura too! Not sure if it's exactly the same here, but fried veggies are good anywhere! I think the closest I've had to real ramen was in London when we went to a ramen restaurant. I was amazed at the difference between it and the packaged brick noodles you get here in America!

Laura said...

Wow, those tunas are huge!!! The teriyaki sauce recipe sounds awesome! And mochi...yum!!! My little boy loves mochi- he thinks it is marshmallow. The little mochi treats look too darling to eat!

Hilliary@ Happily Ever Healthy said...

Those Tuna are huge! Tuna is one of my favorite fish. My boyfriend loves Stir fry I would say it is one of his favorite foods. I have been wanting to try a homemade teriyaki sauce now for a long time. Thanks for providing such a fabulous recipe! Cannot wait to try it!

Hannah {Culture Connoisseur} said...

What a great place to grow up! I love the pictures of the fish market. It's so cool to see how they do things. And I lOVE the little sweet treats. Japan is so good at makes tiny and cute things.

Sincerely, Kylee said...

Too cool. I'm in love with this series.
Two things:
1. Thanks for the tips about the food. We shop at our local asian market but it is so easy to get lost in all of the unknown items.
2. I LOVE SAPPORO BEER. :) I have one when I eat sushi on the weekends. Thanks for giving some background to my fav. beer. :-P

*I'm a fan of this series. (Like button)

Danielle said...

I absolutely love Japan and it's food! I had no clue you lived in Japan - so so jealous! I love their culture. We need to live closer so we can have a sushi date! Let's make that happen ;)

Simply LKJ said...

I love this! That fish market is amazing...fish HAS to be fresh!! Such interesting facts. Especially about dessert, as I didn't think Japanese people were big sweet eaters...I always wondered what they had for dessert.

Leeann @ Join the Gossip said...

OK I had no clue tuna was so large! Wow! And the wagashi are so cool! Again, thanks for teaching me about Japan :)

Amanda said...

It's so incredible that you lived in Japan for part of your life! I'm amazed how exposed you are to other food and culture! It's very impressive to me since I've lived in the same city my whole life (except the four years I was in college). And some of those food looks amazing!

Sara said...

Looks amazing!! Food is so much a part of culture and travel. The best sushi I have ever had was in Oahu but I am sure it doesn't even compare to the freshness of sushi in Japan. I thought about their fishing industry after the earthquake this spring... with so much muck being put into the water I hope they're all about to bounce back.

ashley said...

wow those are not small fish! i'm so curious about what those desserts taste like...

Vanessa @ Gourmet Runner said...

While I never got used to the taste of azuki beans, mochi is my favorite dessert! I made it a few years back, I'll have to try it again!
:)

Jenna said...

The food sounds incredible! Especially the pork cutlet dish! :) And I don't think I would be brave enough to go through the fish market. It looks overwhelming!

Erika Lee Sears said...

now i am thinking about ramen :) isn't it so crazy seeing the wholesale fish?

I watched a documentary about Asia's fish consumption and it was pretty crazy!.

DailyGlamour said...

look yummy !
xx

Nikki said...

I would love to visit the fish market. Those fish are huge!

Meri said...

I love your coverage of the market! It looks so exciting, I like being out early with so many people, its energizing!

rebecca said...

may or may not eat tuna again now that I've seen it sliced open. ick.

Life With Lauren said...

Would love to try the desserts!

Sam {fitnessfoodandfaith.blogspot.com} said...

love that huge beautiful fish!! mmm, now i'm starving :)

Ashley Brooke said...

wow! so interesting. i want to go to japan now!

BeckyJo606 said...

So cool! I am loving this series! I love tempura--but I think I could eat sushi for the rest of my life! :)

birdie to be said...

Wow! Those are huge! Very interesting post. :)

natasha {schue love} said...

So amazing to see those huge hunks of tuna! I love tuna...love!

REBrown said...

I always wondered what the Japanese bean paste I see around it. Who knew it was dessert!

⚜ ↁℯℬℬᴵℰ⚜@ Debbiedoos blogging and blabbing said...

That is so cool..you have some great pics here. Thanks for your sweet comment.

Amanda @ New Adventures said...

What an amazing experience to live in Japan. I have never been but it sounds like their is so much culture and just looks like an awesome place!

Elizabeth said...

I'd love to visit Japan, but not too sure I'd love all of this food!

Lindsay @ Delighted Momma said...

Meg this is such an awesome series!! I am so intrigued about your time spent living in Japan. What an amazing experience that must have been. I am headed to bed but will be back tomorrow to get all caught up :) XO

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Brunette & Blessed said...

This is amazing...these fish are huge!

Pop Champagne said...

wow the tuna is HUGE! I didn't know tuna gets so big! haha ya in restaurants you see them in pieces the size of your hands but never like the pic you posted

amy b.s. said...

those photos of those fish are amazing! wow. and thanks for you comment on my blog. i found the whole anonymous thing quite funny.

Holly said...

Mmm sushi! Have you found any sushi that reminds you of Japan in Cali? Wow, HUGE tuna!! That's just nuts! Mmm your favorite dish sounds really yummy! I do like shrimp tempura. Looks so yummy!