Saturday, February 15, 2014

Hello Japan! (part 4 - food)

OK, Valentine's Day has come and gone and I must say I have never been as withdrawn from this commercial "holiday" as how I was this year. Maybe I am getting old and jaded but I am sure many will agree with me that it is an absolutely meaningless day, or at least not one that deserves this much attention. Well enough whingeing and let's bring on the next set of my vacation pictures.

What is a vacation without plenty of great food as well as the discovery of new tastes and new ways of eating. I also tried things that I haven't before during this trip and I have the pictures to prove it.


A walk through the food halls of department stores is always an eye-opening experience. Who knew chicken skin can be the wrap of choice for dumplings and lotus roots can replace buns for burgers? And those sushi rolls were ginormous!


The famous fruit shelf at Takashimaya. The selection on display looks completely fake and at more than AUD$100 a melon, they better not be!


This is one food item that tastes exactly the same as other parts of Asia, even Australia. It's Takoyaki from Osaka, the birthplace of this wonderfully-gooey snack.


Happy hour with the most awesome view. This is at a bar on the top floor of the Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills. Champagne will never taste the same again at ground level.


I saw this menu item on my first night in Japan and I swore I would garner enough courage by the end of the trip to try it. Yep, that's horse sashimi. To add to the irony of it all, my Chinese zodiac sign is horse and I had the sashimi on the eve of the year of the horse.


One thing I missed out on was a good kaiseiki ryori (Japanese degustation). There were many really nice restaurants scattered amongst the Kyoto shrines that served it. At about AUD$60, they are a steal! Well there is always next time.


Japan is the land of vending machines and the city is packed full of them. You cannot throw a stone in Tokyo without it hitting one of these boxes that never sleep! They spit out both cold and warm drinks which was really amazing. I heard there were ones that even vend fresh vegetables and fish!


But these machines sometimes offer rather dubious drinks. This "cider" is actually nothing more than flavoured soda water.


It was raining the night I was at Osaka and the best way to spend a cold rainy night is to stay indoors and have hot pot! The one I had was an everything-in option (mixed meats, seafood and vegetables) and was very reasonably-priced.


This is my favourite fast food restaurant and needless to say I must try something from MOS Burger in its country of origin. In Tokyo, they have rice burgers with steamed fish in miso sauce as well as onion rings, two of the things I got to savour.


Is this the smallest martini or what? But it was potent I tell you. At AUD$8 a pop, you can't go wrong.

 
This elaborate yet simple meal I had in Nara costs only a little more than AUD$20. You can never find Japanese food of this quality and price in Australia. Unique to the region is the leaf-wrapped steamed sushi (bottom left of the picture).


I was super impressed with the convenience stores of Japan as they actually sell delicious food that I would want to eat. Bentos of restaurant-quality could be found in these stores littered all over the country (they are almost as plentiful as vending machines).


Rows of fried delicacies (left) and oden (right—various food items cooked in stock) could also be found in the simplest of convenience stores. The Japanese sure know how to eat and how to eat well in the most efficient manner!


Can you tell that this is a replica? Japan boasts the most realistic food replicas often found in restaurant display shelves.

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