It’s as if our taste buds change after a few months in the country. Spicy is not as spicy, previously unusual mix of flavours become familiar. And when we leave to explore new countries, continents, cuisines – there’s this longing for an acquired taste. So, what we miss when thinking of Japan?
1.Shiso – called Japanese basil. The only thing it has in common with basil is being green or purple herb. The exquisite aroma works fantastically pickled with fancy sushi or as leaf tempura for soba dish. It adds flavour to alcohol (shoju or umeshu plum wine). But if you are lucky or curious enough and wander far off the beaten track to Hokkaido’s Little Dairy Farm near Toyako, you’ll be awarded with the heavenly taste – the shiso ice cream has been an absolute delight, we can still taste (and miss) the flavour!
Talking about Hokkaido, there’s yet another local specialty worth mentioning. 2.Hokkaido pumpkin is so tasty you can eat it whole – skin included! It taste delicious fried with a pinch of salt and drop of sesame oil but we loved it most in Japanese veggie curry. Best if accompanied by daikon (Japanese radish), carrots, onion and omellete on top of rice. The solid, yummy food for all the family and friends. The safe option when you need rest from minimalistic style Japanese cuisine.
3.Udon. There are fans of udon and those who prefer soba. Somehow we were never team soba – buckwheat noodles with some fish sauce, spring onion and a touch of radish doesn’t seem like a dream dish to us. Udon is a different story, countless options to play with extras such as raw egg yolk, shallots, daikon, horseradish, okra or wakame (kelp), various tempuras and sweet fried tofu topping called aburaage. Udon is delicious whether served cold or hot. Depending on district it’s prepared with different local dashi broth and believe me – it’s sooo worth to try all of the kinds. I will never forget the Nagano style with big fish roe and Japanese radish mousse.
4.Umeshu. Definately Ana’s most acquired taste for the sweet & sour fruit flavoured alcohol 😉 Made of a very aromatic and unbelievably sour ume plums. Japanese experience all the way – especially when served with ice cubes and enjoyed with a group of girlfriends after a busy, hot summer day.
5.Okonomiyaki. Do you like pancakes? Then indulge yourself with both cooking on traditional teppan table/stove and decorating your pancakes like a pro teppanyaki chef. Okonomiyaki likes company of people and beer, so make sure you make plenty and enjoy dining with friends. Traditional okonomiyaki consists of minced pork or sausages but there’s no reason not to go freestyle 🙂 After all okonomiyaki means “fry what/as you like”! We made vegetarian ones and with canned tuna. You can add cheese, octopus, squid, shrimps… just name it. Remember about pickled ginger and add plenty of bonito flakes. And of course – have fun!
Last but not least – 6.Sushi. The abundant variety of flavours , images and sounds make the local train sushi experience so unforgettable. Your gunkan tastes much better when you order it all by yourself in Japanese, believe me 🙂 Oishi des!