Friday, February 25, 2005


In December my family went to Japan. We started out in Kyoto and after three days took the Shinkansen to Tokyo. The food was amazing - not just how it was prepared, but how it was served, and the fact that even though we ate the same type of food three meals a day, 7 days straight (well, there was a Mos burger, but that story comes later) it was so yummy we never got sick of it.
It's interesting - I've seen lots of japanese TV and thought I had a handle on what typical japanese cuisine is like - but it really is amazing. So simple! Simple preparation, simple flavors, simple presentation - but all together, totally yummy and aesthetically pleasing. I am now obsessed with japanese pickles, and hot tempura soba, and broiled fish, and egg custard. There's a line in Lost in Translation where Bill Murray is on the phone with his wife and he says "I want to start eating like the Japanese..." or something like that. But it's totally true. A week of this and you're hooked.
In Tokyo is a huge fish market - the Tsukiji market. We went at 8:30am I think, and it was "slowing down" because all the professionals had already come and gone, so all that was left were civilians. We saw huge slabs of tuna belly, whole tuna (probably weigh more than me!) and all sorts of sea creatures. But what was really amazing were the rows of restaurants - most were packed, and had a huge line out the door. At 9am!! We chose a sushi place because the price was extremely reasonable (not just for Tokyo) and waited. And when we finally got in, it was....incredible.
First of all, I was a little skeptical because...sushi in the morning? Yew. But everything was so fresh that after a couple bites you just had to have more. I had all my favorites - salmon, tuna, bonito, yellowtail - and nearly tried horse (thank goodness somebody translated that for me) but the two things that stood out were the yakitoro (grilled fatty tuna) and ankimo (monkfish liver).
Imagine a huge slab of fish, marbled pink like beef because of the fat streaks. Then, a blowtorch is used to brown the top surface. And when the bones of the fish have been pulled out, they leave these little nubs that get really brown and crispy. And it's been salted, so there is no need to dip it in soy sauce. And when you finally eat, you *literally* roll your eyes because it *is* the most amazing thing you've tasted.
And the ankimo - it's my new favorite thing. Foie gras of the sea. :) Creamy, without the organmeat smell you find in cow's liver. And served with a citrusy sauce and grated radish, which helps bite through the richness. Apparently, it's easy to prepare, so I might try doing it here at home.....
So, all I can say is, if you ever go to Tokyo, you will of course find yummy sushi anywhere, but for the price and experience, just go to Tsukiji. The only bad thing is that you'll be so spoiled it will be a long time before you can go back home and eat sushi there without sighing and thinking of Tsukiji.....

1 comment:

Alice said...

Sounds like you enjoyed your visit to Japan! Another recommendation for wonderful fish in Japan is the Hakodate fish market in the northern island of Hokkaido. The ikura I had there was even better than the ones from Tsukiji last time I was there. It's a wee bit (or a lot) out of the way, but oh boy, it's so very recommended!