|Chicken Yakitori, Nasu (aubergine) Dengaku, Spinach with Gomadare (sesame) sauce|
I'm not sure what it is that intrigues me so much about it but Japan is somewhere I have wanted to go for a long time. The food, certainly, is a huge part of my fascination but there is admiration too for what I perceive to be the way that they balance the clash between simple traditions and modern technology. I have such a picture of it in my mind that I'm not sure it will ever stand a chance of meeting my expectations but that still wouldn't stop me from putting a trip there near the top of my bucket list.
There have been a few lovely things recently that have given me my necessary bit of a Japan-fix and I thought I would share them with you:
I have been thoroughly enjoying the most recent adventures of Niamh Shields on her blog, Eat Like A Girl, and I have to admit that I've felt a considerable amount of envy as I've enjoyed her tweets and posts from her trip around Japan. The cup noodle museum sounded fantastically bonkers and I have drooled over every single picture of food she has posted, particularly her breakfast in Kyoto which looked beautifully simple and light.
I suppose you know you might be a little obsessed with food when you find yourself going to see a movie all about sushi. I was very glad that I am this much of a food nerd though as 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi' was an engaging insight into the passion and commitment that 85 year old Jiro has for his 3 Michelin star sushi restaurant that he runs in a subway station. It provided a fantastic snapshot of Japanese culture and the wonderful relationship that Jiro has with his sons, despite them being in their 50's and still patiently waiting to take over the business. Well worth a watch.
I'm not sure what it would take for me to ever turn down the opportunity to eat Japanese food and yet, somehow, it took me until very recently to eat in Musashi on Capel Street. I blame very positive blog reviews making it impossible to get a reservation! It was very much worth the wait however, as I enjoyed beautifully fresh sashimi, succulent gyoza and brilliant service at very reasonable prices. A far more detailed review by Stitch and Bear is available here.
I first came across Reiko Hashimoto on Twitter and have been trying to think of an excuse to get over to London to do one of her Japanese cookery classes ever since. To keep me going in the meantime I ordered her book Hashi: A Japanese cookery course and I am thoroughly enjoying cooking my way through the recipes. The book includes a comprehensive introduction bringing you through some of the history of Japanese food culture, an explanation of many Japanese ingredients and some basic techniques before it moves on to the recipes which are divided into three sections based on the skill level required. I have been impressed by the clear instructions and the results have tasted really authentic* (*clarification: my perception of authentic is only based on Japanese restaurants!) As with Chinese and Thai cooking it is incredible how a small investment in a few store cupboard ingredients can produce sauces and dishes that taste far superior than anything you buy ready made. Dengaku sauce (picture at top) made with miso, mirin and sugar is my new favourite, I could eat it straight from the pan it's so tasty!
I have mentioned before on this blog that I am a little partial to a good dumpling so it was particularly satisfying to make these chicken and prawn gyoza myself. I shall not, however, be revealing just how many of them I ate myself other than to say that the recipe served four and there was not a single one left. Yum.
So, the next thing I need to satisfy my desire for a little Japan-fix is to source some Bonito flakes so that I can make proper Dashi. I have been in to Asia Market in Dublin without success, would anyone like to point me in the right direction?