Eating out in Japan lets one realize – in the tastiest way possible – that limitation does not have to lead into dreariness, and renunciation indeed can result in pure brilliance.
There are no “something for everyone” restaurants in Japan. You won’t find a place that serves both sushi and noodles, or nabe and bbq, or curry plus pizza, for that matter. Restaurants focus on one type of food (preparation). So if you are in the mood for table side cooked food you will go to a place where each guest sits in front of an individual little wood burning oven and combines, cooks, mixes and matches his or her foods at each’s own pace. And every one around you will do the very same. If you step into a Teppan Yaki house, each single guest in there will be eating Teppan Yaki as well. The only menu handed out usually is the list of drinks.
“By the time you read this, I will be across the big pond.” This is how my very last post on this blog started, many months ago.
So by the time you are reading this, I have just arrived back home, from yet another big trip across another big pond, and in the opposite direction than that time before. I spent the past two weeks in Japan, a place I first had visited and fallen in love with 25 years ago. This recent trip showed up on my horizon fast, furious and completely unexpected, and of course I was not just beyond excited but mighty curious about how things would be different now, or how not. (Just a hint: They are even better now than what I remembered them from back then. Seriously. Japan is stunningly clean, has beauty and art everywhere, is easily and totally safely accessible, and full of friendly folks. About the food, that glorious food, I will talk – many times on this blog – later.)
This post is the beginning of “Homage to Japan”, a series on Japan and its food, traditions and specialties. The articles will be served in tiny portions or multiple courses, as a one-pot-affair or an elaborate, staged story. Just like the Japanese cuisine shows up on the table, basically, depending on where and what you chose to eat that day. I will weave in other, non Nippon posts, now that I am happily back to blogging again, but please be prepared for some steady and pleasant rains of recounts from the “Land of the Rising Sun”.
As a starter, today, i am presenting you “The Ten Commandments”. This is a simple but functional list of restaurant and food related habits, tips and rules I observed and learned by eating, well… lots of foods in lots of different places (to say the least). Look at it as a pocket sized, basic but practical guide to make most of eating out in tasty Japan. Itadakimas! (Bon appétit!)
By the time you read this, I will be across the big pond. Far away from where my every day happens, on vacation, back in sweet Switzerland. Home, Swiss Home.
I might be sitting outside a chalet, surrounded by bright white, squeaky snow, enjoying a Caffe Fertig (black coffee with a good splash of an herb or fruit brandy, depending on the region). Or taking it easy inside a chalet, reading or watching the snow flakes dancing, or baking or eating something freshly baked. I might be talking to a sweet sheep, or tasting the even sweeter cheese that was made of its milk.
I might be on a train to Spain for the day (and maybe the next), I might be cooking with friends or for friends or both. I might be biting into the most fabulous bread I bit into since my last stay in Switzerland. I might be doing nothing, or a little bit of desk work, or a lot of looking into the air. Hiking for sure, skiing perhaps, drinking tea with my Mom, knitting, strolling the markets, showing the boys my favorite hiding places. Or book stores, museums, food spots and architecture. I might be surprising some friends in cheese at their production or selling places. Sharing stories, memories, laughter and food. Enjoying a Fondue. Or eating a Crème-Schnitte (the best ever, and probably original, version of a Napoléon). Or Düri Bohne (dried green beans). My aunts Suure Mocke (wine marinated roast), hopefully. Or get spoiled by our Chef friends.
There might be other things, new things (and foods) I will be detecting. There’s always so much to do and try and taste. There is never enough time. Never.
But I will share with you every thing – every bite and place and sip and find – after my return. So I say “ciao” for now. Enjoy the Holidays, the celebrations and all that comes with them, to the fullest! Be merry and happy, and keep your full belly at all times!
I will be doing just the same. Home, Swiss Home.
It has been exactly one year since Happy Stomachs was born. And what a year! I have met interesting people and made new friends, discovered a few things and changed some others, come up with more ideas and exciting projects – and enjoyed every single step along the way. Thanks to you, my friends in food, who read and support, enjoy and get inspired by, share and comment on my beloved little blog.
You might not be surprised that my cake is a savory rather than a sweet one. To be exact: It is one made of cheeses. I couldn’t help… But I believe that, once you have read the simple instructions, you might be happy to have this ridiculously easy and flexible idea up your sleeve. Use it in the case you have barely any time, need something different – or simply want to change up the usual cheese platter. Or the traditional birthday cake, for that matter.
So here we go: Choose your cheeses depending your and your guests taste buds as well as the number of people the selection should feed. Keep in mind that soft and semi hard cheeses will allow you to cut the cake into wedges, while you will have to disassemble your oeuvre if you incorporate hard cheeses (like Manchego, Gruyère, Cheddar, etc.) before you can enjoy them. Also, the subtler and runnier a cheese, the higher up on the tower it should be placed (in order to have as less as possible other weight on top of it). Pick your accompaniments according the season, your mood, a color or taste pattern or to match the cheeses flavor profiles.
My little cake is built of a French goat Brie (Chèvre des Crèmiers), Munster, Pico (another, smaller and looser goat Brie) and a hunk of an Australian Feta. The accoûtrements are red raspberries, toasted pumpkin seeds and Nasturtiums, a widely available, edible flower with a nice peppery after taste. – A rich, creamy and rather lush affair. But hey, it’s my baby’s birthday after all!