Monday, August 24, 2009
For our second to last lunch in Japan, I decided to indulge the husband (he had, afterall, patiently waited while I spent hours whining that I didn't have a dress for his sister's engagement part, then waited even more patiently while I tried on several dresses and whines that they were the wrong colour, cut, etc. Bless him!) with his favourite food, tonkatsu.
Tonkatsu, is a filet of pork (the cut can vary from fatty to lean), breaded in panko, then deep fried. I usually don't see the big whoop in this dish but if the husand loves it, the husband will get for being such a supportive shopping partner.
(Above: See? Look at all the layers!)
We knew we could find tonkatsu pretty easily as we were at a major station (Yokohama) that had more restaurants that you could shake a stick at. The problem was finding a good tonkatsu restaurant.
(There's even a cheesy one! We both just got plain, though...)
We headed into a department store where a friend had taken us for a meal before. This particular department store had 2-3 floors of restaurants and I remember walkign past a few of them thinking they looked quite good. We consulted the directory and lo and behold, there was a tonkatsu restaurant.
There was something special about this particular tonkatsu restaurant, because they made a special tonkatsu. The used domestic pork, sliced it to a thinness of 0.5mm, stacked 25 layers of pork, breaded it and deep fried it like that! This process apparently keeps the juiceness of the pork. I just took their word for it.
Well, I'm glad I did take their work for it because it really was tender and juicy, with a very crispy "crust" on the outside. It went perfectly with their house sauce, and the crisp bottomless shredded cabbage was very refreshing!
I think the husband was a little divided on this type of pork-preparation. He may have wanted a full piece of pork, not this slices of it. Well, if you do go to Yokohama Station, head over to a department store called "More's" and judge ot for yourself. The restaurant is called "Genkatsu".
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
We stayed in a shukubo (temple lodging) here, which is pretty easy to do. We booked it through the rakutentravel website.
The temple was called "Komyo-in". It was clean and very pleasant to stay in. The staff spoke a little English, too. Baths are communal, as I think most of these temple lodgings are, (separated by gender, of course) so if you're not comfortable being naked with strangers, a hotel might be a better choice for you. The toilet area looked very new and was spotless. Toilets were western-style (hurray, no squatting!) Here's the outer garden. There were carp in the pond, too!
The rooms were clean, with windows facing an inner garden. The bedding is put away during the day but during the evening meal someone will come and set it all up for you, then put it away during the morning meal. There are thin cotton robes for you to wear to and from the bath, and a hot water pot with tea leaves and a tea pot.
Shukubos are famous for vegetarian cooking, called shojin ryori. I'm not sure about shukubo in other regions but Koya-san is know for sesame tofu, so almost every meal included this.
We were put in our own little dining room but this could be because it was low season. Depending on the place, you might even be put in a room with a bunch of other people. One thing to keep in mind, is that these meals are usually served on low tables, so you'll be sitting on the floor. If you've got leg issues or find sitting seiza (on your feet) uncomfortable, find out if they have a table and chair options. Because these rooms are tatami (thatched), it might not be possible, but it never hurts to ask, I guess. The food was just amazing. The flavours were so simple but each dish had it's own unique taste and texture. Nothing was too rich or too salty. We had been eating pretty rich, greasy restaurant foods before this, so it was just what our tummies needed.
Our dinner, from top, left to right: sesame tofu; vegetables and fu (soy bits?) boiled in broth; oragnes; vegetable tempura; pickles; stewed soy beans, mushrooms, and gourd; fu, mushrooms and taro potato ball in starchy sauce (lid closed); tempura dipping sauce; rice and miso soup.
Sesame tofu is very soft and almost mousse-like but has the rich taste of sesame. It kind of melts in your mouth like mousse, too! Too bad I've never seen it in Vancouver...
Above, is the fu (the pink and green thing), mushooms and taro potato ball in the starchy sauce.
Komyo-in was a great experience for us, and I would definitely love to stay at a shukubo again. If you don't have major dietary restrictions (like a soy allergy) it is a lovely way to see a bit of temple life and experience some simple, healthy food that your body is probably in dire need of after travelling for a few days. Next time we go to Japan, we'll definitely seek out a shukubo in a different region.