Some of my food adventures in Tokyo
Happy 2012, it's hard for me to believe it is already the middle of January. Time really goes by quickly especially in the last month of the semester in addition to the scrambling to buy, eat and do as many things one can before departure. Also with the customary final's stress creeping up on everyone the last week of my semester in Tokyo is even more dreaded and seemingly ominous.
One of the things I find myself doing a lot more here in Tokyo than in the United States...is that I am almost ALWAYS taking pictures of my food no matter where I go. I was never this camera/food crazy before, but there is just so many options on top of all the delicious looking food here that it is hard not to want a photo to remember it forever after you've already eaten it. Also in a city where food is slightly more expensive than average and you want to stay in budget (unless you live off combinis) taking photos makes shelling out for the experience even more worthwhile--for me anyway. Which is why I will talk about some of the foods I've eaten that I have really enjoyed thus far.
The first thing I must list is Miso ramen, I have always enjoyed eating noodles be it soba, udon, ramen, spaghetti etc. However, miso ramen instantly became my all time favorite when I started venturing into ramen stores in Tokyo. I usually like saltier and stronger tasting foods and although miso soup itself is lighter in comparison to its ramen version it has always been a favorite easy to make soup of mine and I could not pass up trying its alternative. I have heard of miso ramen but never had the opportunity to truly try the dish back at home in Oregon where Pho restaurants far outnumbered ramen shops in terms of asian noodle type cuisines. When you love miso ramen, there are literally hundreds of ramen shops to try while in Tokyo. Prices ranging anywhere from 500-1000 yen a bowl. Because I am not a seasoned ramen expert I turned towards the internet and recommendations by Japanese friends for my miso ramen experiences.
Truly both beautiful to look at and scrumptious as well. Koenji's miso ramen was relatively affordable and a good size at around 500 yen. This shop was recommended by a Japanese friend after a game of futsal. Near Ichigaya station there is also a miso ramen shop that had decent reviews on both a Japanese food review site and an english one. The broth here was slightly thicker and saltier as the miso taste (and paste mixture) was heavier but not so overwhelming that it overpowered the whole dish.
Another food item I have been wanting to try and eventually did was anmitsu. Anmitsu is a traditional Japanese dessert comprising of small white jelly cubes made from seaweed and juice. Usually they come served with anko (red bean paste) and seasonal fruit as well as a small pot of sweet black syrup.
I love fruit and anko so this was a nice experience for me. The jelly itself was not very sweet at all and almost lacked any taste by itself. It is also harder and less jello texture than I initially was expecting. Hence the syrup was a nice pairing to go along with it. Needless to say this was interesting but not exactly my favorite dessert I had in Japan, still nice to finally find out and have though!
Buffets (or vikings as they call it in Japanese) are my all time favorite places to visit and eat at in Japan. There are, as I mentioned in my first post, cake buffets in Japan. As a huge sweets lover this fascinating concept was hard to pass up and was definitely a love at first sight/bite. I have been to three different cake buffet places by now and my all time favorite is still Bitter Sweets in Shinjuku, they have the best selection of cakes as well as waffles and crepes, a nice interior design, and various teas to choose from.
Other types of all you can eat that you can find easily anywhere in Japan is Sukiyaki, Nabe and Shabu Shabu for those of us who crave and love the idea of different kinds of all you can eat beef, pork, tofu and vegetables simmered in various types of flavor based soups. Since my family is from Taiwan and hot pot is something I super look forward to eating every time I head back. Hence nabe and shabu shabu are both very similar to hot pot in that you simmer meats and veggies in a soup base or plain soup and use dipping sauces after its cooked they didn't super wow me aside from my craving for it, this doesn't mean I loved either less even though I have just had it similarities my entire life! Hence sukiyaki was the one out of the three that was truly a new experience for me which I loved! You use a shallower pot than either of the above two and the soup base is normally sake, soy sauce, sugar and water. Hence there is no dipping sauce needed as the stuff all comes out nice and flavorful. The only dipping sauce provided is raw egg which some (like me) prefer not to eat, however I have heard it is very very good eaten this way as well.
In addition there are also many all you can eat yakiniku places (grilled meat) where you may have all you can eat beef, pork and chicken brought to you so that you may grill and enjoy at your own pace alongside your hungry party.
Again I am a huge sucker for desserts and pancakes are one of my favorite breakfast items. I miss being able to make my own and so I have researched and been wanting to visit a particular pancake chain (named Pancake Days) for weeks. I was lucky enough to stumble past one on our way to the Ghibli museum and was overjoyed that some other students were willing to eat there together as well!
There are numerous coffee shops here that also occasionally sell fruit parfaits and even premium fruit stores (such as Takano) that have a dedicated cafe just for fruit parfaits and desserts as well as places that specialize in just green teas and tea flavored parfaits. Near Tokyo Dome just inside Tokyo Dome City there is a nice green tea shop that sells matcha parfaits alongside there green tea.
I had the matcha parfait to the left. It was very strong in matcha flavor not the weak light stuff you sometimes get in matcha desserts or Kit-Kats which was nice in a parfait such as this. It came with matcha gelato slushie at the bottom, mochi, anko, a frosted cereal flake layer, green tea ice cream and cubed mochi covered in kinako (toasted soy) topped with whipped cream and green tea sauce.
Sadly, due to the current terrible exchange rates (ie. super weak dollar) many students have has to set themselves personal monthly budgets in terms of food as well. And because I am especially determined ( or super stubborn) I stick to this budget as close as I can. I am not going to lie and say I have never skipped come meals occasionally just to hit this goal. However, on the weekends I reward my good efforts, aside from shopping, by going to buffets and various other food places. I feel less guilty if its once a week as opposed to 4 days a week.
Also because I love food/cake and there is just so many different choices within choices here. There are way more photos of food and places I have taken that are not posted in fear that I will flood this whole page with just food photos. As I am nearing the end of my short semester in Japan I am more determined to revisit all the foods and places I enjoyed as well as hit up new places I have been wanting to eat at and not yet done so. Stay warm and see hope to see you in my last post coming up!