Grilled as you like it

Yamamoto Manbo Okonomiyaki March 18, 2010

Filed under: Eating,Japan,Travel — laurel @ 10:51 pm
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As you can tell from the title of my blog, I love okonomiyaki. For our last meal in Kyoto, we headed to lunch at Yamamoto Manbo Okonomiyaki, another find from Meet’s Regional’s Best Guide of Kyoto. Yamamoto Manbo is a narrow shop with counter seats arranged around a blazing hot griddle. The master cooks up layered okonomiyaki wih udon or soba noodles and topped with sliced onions and a raw egg. The master asked if we wanted regular or spicy sauce. Usually “spicy” sauce isn’t spicy so much as more flavorful, so we both ordered the spicy sauce. Oops. It really was spicy here, so I had quite a time finishing mine. Next time I’ll have to go for the regular.

As we sat at the counter by the griddle, sweltering from the Kansai summer heat and the sizzling griddle, the master chatted with us about where we were visiting from. When we said Maebashi, he said to us, “Oh, Gunma, it’s always very hot there, isn’t it?”


Nishiki Koji March 16, 2010

Whenever I’m in Kyoto, I love to go strolling in Nishiki-koji Market. Here are some bamboo-wrapped kuzu manju.

On this trip I really had pickles and dashi on my mind. We stopped at the nuka-zuke shop and I bought a few nuka-zuke cucumbers.

At another pickle shop we bought some salt-pickled cucumbers. There were some chiles and kombu pieces in the brine too. We liked this one so much that we bought some more. Alex decided that they might be the best pickles in the world–in his opinion, at least.

You can see the cucumber pickles in the second vat in the front row. I guess we weren’t the only ones who liked them; they were nearly sold out even though it was still morning.

I bought one of these sticks of driftwood. Just kidding, they are really dried katsuo for making dashi.

At the kombu shop I bought some dashi kombu.


Kyoto Continued… March 14, 2010

Another wonderful day in Kyoto. The day started out cloudy and rainy, but that meant perfect lighting for photographing lotuses at Hokongoin, near Hanazono station.

It was doyo-ushi-no-hi so this shop was grilling eel over charcoal all day long. Mmm… it smelled so good.

We stopped at Nakamura-ya for a snack of korokke (croquette).

Then we walked through the bamboo grove to Okochi-sanso, the former residence of samurai film actor Okochi Denjiro.

We saw this mossy, grass-roofed house as we walked north-west of Arashiyama and Sagano.

We saw these passion flowers growing near there too.

Later we went to Nanzenji. This is the old aqueduct. First were were enjoying taking photos…

…when suddenly the sky opened up and it began pouring rain like mad. We took cover under the big San-mon gate and tried to wait it out, but after an hour it wasn’t showing any signs of letting up. We ran back to the subway station. The rain was coming down so heavily that the water in the storm drains was pushing up the sidewalk tiles and gushing back out onto the street. We were soaked.

The next day we visited Nishiki-koji market and went strolling in Gion.

Somehow I always have to come here when I come to Kyoto. I love the colorful saru-bobo.

Finally we visited Sanjusangendo before hopping back on the shinkansen to get home.

That is definitely a long hall.


Honke Daiichiasahi Takabashi Honten Ramen March 8, 2010

Filed under: Eating,Japan,Travel — laurel @ 9:53 pm
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Next stop: dinner. I found a recommendation for Daiichiasahi Honten ramen near Kyoto Station in Meets Regional’s Best Guide of Kyoto. The ramen is topped with sprouts, negi, and charshu in a shoyu broth. The shop is your typical, fluorescent-lit, sparely decorated ramen joint. Sitting at the counter, we could watch the chefs filling bowls with topping, boiling noodles to order, and tending to a giant cauldron of broth on the back burner.

We split an order of gyoza too. The super-thin skins and golden sear on these were near perfection.

We got there in time to beat the crowd (though it was nearly 10:00 pm), but there was a growing line by the time we left.  A line out the door is a good sign that the ramen inside is worth waiting for.

Of course, Daiichiasahi isn’t the only good ramen in town. In fact, Shinpukusaikan Honten next door was also good enough to merit mention in the Best Guide of Kyoto, but they were closing up shop by the time we got there, so the choice was easy.

Goodnight Kyoto


Uji Afternoon March 6, 2010

Filed under: Four seasons in Japan,Japan,Travel — laurel @ 6:39 pm
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The next stop on our trip was to Uji. We went to watch a traditional cormorant fishing demonstration. The fisherwomen wear this same type of costume: a black cap and grass skirt. I couldn’t resist getting a shot of this adorable guy by the ticket sales booth though.

First we visited Byodoin, the temple on the 10 yen coin. It’s beautiful. The old fading paint seems proper and historical, but surely it won’t last long–it stands in sharp contrast to the fresh bright orange paint on the bridge.

Uji is a famous tea growing area, so many of the shops along the traditional streets near the temple invite customers with matcha soft-serve ice cream and matcha parfaits.

We walked along the river in the afternoon, and as evening descended we boarded one of these boats. After a brief explanation (in Japanese) about the history of cormorant fishing, the demonstration began. The birds have a ring around their necks, so they can swallow only the smallest fish, while the rest are for the fisherwoman. Of course the birds get to eat plenty of fish after the show’s over.

To begin, the logs in the basket are lit aflame. The fish are drawn to the surface, thinking the light is from the moon. The fisherwoman sings out in an unearthly voice. The boatman raps on the side of the boat with his oar. The chanting and wooden thuds weave an eerie tune. The fisherwoman feeds slack line to the birds as they chase after the fish, flipping over and diving under the water, and just as suddenly bobbing back to the surface. She sees a bird lift its head, trying to swallow the fish. She skillfully tugs him to the boat and scoops him out of the water while letting the rest of the fish continue their hunt. She coaxes the fish out of his mouth, and it falls to the boats floor. Then she tosses the bird back to the water where he rushes back to hunt again.

Finally, the birds are fed, the boats are empty, and the water is still, except for lone fishermen working their rods from the shore. A peaceful night in Uji, and now we’re hoping to be fed too.

See more from Uji and Kyoto at Alex’s photoblog