Okonomiyaki

Grilled as you like it

Nagasaki, Unzen, and Shimabara July 20, 2010

Our next stop in Kyushu was Nagasaki. We had a pleasant morning stroll in the Teramachi district.

That’s a big pot! It might be hard to tell from the photo, but you could probably fit about ten of me in this pot. You can see a tiny person wearing a pink shirt in the background, that’s how big this pot is.

After our stroll we headed to Chinatown. We had Nagasaki’s famous “Chinese” noodle dishes, sara udon and champon. The noodle dishes were pretty forgettable, in fact, they seemed to be the same toppings on top of different noodles.

But while we were waiting for seats in the restaurant for lunch, we had some buta-kakuni buns that were very tasty.

The next day we headed out early in the morning to Unzen Onsen. Like Beppu, Unzen also has an area called a “hell,” where sulfurous water and steam bubble from the ground. Most of the hell is pretty dry these days, and crisscrossed with pipes and hoses that siphon the hot water off to the onsen hotels.


a ghostly tree in Unzen

In some spots steam vents out of the ground. Spiky yellow sulfur crystals form around the mouth of the fissure.


A basket of eggs cooks on top of a steam pipe

As at any onsen with a healthy number of tourists, they’ve devised a way to use the onsen’s heat to cook eggs to sell. This pipe basically vents steam directly out of the ground. Top it with a basket of eggs and a towl and you’ve basically got yourself a little egg-oven.

After Unzen we headed to Shimabara, which is just a short bus ride away. Shimabara is known as a city of water, with many famous canals, fountains, and springs. Koi are a famous symbol of the town.

First we enjoyed a lunch of guzoni at Himematsuya. Guzoni is the famous dish of Shimabara, a filling soup made with eel, fu (wheat gluten), kamaboko (fish cake), chikuwa (more fish cake), tamagoyaki (egg), shiitake, hakusai (napa cabbage), lotus root, gobo (burdock), chicken, mitsuba, and of course mochi (those are the white rice cakes on top of the soup in the picture). Mmm… if you find yourself in Shimabara, definitely try some guzoni.

After lunch we walked around to see the sights in Shimabara. First we went to Shimabara castle. Then we went to the city of swimming carp and the Hama-no-kawa spring.


Aren’t these funny looking birds cute?

Interested in Nagasaki, Unzen, and Shimabara? Check it out here: http://www.ngs-kenkanren.com/eng/cs3.html
http://www.city.shimabara.lg.jp/english/003.html

See more from our trip at Alex’s photoblog: Nagasaki and Unzen and Shimabara

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Onsen Tamago June 3, 2010

Filed under: Cooking,Japan,recipes — laurel @ 10:50 pm
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onsen tamago

onsen tamago being plucked from the water at Kusatsu

In our recent care package from home, I asked for David Chang’s Momofuku Cookbook. Once I got it, I took a look inside and I couldn’t wait to try some of the recipes. Of course, my freezer was still full of frozen crab, so I didn’t want to order the bacon for bacon dashi with potatoes and clams or ramen broth just yet. But that didn’t mean that I couldn’t start with some of the simpler recipes. One of the first recipes that caught my eye was the slow-poached eggs. These are basically homemade onsen tamago, hot spring-cooked eggs. For a perfect onsen tamago (in my mind) the eggs should be in that stage just between raw and cooked, with the whites still a little soft but the yolk starting to firm a bit.

I didn’t have all the necessary equipment, so I bought digital kitchen thermometer on amazon.com. (I had bought a thermometer in Kappabashi about a week earlier, but to my disappointment, it was a baking thermometer. Who knew that some thermometers only go to 50°C. ) To keep the eggs off of the bottom of the pot, I flipped my steamer upside-down in the pot (with the steamer right-side-up the pot would be full the the brim), which kept the eggs just a few millimeters off the bottom, but I think it was good enough. The hole in the steamer also made a good spot to rest the tip of the thermometer. After trying the first one, I found that the whites were a little bit looser than I like, so I popped them back in the water and raised the heat by a few more degrees. If you do this, be careful. You can always cook them more, but once you go too far, you can’t cook them less.

onsen tamago
Onsen tamago made using Momofuku’s slow-poached egg technique

For the sauce, I used a recipe from about.com: 1/4 cup dashi and 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Instead of regular soy sauce, I substituted banno-joyu, seasoned soy sauce. I love to have banno-joyu on hand for making a quick sauce for somen noodles, dressing vegetables, making ohitashi, or drizzling over tofu. Plus, it keeps for just about forever in the refrigerator, so I mix up a small batch whenever I run out (It’s also a great way to use up some of the extra shiitake mushroom stems that I have around).

Slow-Poached Eggs
from Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meehan

large eggs

1. Fill your biggest, deepest pot with water and put it on the stove over the lowest possible heat.

2. Use something to keep the eggs from sitting on the bottom of the pot, where the temperature will be the highest. If you’ve got a cake rack or a steamer rack, use it. If not, improvise; a doughnut of aluminum foil or a few chopsticks scattered helter skelter across the bottom of the pan will usually do the trick, but you know what you’ve got lying around. Be resourceful.

3. Use an instant-read thermometer to monitor the temperature in the pot–if it’s too hot, add cold water or an ice cube. Once the water is between 140°F and 145°F (60-63°C, though I actually let the temperature rise to about 67°C), add the eggs to the pot. Let them bathe for 40 to 45 minutes, checking the temperature regularly with the thermometer or by sticking you finger in the water (It should be the temperature of a very hot bath) and moderating it as needed.

4. You can use the eggs immediately or store them in the refrigerator for up to 24. (If you’re planning on storing them, chill them until cold in an ice-water bath.) If you refrigerate the eggs, warm them under piping-hot tap water for 1 minute before using,

5. To serve the eggs, crack them one at a time into a small saucer. The thin white will not and should not be firm or solid; tip the dish to pour off and discard the loosest part of the white, then slide the egg onto the dish it’s destined for.

To make a sauce, mix 1/4 cup dashi with 1 teaspoon banno-joyu (below). Use 1 to 2 tablespoons of this sauce for each egg.

Banno Joyu: Seasoned Soy Concentrate
from Washoku by Elizabeth Andoh

5 or 6 large iriko, trimmed (heads and guts removed)
8 to 10 square inches Rausu, Rishiri, or ma kombu
1 dried shiitake mushroom or stems from 3 or 4 mushrooms
1/4 cup atsu kezuri or 1/2 cup tightly packed katsuo-bushi
2/3 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup sake
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons mirin

Place the iriko, kombu, mushroom, atsu kezuri, soy sauce, and sake in a small, deep saucepan and leave to infuse for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours. (If you are using ordinary katsuo-bushi, add the flakes later as directed.)

Add the sugar, water, and mirin to the pan and place over low heat. When the liquid begins to simmer, adjust the heat to keep it from boiling too vigorously. As the sauce simmers, it becomes quite foamy, rising in the saucpan. Watch to make sure it does not overflow. Continue to simmer until the volume has been reduced by about one=fourth and the sauce has become a bit syrupy.

Remove from the heat. (If you are using ordinary katsuo-bushi, scatter the flakes across the surface of the liquid. Let stand for 2 to 3 minutes, until the flakes have settled to the bottom.) Pour through a coffee-filter-lined strainer or a sarashi cloth into a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. If not using immediately, let cool, cover, and chill before using. Refrigerate for up to 1 month.

 

Kusatsu Onsen April 6, 2008

Filed under: Eating,Japan,Travel — laurel @ 9:45 pm
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Onsen tamago: soft cooked eggs cooked in the hot spring’s water.

On the first day of our spring break trip, we went to Kusatsu Onsen. This was our second time to Kusatsu Onsen. On this trip, we went to the Sai no Kawara Rotenburo Onsen (outdoor hot-spring). In front of the baths is Sai no Kawara park, where there are many small pools where people can dip their feet and legs in the hot spring.

Last fall we went to Otaki no Yu onsen in Kusatsu. We have pictures from that trip on our photoblog.


Charcoal grilled river fish | lanterns | onsen manju

We tried some onsen manju, wheat buns filled with sweetened bean, chestnut, or green pea paste and steamed with the onsen water. My favorite is the green bun: green tea on the outside and green peas on the inside.


Yubatake | Sai no Kawara Park | an onsen ryokan