“Don’t deny yourself of what you deserve.” From the moment I came across with this quote, the first thing that popped into my head was food! Often times, I forbid myself of having even the littlest food that I wanted. But I realized that life’s too short to deprive ourselves from this happiness.
I have the privilege to taste the food I never thought I would love forever.
Earlier this year, my officemates and I went on a business trip to Japan. I was really looking forward to Japanese places, their culture, and of course, their cuisine. Honestly, I am not really a fan of Japanese food, but I have no choice since foreign restaurants in Japan cost a lot more than the local ones. But this, I’m thankful for because I have found a new love once again.
First dinner, right after we arrived, we went to Yoshinoya located not very far from our apartment. This place is one of the largest Gyūdon chains in Japan, the other one is Sukiya. We visited it as well, which is their Shibuya branch. Gyūdon is a rice bowl topped with beef, spring onions and sweet sauce. There are many kinds of Gyūdon depending on how you like it.
Another one is the Mochi (Japanese rice cake). We attended the rice cake-making (Mochitsuki) party in our office, which Japanese do every New Year, and we saw how they make it from scratch. They pound sticky rice into a paste and then mold them to any shape, sprinkle them with flour or grahams, and they’re good to go. You can eat them with some sweet Japanese paste (or fill the mochi with it), and with sweet mung beans (maybe it was red beans, haha) soup. It was my first time to taste another kind of mung beans soup too.
Next is the Yakitori, or grilled chicken (on a stick). We tried it at a restaurant near our office which I could no longer remember the name since it’s Japanese. Yakitori can be chicken breast, liver or skin. Appetizers served were boiled chicken skin and liver, soy beans and salted cabbage with sesame oil and seeds. It was kind of a whole new appetizer experience for me. We also tried the Whiskey punch (just for the sake of it, haha).
We had to work on a Saturday to catch up with some stuff and since the cafeteria was closed, we roamed around to scout for some food restaurants nearby. I have to say they have quite a lot of cute restaurants, and by cute I mean small with some variety of food. We just had to choose one so we entered this one family restaurant. The thing with local and small restaurants is that they don’t have English translation on their menus. We relied on my workmates who know a little Japanese phrases. To be safe, we ordered Katsudon (pork cutlet rice bowl). The one we had below is the kind with raw egg on it. The dish comes with a miso soup, some side dishes (usually radish) and tea.
Japanese traditional food is served as a set; the main dish, the soup, the side dishes and of course, never forget the tea. This is what really amused me because I don’t specifically eat this much. No wonder I gained a little bit when I came back from Japan. We were also treated for lunch at a pork restaurant just around the corner from our office. The name was Butalian (finally I got a name! Haha). Buta means pork in Japanese. You will know a pork restaurant by the time you enter into one. Every corner is filled with pig stuff; from pictures, to paintings on the wall, to figurines and even to my amusement, the trash can! The grilled pork is a must have and is really worth coming back to.
And now my favorite, or suppose will be, the Ramen. Everyone knows about this very popular Japanese food. I have tried 5 different kinds of ramen in our whole stay in Japan. One restaurant particularly is just near our apartment, Tetsu. When you enter, you order not from the waiter but through the food ticket machine where the menu is displayed. You insert your money, select the one you’ll order, and then the machine releases a ticket that corresponds to your food. The pictures are all we have! We tried this restaurant because they have this unique way where the noodles is served separately from the soup. You will be the one to put it up all together and then savor any way you want it.
So my favorite among my favorite ramen is the one from Ichiran restaurant, located in Shibuya, the closest from where we were staying. Food ticket machine is where you order as well, and another unique way is you get to choose how your ramen will be made. From the thickness of the noodles, richness of the soup, size of the spring onions, and the level of spiciness. After you have filled up the ramen sheet, you go and eat in a cubicle-like seat, give the ticket and sheet to the cook behind the wooden curtain in front of you. The divider that sets you apart from the other customer beside you can be folded in case you eat with a companion. The ramen is really delicious, perfect for the winter weather outside, and yet the best ramen I’ve ever tasted!
Lastly, who would never try the sushi! I have never really fancied sushi but since we were in Japan, we had to try the sushi bar. One sushi bar is located nearby our apartment and I forgot the name again. It’s my first time to be in a sushi bar and I was lucky I got to try it in Japan. Plates with different types of sushi sit on a conveyer belt that turns all around to the customers. The color or decoration of the plates signifies the price of the sushi. I sort of finished 5 plates only. I Ate two servings of sushi that has a mayo on it. My favorite sushi roll will always be the one with the mayo.
All of these food trips made me fall in love with Japanese food. You may not believe it but I enjoy eating Onigiri – white rice formed into a triangular or circular shape wrapped in seaweed with some different kinds of filling, every night after work or even to fill my empty stomach. I know there are still tons of yummy Japanese food out there so I will have to go back to Japan to try them all!
Guest post by: Maria Johanna Ybañez