japan and korea vacation
Even though I’ve been home from Japan and Korea for about a month, I’m still seeing different friends for the first time and telling travel stories. I’m often asked what my favorite meal was or what country’s food I liked better or what was the craziest thing I ate. Often I mention the one instance 80 and I tasted cheese in the Far East as one of our best dishes.
We were shopping and strolling in the area near Seoul Women’s University. It was drizzling. Kinda chilly. Comfort was in need. It became our ritual to walk in, sit down and then leave restaurants if we couldn’t maneuver the menu or waitstaff. Because sometimes even hand gestures get lost in translation.
My co-worker Sherry told me about her sister’s views on Korean food while she lived in the country. The sister wasn’t fond of Korean food but enjoyed the country’s take on Italian food. 80 and I really did, for the most part, dine on each country’s cuisine. But at this moment, with seventy-five percent of our trip past, we needed something a tinge familiar. We needed cheese.
We walked into an Italian restaurant but then quickly left. We couldn’t communicate and weren’t up for the long batter of guesses. We snuck out. And instead we found college grub. Fusion college grub.
This place would fucking kill in the US. Huge bowls of hot rice, options of kimchi, veggies, chicken, whatever, then topped with melted mozzarella. Stir together with metal chopsticks. Awesomeness. Spicy, gooey, stomach-coating. Perfect drunk or hungover food. Plus, this place serves a side cup of broth to start. God I miss broth at every meal.
(PS–I hated Korean chopsticks: metal and thin. Hard to hold, become slippery easily. )
Just a taste of what was available at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. Gansie and I actually missed a lot of the good stuff, as they were shutting down when we arrived at 10:30 am. Gansie blamed us for being late, but they don’t let tourists in for the good stuff anymore until after 9 am…so I blame other annoying tourists. After the market, we ate at one of Tokyo’s hard to find, yes, hard to find sushi joints. Best sushi (fine, nagiri) ever. No pics of that however, sorry.
In case you haven’t noticed, 80 and I took a two week vacation to Japan and Korea. In those glorious days of no work I didn’t cook a damn thing. In fact, it shocked me how much I didn’t miss the kitchen.
But now we’re back. I spend my days tapping on slate colored keys, knowing exactly what I’m doing and where I’ll be. I no longer need Lonely Planet guiding my days. Outlook dominates my hours once again.
Because I must get back into, well, being back, I bought something that would force me into the kitchen, but also force me to experiment with the flavors I found so delicious. I bought a big tub of miso paste. (Actually, it’s the only thing in my fridge at the moment.)
I’ve never played with miso paste before, but I have a feeling I’ll be able to find a billion uses for it. At this point, though, I’m very unclear on what those uses are.
Before we left for vacation, 80’s mom sent me Japanese Food and Cooking by Emi Kazuko and Yasuko Fukuoka, to prepare me for the craziness ahead. I’ve spied a few recipes I’m excited to mess around with—Fried Aubergine with Miso Sauce, Pot-Cooked Udon in Miso Soup (with a broth-poached egg!), Broccoli (stem only) and Cucumber Pickled in Miso—but I also want to try a clean miso soup. If anyone knows where I can find: dried wakame, second dashi stock, shichimi togarashi or sansho – let me know!
And if you have other, less terrifying miso included recipes, comment here please.