Australian news site nine has launched a new travel website, called Elsewhere (nice name, right?). I’ll be contributing stories from Tokyo and Japan occasionally. First up: the best places in Tokyo to try Japanese-style sweets.
Lonely Planet started a new series of cookbooks, called From the Source. The idea is to capture a place through its food, and include recipes from the best cooks who make the food — all with gorgeous photos throughout. This summer, editions for Italy and Thailand were released (photo above). I want to make everything.
Next up: Japan. I’m contributing the chapter on Tohoku & Hokkaido. The photographer and I are still in the process of sorting out our plans, but it looks like we’ll be road-tripping deep into Hokkaido. I can’t wait!
“Wagyu literally translates as ‘Japanese beef,’ but that translation doesn’t quite do it justice. It’s a word that calls to mind images of rural Japanese cows being fed beer and massaged daily, and richly marbled ruby-red steaks, shot through with fine ribbons of glistening white fat. . . . However, exactly how wagyu gets from the fattening farm to the table is more of a mystery.
“Tokyo’s municipal meat market — the last slaughterhouse in the city — hasn’t become the tourist pilgrimage site that the Tsukiji fish market has. In fact, most people, tourists and locals alike, wouldn’t even recognize the meat market if they saw it.”
Read the rest in the Japan Times.
The slaughtering of animals in Japan was traditionally carried out by the burakumin, a kind of “untouchables” class in feudal Japan. Many of their descendents still work in the industry and many still face discrimination. Mike Sunda has an excellent follow up story to mine that goes into more detail about this.
“Jeonju is one of South Korea’s top destinations, though it remains under the radar for international travellers. The largest city in the country’s southwest, Jeonju has a vibrant historic district and a fantastic food scene: ‘eat once in Jeonju and you’ll be spoiled for life’, Koreans say.”
Read the rest on LP.com.
A not too horrible (I hope) radio interview with ABC Australia about Tokyo’s “standing restaurant” dining trend.
“Over the past few years, several American-style pancake joints — Eggs n’ Things and Cafe Kaila, for example — have washed up on Tokyo’s shores. Now, the tide is going the other direction.
“Well, sort of: Australian chef Bill Granger first brought his laid-back brand of home cooking (and his famous ricotta hotcakes) to Japan in 2008, with the opening of bills Shichirigahama on the Shonan coast. He hit it so big — Granger is credited with setting off the current pancake mania — that he now has four restaurants in and around the capital. And last month, he opened bills Sydney, his first Stateside outpost, in Hawaii.
“’I do restaurants where I can get inspired,’ Granger tells The Japan Times. ‘Hawaii is interesting because it’s the ultimate fusion place. It’s people from everywhere.’”
Published in The Japan Times.
“Sushi in Tokyo begins before dawn. Throughout the night, thousands of trucks make their way down center-city streets to the Tokyo Metropolitan Central Wholesale Market, commonly known as Tsukiji. They come bearing delicacies like uni (sea urchin roe), light and smooth as whipped cream; jewel-like ikura (salmon roe) that break open on the tongue; and awabi (abalone) still writhing in their shells. There are more exotic specimens, too, such as the pillowy livers of anko (anglerfish), grotesque hunter of the deep seas; and the pearly, brain-like swirls of shirako (cod milt).
“It is often said about Tsukiji: If it lives in the sea and is edible, it is here. In the evening, well-heeled Tokyoites will pay hundreds of dollars to sink their teeth into raw fish, a pleasure that seems almost prosaic in its hunter-gather simplicity. What they’re really paying for is the accumulated, hereditary knowledge that ensures that the best fish in the world winds up in the hands of the city’s best chefs. And it all starts at Tsukiji.”
Published in the Mar/Apr 2014 issue of Selamta, the in-flight magazine of Ethiopian Airlines.
I wonder if this will be the last story I write on Tsukiji, the fish market that is moving to Toyosu in 2016… This article includes interviews with 5th generation sushi chef Masatoshi Yoshino of Yoshino-zushi Honten in Nihonbashi and Tsukiji tuna buyer Tatsuo Sato.
“Literally ‘grilled as you like,’ okonomiyaki is Japanese comfort food at its best, and a clear violation of the typical refined image of Japanese food. It’s a savoury pancake filled with any number of things (but usually cabbage and pork) and topped with fish flakes, dried seaweed, mayonnaise and a Worcester-style sauce. It’s also a lot of fun: At most restaurants, diners grill the dish themselves at a hotplate built into the table.”
Published on BBC Good Food.
“Many Japanese foodies are enamored with the hamburger, in much the same way that their American counterparts are often besotted with ramen. The number of hamburger shops in Tokyo has exploded in the last decade, but there are also signs that the fascination runs deeper: There are books, magazines and websites in Japanese devoted to eating — and understanding — the hamburger.
“Yoshihide Matsubara is the author of many of them, including The Burger Map, an authoritative guidebook to Kanto area burger shops. He insists, however, that he’s not just riding a trend; his love affair with the hamburger goes back further. It’s the cultural differences, between patties formed West and East, that he finds so captivating.”
Published in The Japan Times.
See Matsubara’s full list of recommended burger joints on his blog Hamburger Street.
“The Japanese clearly value tradition, yet for one reason or another — fire, natural disaster, the second world war, an enthusiasm for progress — there aren’t many towns left that truly encapsulate the way things were. Kyoto has its temples, but in between them is a thoroughly modern city. . . . To really get away from it all, you need to head deeper into the hills, to a tiny village like Maze.”
Published in the Guardian.