Monday, July 5, 2010

japanese food: fried food

As we were planning our trip to Japan, I wasn't quite sure what to expect of the food. I mean, I had eaten at the (very American) hibachi place and had tried (with little success) a few sushi rolls. The only Japanese foods I knew for certain that I liked were inari and rice crackers, and I didn't think I could live off of those for 2 weeks. I was a tad bit nervous.

All that changed when we ate our first Japanese lunch and I discovered the wonderful world of fried food in Japan.

tonkatsu, rice, miso, and pickled vegetables

Enter tonkatsu. Matt might deny it, but it seems to me that this could be his favorite Japanese dish. A panko-breaded, fried pork cutlet is dipped in either tonkatsu sauce (a sweet soy sauce) or ponzu. At this particular restaurant we were given a mortar and pestle to grind soy sauce, to which we then added a sauce for dipping.

Very quickly into our trip I knew I loved Japanese fried foods. Towards the end I found something that I think most Midwesterners could enjoy: kushiage. Our friend in Tokyo took us to a great little place in Shinjuku where you could order practically anything breaded and fried. The breading didn't seem to be panko, but it was lighter and crispier than most breading. We carefully dipped each skewer into the communal soy sauce vat (but only once!) and enjoyed the fried goodness.

kushiage (clockwise from top right):
beef, ham, sausages, bacon-wrapped tomato wedge, squid, green onions, garlic cloves, eggplant, lotus root, cheese!

fried banana, ice cream, and apple

Our trip was bookended by tonkatsu lunches (the first one was best though). Our last lunch in Tokyo was in a little mom and pop restaurant between our hotel and the station. We had a huge lunch and more of the sweet Japanese hospitality we enjoyed so much.


fried ebi (shrimp)

Japan even managed to get me--a self-proclaimed seafood-hater--eating and loving shrimp!

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