Then I actually got to go to Japan and ate McDonalds there for three days straight. More on that disturbing fact at the bottom of this post....
Aside from a delightful rolled beef and spirng onion dish (Beef Negimaki) that we constantly ordered, we would also alternately fluctuate between the chicken yakitori and tonkatsu. The former is chicken grilled in a teriyaki sauce, and the latter is more of a deep fried cutlet.
But in the mad rush that is the home kitchen, I realised I'd never actually attempted making these dishes at home, until Joanne's Regional Recipes came along showcasing Japan, and I thought "Well, now is the time or never!". Or I might have to settle for McD.
Let me introduce you to Mirin, Sake and Soy Sauce - the same ingredients that were used in the Beef Negimaki marinade as well.
Grilled Ginger Chicken Yakitori with Leeks and Bell Peppers
(adapted from Food and Wine magazine)
1/3 cup sake
1/4 cup mirin
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sugar (you can ramp up to 2 Tbsp as per the orig recipe, I just don't like too much sweetness)
2 tsp grated or crushed fresh ginger
~2 lb boneless chicken (thighs or tenderloin)
Optional - yellow miso paste (3 Tbsp) - I did not use this
1 red bell pepper, seeded and cored, cut into squares
1 leek, white and light green part only, washed thoroughly, halved and cut crosswise
1. Soak bamboo skewers in water for ~ 4 hours so that they do not burn while grilling.
2. Mix sake, mirin, soy sauce, sugar and ginger in a small saucepan. Simmer over low heat for about 5 - 10 minutes.
Back in the day (prehistoric - I didn't even have a digital camera!) I got to visit the magnificent country of Japan. However, I was also pregnant, and when we reached (literally) the other side of the world, my olfactory system went into overdrive and I very conveniently developed the most horrific case of nausea, which would then plague me for the rest of the pregnancy.
Nice going Ann, way to kick start your vacation in Japan!
Every restaurant sent me into shudders as the new smells and sights put my over-reactive digestive system into tremors. I sadly moped along the roads looking for something to placate me, and my eyes fell on those golden yellow arches. Yes, people, I dare to divulge that I ate McDonalds (horrors!) for the next three days. Even though we couldn't quite figure out what we were ordering from the bright, cheery menu boards, fries are fries at the end of the day in any continent. Go on, laugh. I'm already planning a second trip to make up, suckers.
It didn't stop me from taking in the sights and sounds (maybe just not the smells) of Japan. I left in awe of the clockwork efficiency of the country and the homogeneous nature of its people. We never felt unsafe, we learnt their systems and traditions quickly thanks to the help of kind passer-bys and we marveled at their stoic and proud heritage.
At the revered Sensoji Temple in Asakusa district. I've always wonderd in Pier 1 carries that lantern in that size and more importantly, what could have happened if it had fatefully fallen on me.
Attempting to not cross a street at Akihabara - the electronics retail section of Tokyo. Very difficult to do, because you get swept in a sea of mankind and they politely deposit you on the other side of the road. Stores displayed every range of electronics from the latest in computerized toilet seats (heat and water strength monitors) to what looked to us like funny miniature walkmans which would then arrive Stateside as Ipods. They were 5 years ahead of us!
At the entrance of the Meiji Jinju temple in bustling Harajuku. Yes, the same Harajaku neighborhood of Gewn Stefani notoriety with its strange mix of British punk teenagers had this ethereal lush green Yoyogi park. The noise of the city is miraculously silenced here and you are transported into another era. Seriously, I kept thinking "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" characters were going to leap out of the trees.
Walk thorough the park for twenty minutes and you come across the majestic Meiji Jinju temple. And guess what, it was apparently "Perfect Day to Have a Wedding" Day in Japan, we walked into FOUR separate Shinto weddings taking place, and the families let us watch. A completely other world and beautiful experience, though I will give a fashion shout out to that priest, take a look at his Lady Gaga-esque platforms.
This bride was going through several kimono changes with her assistants for a wedding photoshoot and gamely let me capture a shot of her. Check out the elaborate hairdo.
Finally, as we were leaving we bumped into an army of little tots, dressed up in regalia escorted by their grandparents for some sort of children's bendiction. This sweet grandma let me take a picture of her cutie pie, who in turn flashed some sort of gang sign at me.
This very lengthy post goes off to Joanne who is hosting Regional Recipes - Japan this month!