Friday, 23 October 2015

Our Japanese Food Adventures


Hello all, as promised due to the lack of food recipes over the last few weeks here is a one –off travel food blog on our adventures in Japan.

Most people thought we were a bit crazy for wanting to take a recently walking 1 year old on a 12 hour flight, landing in one of the world’s largest metropolis cities, but we just thought life is too short and if we don’t go today we may never get the chance again.
Luckily both flights Bubba has done now have been very long haul and he has been really well behaved on both. The first though was a night flight to Mauritius when he was a lot younger and less mobile; this however was a day flight both outbound and inbound. On the outbound flight I think he was actually better behaved than his on a normal day at home, which we were so grateful for as when we boarded the plane we noticed he was actually the only one under the age of 18 on the whole plane.
So apart from the obligatory airport fry up in Heathrow’s T5 which I always find excellent, the first food of the journey started off with BA’s plane food. For years I suffered from severe travel sickness and detested plane food, just the smell of the trolley in the aisle was enough to make me grab by sick bag. However since travelling with Mr S over the last seven years or so the nasty travel sickness has disappeared leaving me to actually enjoy more than just a dry bread roll on a flight now. I have to say the food on both flights was actually pretty good as far as plane food goes. On the way out I had a creamy spinach pasta bake and the way in was roast beef, mashed potatoes and veg both were enjoyed by me and bubba. The best thing however was the chocolate orange pot for desert it was so good I ate both mine and Mr S while he was napping. If you snooze you lose.

Day One

After landing and a quick 6 hour nap to try and beat the jet lag we were all set for our first day out in Tokyo. One of the best things about battling an 8 hour time difference with a baby who doesn’t sleep much is we were able to handle the change in time zones with ease, 6 hours sleep is perfect for a full day of site-seeing.

Normally when we do city breaks the itinerary is fairly packed with restaurants normally at the top of the list for us and often a few reservations made at some of the key places we want to check out, however this time things were slightly different and even though Tokyo is the Michelin capital of the world we weren’t planning on visiting any of these due to our recently added travel companion. My research before leaving this time concentrated on kid-friendly places, which is how we found the first place we visited for lunch, Daytime Kitchen.

Hmmmm I wanted to cry, although it was very child friendly with the coolest kids highchairs I have ever seen, I didn’t research the food which was only described as organic and very healthy.  Not what I wanted after a long flight and a long nap. Mr S enjoyed his whole baked fish but my vegetables just didn’t give me the taste of Japan I was looking for. Bubba was even less impressed with his steamed bun.  So this called for an emergency stop in McDonalds – I love checking them out in different countries in order to eat something unhealthy.  I am so glad this first experience however was actually the only food we had for the entire trip that was not delicious, so one meal out 35 is forgiveable



Grilled whole fish


We were staying in the Shibuya area – famous for the giant crossing featured in Lost in Translation.  The crossing is a huge hub of people which made me truly feel like I was in the middle of Tokyo when crossing. That evening after a long stroll and several shopping stops along the way we decided on an early dinner or yakitori, beers and pizza for bubba. This was an interesting dining experience, some of the yakitori skewers were delicious like the beef however the chicken skin not so much to my taste, and we also enjoyed a delicious chicken katsu curry for main. Now I know what Wagamama’s base their dish on, only in Japan it is served on a bed of cabbage rather than with a side salad. Halfway through the meal we realised that smoking was allowed in restaurants so we didn’t stick around for dessert.
 




Day Two

On our second day in Japan we met up with some lovely old friends for lunch and enjoyed a traditional Japanese ‘office’ lunch.  Beats a soggy sandwich any day. In a lot of the big office blocks especially in the business district Marunouchi the buildings have several floors of what appear to be food courts from the pictures displayed on the signs. However these are actually floors dedicated to only restaurants, the same was the case in many stations and shopping malls. We ate in a lot of these  types of restaurants as those on street level were very tiny and involved either climbing up or down a narrow set of steps – not ideal with the stroller. I had a delicious yaki soba served on a hot griddle and Mr S enjoyed his first taste of Japanese steak. Before each meal in Japan you are always presented with a wet towel to clean your hands a drink either water, iced tea/coffee or warm green tea.  This extra level of service certainly makes you feel special. All the restaurants also always included Bubba in the towels, drinks and often provided him with his set of crockery too so he could share our meal with us, just another aspect of how child friendly Japan is.

After lunch my friend kindly took us over to Asakusa to the Senso- Ji shrine. Just before the shrine is a small market selling small trinkets aswel as our first taste of fresh warm red bean momiji manjus which are like warm little cakes stuffed with a paste. There are lots of shops making these in the market, along with lots of packed versions to take back home. A beautiful shrine even if it was the only time we had a downpour of rain during our trip. To escape the rain and warm up we popped into a tiny local coffee shop just outside the shrine for a caffeine fix and delicious slice of cheesecake. The cheesecake in Japan has a slightly savoury base and delicious creamy vanilla filling, also tried an ice cream version of this from 7/11 which was just as delicious.





After spending the afternoon in Akachan Honpo doing a huge baby clothes, toothbrush, chopstick, bento box haul for Bubba we were definitely hungry again by dinner time. This time we decided on a famous sushi restaurant near our hotel – Umegaoka Sushi No Midori. The restaurant uses a ticketing system which although it was in Japanese I managed to press all the buttons and get a ticket somehow, we then joined the long queue of people waiting outside before being called in. This was a pretty tiny place but they still managed to squeeze us in and provide a baby chair. The sushi was delicious, the first thing you notice is the freshness of the fish and secondly how much of it there is. Compared to western sushi the fish to rice ratio is far greater in Japan. I also enjoyed some delicious California rolls. Upon leaving they gave Bubba a cute little sushi lollipop. For desert we grabbed a cold stone on the walk back to our hotel – Match Green Tea flavour of course.

Day Three

A trip to Ueno Zoo, Bubba loved seeing all the animals and running around the zoo as fast as he could. For lunch we just stopped at one of the kiosks in the zoo for a delicious chicken sandwich and piping hot chips.





After a light lunch we were ready for a coffee break in the afternoon and went over to ‘Electric city’ in Akihabara to do something you can only do in Japan. Have a coffee in a maid restaurant, we visited @ home café for coffee and dessert. The concept is kinda crazy lots of young girls dressed up in full maid gear who draw little cartoons on your coffee and sing a little pop song before having a picture with you.  Most of the other people in there were either tourist or young Japanese males. It was slightly strange but cool in weird way. All the maids absolutely fell in love with Bubba who ended up becoming the star of the show especially after showing a few of his own tricks of waving goodbye and sending flying kisses in the air.






That evening we went up the Mori Art museum viewing deck to get some great views of the city by night. When looking down at all the lights you begin to get some idea of just how huge Tokyo is and how far it extends. We enjoyed another sushi dinner this evening too along with some sashimi salads – dressed in wonderful citrus flavours. 





Day Four
Harijuku visited Omotesando the sophisticated upmarket shopping street and lunched at a café on the a side street (pasta and ribs). Then went onto see takeshita-dori street which was in complete contract a busting street selling stylish clothes and accessories to the Japanese youth. This is where I went crazy in the Daiso store – these are 100 Yen stores and bought lots of kitchen stuff, teddy bear shaped rice balls.

 A trip to Harujuku would not be complete without trying one of the famous crepes, unfortunately for me Bubba ate half of mine.





That evening we visited a traditional Tonksu restaurant – Wako Shibuya, this is what I think the original version of katsu developed from. I went for the traditional breaded pork cutlet along with prawns. All served with rice, cabbage, dipping sauce and miso. The miso in Japan often contains tiny little seashells and mushrooms making it a very flavoursome broth.





We enjoyed another beautiful meal for lunch with friends at Mai at the Westin. I went for the tempura set as I felt I had not yet tried much of this on the trip. It was delicious with a light crispy batter that you either dip into a sauce or dip into a spiced salt, again served with rice, miso and pickles. Bubba also got to enjoy a playdate with his Japanese buddy, they both enjoyed running around the restaurant and trying to sneak into the kitchen!








Stop off at the Meiji Shrine

Another coffee break, another cake – this time flavours of apple. We decided to visit Takashimaya Shinjuku (a huge shopping mall) in the early evening as most shops stay open very late in Japan and a few days earlier we received the wonderful news of welcoming another little baby into our family back home so it was only fair to buy a present from Japan. We also grabbed dinner whilst we were there, however the highlight of the evening for me was desert. Visited a desert parlour for hot waffles topped with a chestnut  flavoured piped mouse, similar to ferror rocher.






Day Six

Our Shinkansen adventure begins with a tour around the food courts in the station perfect places to pick up bento boxes or in the case of Mr S a sushi sandwich for the journey.

Now I know this is a food blog, but I needed to dedicate a few lines to the bathrooms in Japan. Not only are all the toilets state of the art water fountains, music stations and little radiators. They also have this genius little seats in the corner to place your child safely while you go about your business, and even Male bathrooms have full baby changing facilities something which you do not find very often in England. Most shopping centres, train stations and large tourist spots also all have family rooms with feeding and changing stations, the main difference being how many of these there are wherever you go. The only place locally I have ever seen this is Westfield or John Lewis. Bubba is a bit older now so didn’t need these as much but the hot water machine was useful for heating milk and food when on the go.

Day seven

Began with an early start after having arrived in Kyoto the previous evening. Mr S had planned a perfect itinerary for the day, starting with Ukyo –Ku shrine, beautiful gardens and very tranquil even with Bubba running in every direction.
We then enjoyed a green tea and soya milk ice cream break before entering the bamboo forest.
For lunch we went to a local ramen restaurant, enjoyed a warm bowl of delicious thick noodles topped with tempura prawns, a simple but very satisfying lunch. Don’t be shy about slurping your noodles – it’s a sign of appreciation!






We then had a quick stop for some pick me up energy from a shaved strawberry ice before trekking up a mountain to the monkey park. I just about managed to get up there just carrying myself whilst Mr S did it with a backpack and Bubba in a baby carrier. Despite not really feeling the lack of safety during the trek up or at the top the views were amazing and being so close to the monkeys was a wonderful experience for Bubba, he insists all animals are called Woof at the moment.






Dinner that evening was a traditional Okonomiyaki – a Japanese pancake topped with noodles, cabbage, bacon, vegetables and delicious teriyaki style sauce, this is all cooked on a hot griddle in front of you.

 




Day Eight

Our only real taste of street food in Japan, at the Fushimi Inari shrine .Definitely not a big thing like it is the rest of Asia, this is probably because no one eats on the street or whilst walking in Japan as it is not considered polite. Even at this street market there were plenty of tables set up to enjoy your lunch on. We shared two plates of gyoza and chicken skewers. For desert I grabbed a few donuts from Mister Donut on the way back to our hotel for a quick nap. OMG this started a slight obsession, Japanese donuts are delicious not as sweet as the ones we have here meaning you can easily eat a couple. Every time I walked past Mister Donut I would have to grab two, my favourite was probably the surprise custard filled and iced one.






For dinner that evening I decided I really wanted an Indian, as much as I love Japanese food just wanted to mix it up a bit so we went for a walk in Gion before our meal and were lucky enough to see a real Geisha coming out one of the alleyways. Now you will see a lot of people in Kyoto dressed up as Geisha however the real thing is so easy to stop they really do look like they are floating rather than walking and she disappeared in seconds she was so fast, very elegant.
The Indian meal was actually preety good, we ordered too much but it was good to eat some home comfort food and Bubba certainly enjoyed his Dhal and Naan for dinner.

 



Day Nine

A day trip to Hiroshima starting off with catching the ferry to Miyajima island. I did not realise there would be so many wild deer’s everywhere, Bubba with his love for animals went crazy trying to grab them and they went crazy for his Dear Zoo pram book, after a big wrestling match with one of the local women who tried to get the deer to stop eating it we decided it was a lot safer to throw it away than risk it being eaten again.  Now the momijimanju we had in Tokyo were delicious but here I found improved version which were again freshly made but then covered in tempura batter and deep fried, so good we ended up going back again after another Okonomiyaki lunch.
Our final night in Kyoto ended with some stone baked pizza and a beautiful view of the night lights across the city





The structure of okonomiyaki




Frozen beer and snacks

Day Ten

Our last day in Japan, we returned back to Tokyo and enjoyed one of the most delicious meals in the trip at a conveyor belt sushi place.  Now I did not actually have any of the conveyor belt sushi myself as I am a slight scared cat when it comes to wasabi therefore requested the chef to make all my sushi instead with the wasabi on the outside instead. Mr S is the complete opposite and a complete wasabi addict. We had a lot of the traditional sushi types but they also had some unique flavours which is what we loved about it, ours and bubbas favourite was the hamburger sushi, aubergine and miso sushi and salmon and quail eggs. This was such a perfect end to great adventures ten day holiday.






Delicious, we had to order another for Bubba to eat


Since coming back I have not had any sushi, tempura or noodles not yet ready to part with the taste of Japan.  Thanks for reading probably my longest post in history, hope you all found it interesting and if not at least enjoyed the pictures.