Throwback Rice Packaging

Spotted: awesome throwback rice packaging.  I’ve been seeing this packaging more and more around town from specialty Japanese food and/or rice shops.  This 2kg bag of rice from Arobo in Hiroo is a more modern take on the design.

Note: Japanese rice is a great omiyage (souvenir).  It’s flavorful with a great texture that’s hard to find outside of Japan – especially if it’s from this year’s harvest!  Visit one of the specialty rice shops like Suzunobu in Meguro.

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Tamago Kake Gohan: Japan’s National Dish

Tamago Kake Gohan: Japan's National Dish

Ok I might be stretching it a bit calling Tamago Kake Gohan Japan’s national dish, but it’s definitely a classic that has endured the test of time, and it’s the most prevalent dish across the country.  Tamago Kake Gohan is basically a raw egg mixed with soy sauce, served over steaming hot, fresh white rice. It’s often eaten for breakfast (as in asa teishoku), but you’ll see raw egg served over rice at gyudon restaurants all day.  Japanese eggs are extremely fresh, and there’s little hesitation about eating them raw here.

Tamago Kake Gohan: Form a Rice Well to Increase Surface Contact with the Egg

There’s many variations on this dish.  Some people add dashi, green onions, and other Japanese toppings.  You can beat the egg with the toppings and add it to the rice, or you can add the egg unbeaten.  You can serve the egg mixture sitting on top of rice, but others swear by pouring the rice into a little well dug into the middle of the rice.  The latter is supposed to maximize the contact of the egg to the hot rice, allowing the egg to cook a bit.

Tamago Kake Gohan Recipe and Directions

Personally, I like my tamago kake gohan simple with just a teaspoon of soy sauce to really highlight the quality of the egg and the rice.  The secret is to make sure that the rice is piping hot right out of the cooker.  Have you ever tried tamago kake gohan?  Or do you eat dishes with raw eggs?

Asa Teishoku: Morning Set Meal

This past weekend was a long one – we had Monday off for Marine Day!  So we went surfing early in the morning (I mean really early. TOO early.).  We planned to visit a new branch of Eggs N Things in Shonan, but there was a line a block down the street even before the restaurant opened at 9am.  So instead, we went to Koya, which serves traditional teishoku in a homey, beachfront location with a nice covered patio.

Koya's Patio in Enoshima near Shonan

I love all of the wood blended with the traditional Japanese details normally found at teishoku restaurants.  The wooden tables and benches were fabulous and included little additions to make them more useful – like the basket to place your purse and some copper pipes under the table to hold the menus.

Chopstick Bowl at Koya in Shonan

Koya Tableware

Even their menu was a “clipboard” made from a slab of wood and held together with string and a chopstick.  How cute is that!

Menu at Koya

Many restaurants in Japan serve teishoku (pronounced: tay-show-koo), which is a set meal that usually includes rice, miso soup, a main, and some pickles or small sides to eat with your rice.  Since it was still around 9am, they were serving asa (pronounced: ah-sah; meaning: morning) teishoku.  A traditional Japanese breakfast usually includes the above with some type of salted or marinated grilled fish.  That’s what I got!  Although I snagged some karaage (pronounced: ka-ra-ah-gay; meaning: fried chicken) that was pretty tasty :)

Grilled Fish Japanese Teishoku with lemon and rice

Japanese Karaage - Fried Chicken at Koya

Japanese people mix a raw egg with soy sauce and add it to their hot rice for breakfast.  I was a bit adverse to this in the beginning, but it’s yummy!  Japan’s eggs are amazingly tasty, fresh, and beautiful (yes I said beautiful!) so it’s ok.  I wouldn’t try this in the States though!

Finished teishoku at Koya

Koya Enoshima 江ノ島小屋
2-20-12 Katasekaigan
Fujisawa-shi, Kanagawa-ken 251-0024

Shiitake Tea from a Mountain Temple

I’m a huge fan of tea.  I attribute it to my upbringing and my parents’ taste for it.  Growing up,  my cup was filled with Chinese tea, but my tastes have expanded to many different types over the years – usually sweet or bitter.  It wasn’t until I came to Japan that I discovered there’s savory tea!  It was a little bit off putting at first since it tasted similar to mild soup base, but then circumstances put me in the perfect collision course to love this tea.

Recently, my in laws drove us to a very old and famous temple about 2 hours drive from Tokyo.  It was one of those mid-autumn days when it was just beginning to get chilly so I wore jeans, a sweater, and a scarf.  Little did I know that I was going for a ride into the mountains.  We spent about 2 hours at the temple.  By the end of the ceremony, I was shivering with a runny nose.

Walking back to the parking lot, there was a small market selling omiyage and giving out free hot shiitake tea.  It was PERFECT.  It warmed every morsel of my body and revived me almost like a cup of chicken soup on a sick, winter day!  I had to bring it home.  Now a days, I make shiitake tea whenever the weather is gloomy and cold, and it transports me back to that moment when I felt so comforted and satisfied.

– Powdered tea with little pieces of dried shiitake –

– Powdered to your taste –

The biggest plus of this tea?  Add it to your rice, steamed eggs, or soup for a boost of shiitake flavor!

Tsukemono: Japanese Pickles

Tsukemono (pronounced: tsoo-kay-moh-noh) are hard to miss when you’re in Japan.  Tsukemono basically means “pickled thing” so this can include radish, cucumber, napa cabbage, ginger, plum, turnip, and a type of onion called rakkyozuke.  It is often a side dish and eaten with rice.  I love the colors of Japanese pickles, and together with grilled fish, there’s nothing better!

Shin Okubo – Tokyo’s Koreatown

When I’m craving Korean dishes, I head over to Shin Okubo – Tokyo’s Little Seoul.  In addition to the many restaurants and cafes, many women and girls visit Shin Okubo for its K-Pop goods.  These stores stock photographs, CDs, and anything related to Korean Pop stars.  If you come across a store with a large crowd of girls inside (and sometimes lining up outside), it’s probably a K-Pop idol store!

– One of the many K-Pop idol shops in Shin Okubo –

– Another smaller K-Pop idol shop –

My husband and I skip the K-Pop stores and beeline to our favorite Korean Chinese noodle shop, Shinjuku Hanten. You can watch the chef preparing and cutting the fresh noodles through the shop window.

– Chef and waitress waiting for noodles to cook –

This shop specializes in jajangmyeon (noodles topped with a thick black soy bean paste and pork) and jjamppong (noodles in a spicy soup topped with vegetables and seafood) – two of my favorite LA comfort foods!

– My combo dish, ready to be eaten! –

– Side dishes of raw onion with black soy bean paste and picked radish –

After a fulfilling lunch, we head over to Seoul Ichiba, which is a small Korean grocery store off of Okubo Dori.  The house specialty here is the packaged samgyetang (a healthy soup made with chicken, rice, and ginseng and simmered until the meat falls of the bones).  If you’re lucky enough to reach the store before it’s sold out, it makes an easy meal on a lazy day.  Just pour it into a pot and heat it up on the stove!  When they’re available, I stock up on a few and keep them in the freezer.  There’s nothing better on a cold, winter day!

– Seoul Ichiba Market in Shin Okubo (Source: Metropolis) –

Shinjuku Hanten, Okubo 1-11-1 Shinjuku, 03-3200-0124, Open 12pm – 6am daily.

Seoul Ichiba, Okubo 1-16-15 Shinjuku, Open 10am – 11pm daily.