Cooking, Eating, Drinking in Kansai: Tasting Kyoto – Nishiki Market and Kyoto Uzuki

 

Kyoto Nishiki anago

Daikokuya Unagi

This post is courtesy of Janice Espa from Australia. Janice did a supermarket tour with me a year ago. We have stayed in touch and she had such a delicious time in Kyoto that she is sharing with Food Sake Tokyo readers some of her favorite spots and experiences in Kyoto. Janice’s biography and photo is below. All photos and text are from Janice.

Kyoto Nishiki at the markets

Takakuraya Pickles

Kyoto Nishiki down the market

Nishiki Market in the heart of Kyoto

Kyoto Nishiki Market stall action

Tsukimachian wagashi shop

Kyoto Nishiki Market stallsMasugo pickles

Part One of Two

Beyond Kyoto’s rich history and numerous temples and shrines, lay a number of truly delicious and traditional ways to explore and taste the city.

Nishiki Market, Kyoto’s fresh food street, is an essential stop for those interested in seeing fresh and seasonal produce, meeting the locals who run the stalls, and sampling traditional food.  Pickles, spices like shichimi (seven spice) and ichimi (chilli powder), rice crackers, tofu, mattcha, ice cream, grilled eel, black edamame; all appealing and available for purchase.  There are also specialty stores, like the Aritsugu knife shop, which was established in the 1500s and is still a premium seller of Japanese knives.  The market is open daily (although many stalls close on Wednesdays), from nine in the morning until approximately six in the afternoon.

Kyoto Uzuki - cooking at Uzuki

Kyoto vegetables, hamo eel, dashimaki tamago, nasu dengaku, and chawanmushi

Kyoto Uzuki - Emi

Emi Sensei
Kyoto Uzuki - sauteed beef with sansho

Beef with Sanshō

Past the five blocks that Nishiki market covers, there are several ways to tour and taste Kyoto.  A worthwhile experience for any food aficionado is to take a local cooking class.  Emi Hirayama runs Kyoto Uzuki, traditional Japanese cooking classes for small groups of two to four participants in the comfort of her home.   The dishes she prepares with students vary by season, and she also offers a day of only sweets, focusing on not only delightful taste, but also pristine presentation.

After reading wonderful reviews about Emi’s cooking classes on her website, I contacted her and was able to secure a spot in one of her summer cooking classes.  To my luck, the chosen day was not full and Emi, in a very accommodating manner, accepted some of my requests for particular dishes.  I have a fascination for egg dishes that are different to many western ones, especially when they combine sweet and savory flavours, like the Japanese omelet tamagoyaki, or new textures, like the savory steamed egg custard chawanmushi.

The afternoon I spent at Emi’s house was a treat much more enriching than expected.  Carmen Grau, a Spanish travel writer, was the only other student that day, so the two of us took turns prepping food and assisting Emi while she explained Japanese cuisine: from basic ingredients, to tips and tricks, to seasoning preferences, and even discussing the differences between Kyoto and Tokyo styles of cooking.

Emi, who lives with her husband, spends days doing pottery and teaching Japanese cooking.  She opens her home to strangers and shows the best she has to offer.  The ingredients she uses are seasonal and top quality; beef, fish, vegetables, are bright, plump, and flavoursome.  She doesn’t skimp on anything, she makes sure her students understand what is going on, asks about their preferences, while querying inquisitively about the food and culture of those places where her students come from.

The dishes we cooked were the following:

  • Hamo (conger eel) tempura – in season
  • Chawanmushi (savory egg custard)
  • Nasu dengaku (eggplant with a sweet miso dressing)
  • Beef sautéed with vegetables
  • Tamagoyaki (Kyoto-style dashimaki no tamago; more savory than sweet as in Tokyo)

It was all delicious.  After almost five hours moving around her kitchen, sipping a purple shiso drink and then some home-made umeshu, I was enchanted with how this experience encompasses Japan.  It is one of the best ways to see Kyoto, from within a Kyotoites’ home. You get to share a meal, exchange stories, learn something new, and take away from the experience a taste of Japan.

Contact Information

Nishiki Market

Shop directory and directions: http://www.kyoto-nishiki.or.jp/english/

 

Kyoto Uzuki – Traditional Japanese Cooking Classes

http://www.kyotouzuki.com/

Cost From ¥4,500 per class per person (private classes may be arranged)

Duration is approximately 3-4 hours

Janice Espa photoJanice Espa

Janice Espa is a Spanish-Peruvian food enthusiast; an avid traveller and inquisitive taster who explores culture through cuisine.  Janice lives in Sydney where she writes and styles food. Her days are spent visiting grower’s markets, checking out restaurants, and shopping at specialty stores to discover goods from every corner of the world.

Feel free to email suggestions and travel tips, or to contact Janice for her own recommendations, whether you’re visiting Peru, trekking South America or doing a road trip along the east coast of Australia.

Email:  janicespa@gmail.com

Chef Nicolas Boujéma of Signature at Mandarin Oriental

Sig1

There is a new French chef in town, Nicolas Boujéma, at Signature in the Mandarin Oriental. I was very curious to try his food as he has a very impressive resumé, most recently coming from Pierre Gagnaire in Hong Kong. I had the chance to interview him for Metropolis magazine for a Tastemaker piece. It’s always exciting to see a chef who is new to Japan explore the local ingredients. Boujéma is a talented chef and it will be fun to revisit and see how his cuisine evolves as he experiences the changing produce and seafood. He lives near Tsukiji Market and visits often, and says that he finds a lot of inspiration there.

Louis Roederer champagne to start, a lovely wine. This table overlooks Tokyo station, the Bank of Japan, and the historic Nihonbashi district where the Mandarin Oriental is located.

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Some lovely amuse bouche to start includes smoked eel, an aromatic muscat, and gougère.

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An earthy Australian truffle soup, ravioli foie gras, with a light vegetable broth. It is well balanced and not too heavy, and just sexy enough with the truffles. Which makes me feel guilty for indulging in something so nice before dinner.Sig4

Saffron butter and whipped butter. Excellent bread is being made in house  like this petit baguette and brioche. The saffron butter was a very nice touch.

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Tavel Chateau d’Aquéria is a lovely rosé and perfect not only on a hot summer day, as this was, but also with the sardine and tomato dish it was served with.Sig6

Lovely presentation of iwashi (sardine) that is marinated in salt, lemon juice,  and olive oil. It’s served with a refreshing tomato terrine, goat cheese from Loire, Italian ham, and mustard crouton. Again, the dish is well-balanced and not too rich, as one would expect from iwashi.

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Alsace is one of my favorite wine regions for its aromatic white wines with a crisp acidity. It is the wine I choose when we are out and celebrating a special occasion. When the sommelier brought this to the table I couldn’t stop smiling. I was told that a former Japanese sommelier at Signature married into the Hugel family and is now living in Alsace. This was riesling was nice with this next dish.

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My favorite dish of the meal was this amazing combination of truffles, waffle, braised shallots, leeks, mushrooms, and whipped cream with truffles. The leek was sliced thin and painted onto the plate. The waffle pockets were stuffed with braised shallots and served with a lovely Port sauce. And again, a hedonistic course with truffles. Had I been at home I would have picked up the plate and licked it clean. Sig9

Francois Villard Condrieu Les Terraces du Palaix. Lovely aromatics in this viognier. This floral Rhone wine is perfect for the accompanying fish main dish which reminded me of the Mediterranean.Sig10

Bouillabaise inspired cod, amadai sashimi, eggplant puree with lemon, zucchini, and fennel. The warm breeze of the south of France. A nice touch of amadai (tile fish) sashimi with the cod. Sig11

Potato espumante with saffron is a refreshing palate cleanser before the cheese course.Sig12

Macon La Roche Vineuse Gamay – lovely with the cheese! Fruity yet with a nice backbone.
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48 months aged Comte cheese which I am told is very rare. It is prepared with truffles, a white pepper cream, and shaved with some sweet jelly, and brioche in the middle. Muscat grape and dragon fruit. A luxurious course and so nice to see the cheese served three ways.

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Hakuto peaches espumante. A wonderful, light finish and a nice touch as peaches are at the peak of their seasonality in Japan at the moment. Sig15

And a few sweet touches to end a lovely lunch.

It’s always exciting to welcome a new chef to Tokyo. Be sure to put Signature on your Go List for Tokyo. Excellent food, outstanding service, knowledgeable sommeliers, and spectacular views – day or night. It will be fun to watch his cuisine evolve as he acquaints himself with the seasonal Japanese ingredients.

Signature at the Mandarin Oriental

Nihonbashi Muromachi 2-1-1

Chuo-ku, Tokyo

Reservations: 03-3270-8188

http://www.mandarinoriental.com/tokyo/fine-dining/signature/

The Japanese Cronut

cronut1

With so many amazing bakeries in Tokyo I was very hopeful when I heard that there was a copycat Cronut in Tokyo. The famed croissant/doughnut of New York City’s Dominique Ansel Bakery in Soho. The bakery was already on my radar before the Cronut craze as a friend of mine had raved about Dominique’s bakery.

The Tokyo copycat version is made by a Shizuoka-based bakery called Banderole. Banderole operates many small shops in the suburbs of Tokyo. The one closest to our home is a small retail shop called Bread Basket that is located in a supermarket called Ito Yokado.

Here are the rich mattcha and the salted caramel New York croissant doughnut (as it is called on its website).

cronut2

How was it? Disappointing. Usually if something isn’t good I don’t bother to write about it. However, with the hype over the original Cronut, I have to save readers a trip to the suburbs. How could the Japanese, who are so good at imitating and improving, drop the ball on this one?

These were purchased first thing in the morning after the store had opened. The Cronut at Ansel’s bakery goes for $5.00 USD. The Japanese version goes for 160 JPY, or less than $2.00 USD. So, right there you can imagine that cheaper ingredients were used. While I haven’t had a real Cronut, I can only imagine that Ansel is using real butter. I don’t think an ounce of butter was used in making the Japanese one. The croissant part itself was not flakey but heavy and had the taste of pre-packaged cheap pastries that are sold at convenience stores, not at authentic bakeries. The flavored icings were also not at all pleasant.

I can only hope that someone else in Japan takes the challenge and tries to create a better version of the cronut.

Monsieur Ansel – please come and open a bakery in Tokyo!

August Seasonal Japanese Seafood

 

katsuo

Katsuo tataki

Image

Katsuo sashimi topped with myoga, shiso, and garlic

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Katsuo as done by chef Zaiyu Hasegawa at Den

Look for seafood from this list when eating out in Japan or in the supermarkets or at your fishmonger. Most of the seafood listed here you can enjoy as sushi or sashimi. At home we like to have tachiuo as sashimi with a bit of sesame oil and sea salt. Ayu is best salted and grilled. And while we don’t cook hamo at home we look forward to having it out at restaurants, especially with a bainiku (umeboshi) dressing. At home we often have katsuo topped with lots of yakumi like shiso, myōga, and garlic then dress it with a soy sauce and sesame oil dressing. Katsuo can be bought raw or seared on the outside as tataki).

Ayu 鮎  sweetfish (Plecoglossus altivelis altivelis)

Dojou 泥鰌 loach (Misgurnus Anguillicaudatus)

Hamo   pike eel or pike conger (Muraenesox cinereus)

Hiramasa 平政 yellowtail amberjack (Seriola lalandi)

Hoya  ほや sea squirt(Halocynthia roretzi)

Inada 鰍 young amberjack (or yellowtail) (Seriola quinqueradiata)

Stages of buri: wakashi, inada, warasa, buri

Indo maguro Southern Bluefin tuna 

Isaki 伊佐幾 chicken grunt (Parapristipoma trilineatum)

Kanpachi  間八 amberjack or yellowtail (Seriola dumerili)

Katsuo 鰹 skipjack tuna (or bonito) (Katsuwonus pelamis)

Kensaki ika 剣先烏賊 swordtip squid (Loligo edulis)

Kihada maguro 黄肌鮪 yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares)

Kisu 鱚 Japanese whiting (Sillago japonica)*or shirogisu

Kochi 鯒 bartail flathead (Platycephalus)

Koyari ika槍烏賊  baby spear squid (Loligo bleekeri)

Kuruma-ebi 車海老 Japanese tiger prawn (Penaeus (Melicertus) japonicus)

Ma-aji 真鯵 Japanese jack mackerel (Trachurus japonicus)

Ma-anago 真穴子 whitespotted conger (saltwater eel) (Conger myriaster)

Ma-iwashi 真鰯  Japanese sardine (Sardinops melanostictus)

Managatsuo 真名鰹 silver pomfret (Pampus punctatissimus)

Ma-tako 真蛸  common octopus (Octopus vulgaris)

Nijimasu 虹鱒 rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)

Shiira  しいら 鱪 dorado or mahi-mahi (Coryphaena hippurus)

Shima aji  島鯵 striped jack or white trevally (Pseudocaranx dentex)

Shinko (Konoshiro) 鰶 dotted gizzard shad (Konosirus punctatus)

Surumei ika するめいか Japanese common squid (Todarodes pacificus)

Suzuki すずき 鱸 Japanese sea bass (Lateolabrax japonicus)

Tachiuo 太刀魚  cutlassfish (Trichiurus lepturus)

Takabe たかべ yellow-striped butterfish (Labracoglossa argentiventris)

Unagi 鰻 Japanese freshwater eel  (Anguilla japonica)