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.
Nishiki Market in the heart of Kyoto
Tsukimachian wagashi shop
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 vegetables, hamo eel, dashimaki tamago, nasu dengaku, and chawanmushi
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.
Shop directory and directions: http://www.kyoto-nishiki.or.jp/english/
Kyoto Uzuki – Traditional Japanese Cooking Classes
Cost From ¥4,500 per class per person (private classes may be arranged)
Duration is approximately 3-4 hours
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.