Wednesday, February 25, 2009


When Americans think of Japanese food, the first thing that comes to mind is usually sushi or maybe Benihana's. But there is so much more to Japanese cuisine than raw fish or scary chefs throwing knives around. Recently I have discovered an all encompassing love for nabe - the Japanese equivalent to a crockpot, it's a one-pot meal.

I bought my nabe pot at the local recycle shop for 300 yen. Since I am lazy and wasn't exactly sure which vegetables I should buy for my first endeavor, I bought a pre-made nabe set (鍋セット) and some pre-made soup mix from a popular restaurant chain Aka-kara (赤から) that is a nice blend of spicy and sweet. Add some tofu and some thinly sliced pork and I was ready to go. Nabe is usually done table-side but I don't have a fancy set-up in my apartment so I put it on the stove with the burner on low, threw everything in together, and waited until it was good and cooked. It was so so delicious! And I cooked some rice to soak up the remaining broth. Yummy!

My second go at nabe was some chanko nabe, made from another pre-made set from the grocery store. It was only okay, but I'm not entirely sure I made it correctly either. The base is usually made from miso but I used chicken consomme instead and dipped the veggies in the sauce that came with the package. It was a little too salty for my taste and I had this niggling feeling that maybe I was supposed to cook with the sauce, not just use it as a dip, but since I can't really read the instructions, I just guessed.

My third go was the piece de resistance. I went all out and made sukiyaki nabe (すき焼き鍋). I bought some thinly sliced premium beef (from right here on the Atsumi peninsula) the same nabe set as before, pasteurized eggs, and tofu.  None of this was cheap, but I hoped it would be well worth it. I made the broth myself from sake, soy sauce, sugar, and water. The first night I was a little heavy handed on the soy sauce and it was a little to salty tasting but the second night (because there are always tons of leftover veggies) I got it just right. Once everything was cooked, I cracked an egg in my bowl and then dipped the veggies and meat in the raw egg. It tasted awesome. I seriously think that sukiyaki nabe might be my favorite Japanese dish of all time.


And after. It tasted great.

Monday, February 23, 2009


I can now say that I have eaten one of the deadliest meals on earth and come out alive. That's right, I've had fugu - the puffer fish which if not prepared correctly can poison you, paralyzing your muscles until you asphyxiate and die.

Surprisingly, I wasn't too nervous eating it because my friends Marie and Ali both assured me it was safe, although Ali recounted the Simpsons episode where Homer eats some fugu sushi and is told he will die. That really put me at ease! But then I thought if a yellow man cartoon can survive eating fugu then surely so can I.

We ordered fugu nabe. They brought out a hot pot and a side of veggies with the fish. We dumped them in the pot and once everything was cooked, we dished it out, dipped it in some sauce, and popped it in our mouths. It tasted like....wait for it...wait for And bony fish at that. Now that I've tried it I'm not sure I'll order it again. I wasn't impressed by the taste that much. When it comes to fish I think I will stick with the old standbys of tuna and salmon thank you very much.

Friday, February 13, 2009

National Foundation Day

Wednesday was a national holiday here in Japan, which meant no school. If it hadn't been right in the middle of the week I might have tried to take some nyenkyuu and gone somewhere but this way I just planned on lazing around. But then the weather was so beautiful, Nathan and I decided to get out. We hiked up Mt. Zao, disrespected a Buddhist stature, climbed a tree, checked out some peacocks, and did NOT see Mt. Fuiji, although Nathan showed me where I could see it if I ever wake up early enough and get up there before it gets too hazy. After, I came home and tried out my new nabe pot (I'll do another separate post related to that.) It was a good day.

Don't do this...unless you're absolutely sure no one else is around.




Thursday, February 5, 2009

Teach It Japan

Check out my new teaching blog.

I'll be keeping track of my lesson plans, what works and what doesn't. If you're interested in my work life then this is the blog to read. Otherwise I return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Am going to Vietnam for Spring Break

For the record...getting a visa to Vietnam is a very confusing endeavor. Best I can figure is I either have to go in person to apply, pay some internet company to arrange one for me, or pay even more to let the travel agent to do it. And I don't really trust my travel agent to do it since Japan is exempt from needing a visa to Vietnam. I think I have found a legit company to process a visa on arrival for me but only after much searching and squinting my eyes to figure out that was the best way because otherwise it means a trip to the consulate in Tokyo or Osaka.

Oh and the tour I wanted isn't available at the moment. So I have to scramble around and look for another one or hope that a group I can join signs up. I think I might go ahead and book the hotel for the full trip and then cancel off the days I end up on a tour. If I end up on a tour. More research is clearly needed.