Japanese food is quite delicious, but figuring out what to eat in a restaurant or purchase in a grocery store, can be quite daunting, especially since the language presents a barrier that makes selecting food purely a visual choice. However, I was a bit more daring with my culinary experiments this time. People often ask me what I ate in Tokyo–always assuming lots of sushi. I tell them “no,” in fact, what’s commonly eaten isn’t what most Westerners think. There are so many clichés about Japanese food and so much to learn and discover. I came to realize that you will consume copious amounts of bean curd in hundreds of dozens of forms; soba and udon noodles; miso and fermented foods; a myriad of things from the sea including fish, sea urchins, seaweed and many things I’ve never seen before; adzuki beans and lots of raw and cooked vegetables and eggs. I was also surprised to see a proliferation of coffee shops around the city and that tea is consumed privately at home.
Nevertheless, I developed a taste for some dishes, which became some of my favorite new foods. At home I routinely prepared: raw or cooked cabbage with vegetables and black sesame seeds, sprouts, topped with bonito flakes and sesame dressing. Additionally, a savory barley miso, was the base for soup I made almost every day with seaweed. Soba noodles were consumed on an almost daily basis, but I particularly liked a lunch of cold udon noodles with sesame dip and a side dish of crispy chicken. Colorful bento boxes filled with a variety of small bites could always be bought daily in the grocery store.
Furthermore, Japanese curry is fantastic– fragrant and rich with flavor and hints of chocolate, leaving a delightful taste that lingers on the palate for hours. I fell in love with all things matcha, from lattes to Meji Matcha ice cream. Sumptuous fanciful deserts with a french flair, were a regular indulgence, as well as, tempura lunch specials. I even tried to acquire a taste for Natto (pungent, fermented soy beans), but not sure if I ever will.
Overall, the cuisine is very healthy and remarkably good for my body–I slimmed down effortlessly and many persistent aches and pains subsided. I’ve discovered through some research, that many of the foods have anti-inflammatory properties. I always come back from Tokyo feeling and looking younger and physically lighter and hope that I’ll be able to take a cooking class on a future occasion. Meanwhile, although its difficult to replicate Japanese cuisine, I do my best to keep up with my Japanese diet while here in Los Angeles.