Monday, August 31, 2009

My last 24 hours, Chicken Teriyaki and harried shopping

I was sad to leave Kyoto. Do you ever have that feeling of wanting just a few more minutes, a few last stores to open their doors to you, a few more hours to explore that corner of town that you just barely caught a glimpse of? There is a racing of the heart and a quickening of the breath and an overall heightening of the senses that comes with that feeling.

As I made my way to the Chicken Teriyaki cooking class, a light rain began to fall. Everything was timed just so. Do the cooking class, go back to the hotel and gather my luggage, jump into a taxi and make it to the train by 1 pm. The bullet train ride to Tokyo is only about 3 hours. Time enough to perhaps do a little more shopping around Tokyo before departing to the states the next morning, as I wanted to make it back to that print shop in Akasuka.
I arrived at the tall narrow apartment building that housed the small Women's Association of Kyoto (WAK). I was instructed to go to the 5th floor this time, to a small apartment where my cooking instructor, Akiko, eagerly awaited me at the door. I had chosen this class as a contrast to my other, more formal, cooking classes in Tokyo. This was Japanese home cooking and I was happy I made the effort to experience what people eat on a day to day basis.

The small kitchen and dining table were what one would expect of a modest apartment in Kyoto. Nothing fancy, yet all of the necessary items layed out. We were to make Teriyaki chicken (using the thigh), miso soup, and a wilted cabbage salad with miso and mustard dressing.
Akiko and I started right in, scoring the chicken skin and marinating it in a small amount of soy sauce and sake (regular sake, no sweet cooking sake, or Mirin). We set out to make the miso soup next using kombu seaweed and bonito flakes for the broth. This was very familiar to me and she was sort of impressed at my adeptness with japanese ingredients. We used a fine mesh strainer to dissolve white miso into the broth (to eliminate any solids and have a smooth final product). White miso is generally only used for New Year's Day Miso Soup, as it is the unaged variety and symbolizes the start of the new year. It was June, but we used it anyway.

After we finished the soup, we started in on the wilted salad. It was a wonderful little salad, with rehydrated shiitake mushrooms, wilted greens (like a hearty spinach or baby bok choy). We made a dressing of japanese mustard (comes in a little tube, which I picked up later at a department store in Tokyo), and miso mixed with a little Mirin. This dressing was exactly the dressing I had on the Octopus salad at Yoshida Sanso a few days prior. It was exciting to learn this simple but tasty dish, unlike any I've had in the U.S.

the Teriyaki was simple but very delicious, combining equal parts sake, mirin, soy sauce, sugar and water. The chicken was browned, skin side down, then flipped over and the lid put on to assure cooking through. In the last few minutes, the sauce mixture was poured over and allowed to evaporate, caramelize. It was delicious. Served with some rice and sauteed whole green onions.

Very productive class!
I made it back to Tokyo and my convenient hotel room across the street from the Shinagawa Station. I literally dropped my bags, grabbed my purse, and jump straight back onto the subway to the print shop in Akasuka. Damn, they are closed on Mondays! I jumped back onto the subway and got off at Roppongi hills to find a few things I had seen on my first days there. Back at my hotel I opted for a simple spagetti ala roma dinner at the street level restaurant (what is it with me and hotel restaurant spagetti??) I passed out, setting my alarm for early, to make it to the print shop which I dutifully did, bought up those ones I had been eye-ing, and then to the basement department store to snatch up rice candies, mochi, mustards and a beautiful bento of black cod that I ate in the airport while waiting for my plane to board. My luggage was 50 pounds overweight!!!! which i had to pay an extra $100 for. LOL

Oh Japan, how I will miss you.

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