08 December 2013

Eating Japan, Part 9

Check out the other posts in this series, Eating Japan to see what I've been consuming in my new country!  You can also find a link to the Eating Japan series on the top of any page!

I"m not sure why I didn't do this before, but I'm going to start including a link to a google map for each location that we've eaten at.  Just click the link at the end of each description and a new window will pop up with the location.

There is this big Chinese restaurant on Route 58 that everyone passes all of the time, including us.  For months, every time we drove past it, I said, "I want to go there one day".  I know, so deep, right?

So months later, I'm not sure what actually led to us pulling into the parking lot, but we did, we entered this huge restaurant, and were seated at a private-ish table near the front windows.  I say private-ish because we were surrounded by blinds and beaded curtains.  I love the separation of tables here in Japan, private without feeling closed in.  Anyway, we were handed 2 menus, a set menu in Japanese and an a la carte menu in both Japanese and English.  We decided to go with the Japanese menu, which we sort of figured out some of the food on it, but didn't realize how the set menus actually worked here.  Once we confused our waiter completely, he found an English set menu for us.  Comparing the two menus we realized that they weren't the same, so we were determined to order off that Japanese menu.  What we learned was the 'set menu' is for the entire table. So you pick which set you want based on how many people are in your group, some of the dishes automatically come with the set and others you get to choose.  We ended up with 7 dishes, some were to share: vegetables stir fried in oyster sauce, sweet and sour white fish (shown below and DELICIOUS), roasted pork fried rice, and another dish I can't remember.  Other dishes were served individually: corn soup and two types of dessert.

I wasn't cheap, I think something close to ¥4000-¥5000 ($40-$50), but it was nice to try a variety of dishes and it all tasted very good.  I'd definitely go back, maybe ordering a la carte just to save a few dollars.

Directions to Toyo Hanten.

A perk of living so close to so many other countries is that when our friends go on vacation, they bring us goodies from all over the place.  This summer, in exchange for dog sitting our friends chocolate lab, they not only watched Sammy when we went away, but they brought us back North Korean wine.  They obtained this while vacationing in South Korea, not North Korea if you needed any clarification on that.  We all know that I enjoy wine and I don't discriminate.  But. This. Wine.  It was like no other wine anyone would ever make.  We all tried it one, err... morning at our regular brunches.  I'm not sure how to describe the taste of this, but it was not of any sort of wine.  I would say it's closer to a cordial, but not really even close.  Doing a quick search online, it seems like Kanggye Wine Factory is North Korea's leading wine producer.  Oh god, I can't even imagine the non leading wines.  Ugh.  But, it was an experience to try, and pretty entertaining when we were all standing around staring at each others disgusted faces.  I'm keeping the bottle for sure because North Korea. Duh.  

Shit...my blog is probably gonna get flagged or something like that for all this NK talk.  Politics aside, their wine is not tasty.

I believe pork is it's own section of the food pyramid here in Okinawa.  Rafute is probably one of the most famous dishes here, and I've even made it myself a bunch of times.  Let me just say this: It is fucking delicious.  It's fatty and meaty and it melts in your mouth and it leaves your belly happy.  This is what happens when you take a big slab of pork belly and simmer it and boil it and simmer it again in sake and just a few other ingredients.  It's messy and time consuming to cook, but it's so worth it if you can find a decent piece of pork belly (it's impossible not to find it here).  Of course, if you're really craving it, nearly any restaurant will have it on their menu.

JA farmers markets are one of the best places to shop for produce in Okinawa.  There is a fairly new one located in Yomitan (link to map below), and I believe at this location they produce all of the prepared foods for the local JA's.  In addition to produce, the larger JA markets like this one carry beautiful local (exotic) flowers, meats, some fish, condiments, some household goods and gifts, snacks, and a large selection of prepared foods.  They also sell plants and gardening supplies next door.  On this particular day I grabbed this to-go meal and sat outside on a picnic table for lunch.  This cost me ¥250 ($2.50ish) and is a bowl of white rice topped with salad on the left, roasted pork in the middle, and a stir fry of greens, carrots, onions and tofu.  It was delicious, fresh, filling and cheap.  What more could you ask for.

Directions to the Yomitan JA Market.

Oh man, Pineapple World. It's actually called Pineapple Park but I keep calling it Pineapple World.  It's soooo freaking touristy it's funny. I do want to start off with a disclosure.  I do NOT recommend taking a trip north ONLY for Pineapple Park.  It's not worth that. But if you are up in the Nago area doing a bunch of things for the day, it's definitely worth a stop in.  And if you're going, you're going to want to pay the ¥600 to ride the Pineapple Mobile.  It's a pineapple shaped golf cart that automatically drives you and your group around the gardens and speaks to you (they have a bunch of languages you can choose from), explaining what you are passing and the history of pineapples.  Our favorite factoid that we bring up everytime we see a pineapple was "Do you know where the word pineapple came from?  Pine and Apple." HA!

Once you get off your pineapple tour, I recommend you find the walking path and walk back through where the little cart took you.  It won't take too much time, but you'll be able to see a lot more of the pineapple fields and other gardens.  Then you'll be directed through one of the biggest tourist traps I've seen here on the island.  It's a maze of everything pineapples and gift stuff.  You get to sample almost anything you see, including tons of pineapple wine (mega sweet), pineapple (best pineapples ever!), pineapple cakes and pies (yum!), etc...  There's also a restaurant, and I knew exactly what we were getting. A giant pineapple parfait for ¥1300.  It was a  monster I tell you.  It was really good, and there was so much pineapple in it that even Aaron and I couldn't finish it.  Pineapple, pineapple shortbread(?) cookies, pineapple sorbet (we wished it was ice cream), pineapple pound cake, pineapple syrup, corn flakes (great addition!) and whipped cream.  Oh, and a cherry for good measure.  

Directions to Pineapple Park.

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02 December 2013

Eating Japan, Part 8

Check out the other posts in this series, Eating Japan to see what I've been consuming in my new country!  You can also find a link to the Eating Japan series on the top of any page!

There is a fast food burger chain all over Japan called Mos Burger.  You see these just as often in Okinawa as you see McDonald's.  But I've actually heard good things about Mos Burger.  So one day, I had a few minutes to kill in between a few errands, and what do you know, it happened to be lunch time and there was a Mos Burger across the street.  Walking in, the restaurant chain was impeccably clean.  It was also pretty quiet and peaceful.  I don't remember the last time I even thought about stepping foot in a McDonald's, but I just imagine chaos.  I placed my order at the counter, deciding to go all out with a beef burger, fry/onion ring combo, and my favorite juice, Acerola.  I took my number and sat down on one of the tables in the minimalist dining area.  There was also a smoking dining room in the back, if that fits your needs.  In a few minutes, my wicker basket and ceramic dishes were brought out to me, along with a real glass with my juice.  A second later, someone brought over a little ceramic dish filled with ketchup.  What did I think?  Well, for sure, the service, quality, and presentation beat out any American fast food chain I've ever heard of.  It was a really small burger, but I didn't feel gross eating it.  It tasted like food.  The super fresh bun, lettuce, and tomatoes helped tremendously.  While fast food burgers aren't my first choice of a meal, if I was in a position that I needed to go for a quick meal....I wouldn't even consider an American burger chain if Mos Burger was around.

Curry House Coco (known as CoCo's) is another super duper popular fast food joint here in Japan.  And actually, you folks living in California can find a few locations there as well.  I've only been a few times, and while it's not my favorite Japanese curry I've had, it's really not too bad at all.  It's cheap (you can get a huge plate of curry and rice with some sort of protein for around $6.50), it's fast, and it's tasty.  They must have 50 different toppings, and you can customize it anyway you'd like, with additional toppings (I put soft boiled eggs on everything), spice level, types of curry, etc.  They have salads and desserts, but I've never been bothered with those.  My friends with children love this place, they do a great job catering to children.  The kids food always comes out immediately, they get a 'prize', and like many restaurants in Okinawa, they get their own meal sets and plastic ware/child friendly cups.  Their curry can get insanely spicy, so it's not uncommon for people to ask what is the max level you've ever eaten at CoCo's (child-level spice is also available).

The first time you eat Kakigori - Japanese shaved ice - you will vow never EVER waste your time on a snow cone EVER again.  Yes, it's shaved ice with a sweet syrup poured on top, but it's not even close to being a snow cone.  Kakigori is made using a hand cranked machine.  A giant block of ice is placed in the machine and the person making it puts some serious muscle into grinding you out the most fluffy cup of ice you've ever seen.  The ice is thin and fluffy, never hard and crunchy.  The syrup absorbs into the entirety of it, and I've never had one with that gallon excess on the bottom - you know what I'm talking about.  Mango is my favorite, but then again I've never cared to try other flavors.  It's common to see Kakigori topped with ice cream, tapioca, or even red beans.  During the summer, it's impossible to NOT find this anywhere you go.  Little stands on the side of the road are everywhere, and it's an amazing refreshing treat after 110° days with 100% humidity.  Below is the first one I ever had after an afternoon of scuba diving (which is why I look like such a mess).  The stand I bought it from always has 2 old men running it, just hanging out with each other day after day.  I passed them a hundred times and thought after an hour or two of breathing air from a metal tank and my skin absorbing salt water, now was a better time then any.  So. Freaking. Refreshing.

You've probably noticed that a bunch of pictures I've posted of a meal is a bunch of small portions in individual dishes on a tray.  This is a very popular style of meal set called Teishoku (meal set).  These are by far the best deals and some of the best meals you'll have here, especially for lunch.  Nearly every restaurant will have some sort of Lunch Set, and you'll be able to find these on average for ¥600-¥1000.  It depends on the restaurant how many dishes are included, but typically they will have a drink, white rice, soup, a side dish, pickled vegetable, and the main course.  The picture below was posted over at Where in the World is Kacey?!?! during a bike trip around Kouri Island, but I thought it should be here as well.  

I've talked about the Awase Fish Market (Payao Fresh Seafood) before on Kacey's Kitchen.  It's probably one of my favorite places.  I know, I know, I say everything is my favorite!  I'm not sure what this set was called, but on the right is Ikura Don with tamago (a bowl of rice topped with salmon eggs, shredded egg, and umibudo), a large bowl of fish soup on the left (basically it was half a fish chopped up and thrown in some tasty miso based broth, face and all.  And the third part of my meal was a few pieces of the softest fish tempura that ever existed.  I believe this set runs for about ¥1000 (approximately $10).  And yes, I have 2 glasses of water.  You'll understand when you come to visit, the drinking glasses are super tiny (compared to American glasses atleast).

Inside of the Makishi Public Market in Naha, tucked in the back, sort of hidden unless you know it's there, you'll find a great seafood and pork market.  Not only can you find some of the freshest fish on the island (many are still alive), but you can buy it and have the restaurants upstairs cook it for you.  Woah, right?!  Whenever I'm down in the Kokusai area of Naha, I make sure to run into the market to see if anything catches my eye for dinner.  Most of it does, I just don't know how to cook any of it (where the restaurants come in handy!).  Anyway, a month or so ago we were down at the market and ate upstairs for the first time.  We bought a tray of sushi from downstairs and then grabbed a seat in the restaurant and ordered some sides to go along with our meal.  This included Mimigaa, which is boiled pigs ear.  It's served chilled with some vinegar and a taste of sesame seed oil and sliced cucumbers.  It's a little chewy and very good.  It's sliced thin and personally, I would love to put it over a salad.  Aaron also ordered Kobukuro, stir fried pork uterus, which, as far as offal goes, I rank up there with liver.

In response to the suggestion of my eating live octopus.  I haven't encountered it yet, but when I do, I'm going to eat it.
Question: Out of today's post, which meal would YOU most likely order if you had the option?  Leave a comment below!!! 
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06 November 2013

Eating Japan, Part 7

If you're new here, check out the other posts in this series, Eating Japan to see what I've been consuming in my new country!  You can also find a link to the Eating Japan series on the top of any page!

A few weeks ago Kassie and I checked out a new-to-us dining spot on the seawall called Transit Cafe.  Popular with locals, tourists, and Americans, it's on the second floor with outdoor table and bar seating over looking the ocean.  So it's already got a few things going for it!  Everything looked delicious, and we had a hard time deciding what to order.  At first we just ordered some smoothies and juice but quickly realized that we didn't have to drive anywhere for the next few hours (we were getting a pedicure around the corner), so we canceled that order and got ourselves a mid-day drink.  ¥300 lunch special (about $3.05) for white wine and a beer for me.  Below is my order of "Ethnic-flavored Okinawa soki (pork spare ribs).  Kassie got the roast beeg and home-made sausage sandwich which was sort of a build your own open face sandwich.  Both were very good and cost about ¥1300.  I wouldn't mind going back at night to try some of their dinners, desserts and cocktails.  Not to mention the sunset.

Another Seawall spot, Bar Coby.  I met Aaron and a friend here during their lunch break one day, another new-to-us spot. For ¥980 ($10), there is an all you can eat pizza, pasta, salad, and drink lunch special.  It was a really neat laid back little place, and another spot I'd love to go have a glass of wine at with some friends.  The atmosphere was hip and cozy, we sat in our own corner in wicker lounge-type chairs, curtains, and a chandelier.  What I liked about this place is it wasn't your typical buffet.  There was a menu with about 6 pizzas and 4 pastas.  Your food is made to order and there is waitress service.  At the counter, you can get unlimited Japanese style salad and water/tea.  The pizzas are small, but really very good, and I love that you can just keep ordering more through your waitress as she brings you your food.  We'll probably hit this up for lunch on occasion, especially since it's close enough for Aaron during work.

Tenkaippin is another chain noodle shop here on the island.  I think they have a few locations on island and a few in mainland and other countries.  They are known for a thick, collagen rich broth, which is what I got (not shown).  Below is Aarons order of tantanmen base soup and a side of fried rice.  I believe we also got an order of gyoza.  From what I remember, it was okay and well priced, but overall it wasn't very memorable, obviously.

Okay. This is a really crappy picture of some barbecued squid, and I don't even know the name of this restaurant, but we really enjoyed our time here and this squid was by far the best thing we had.  It was a huge plate for only around ¥500 and was seriously perfect.  This is a restaurant on Route 85 near Kadena AB, heading towards Uruma.  It's on the Westbound side on the corner and it's a large building with a giant fish on the roof.  Be warned, there is no English anywhere in the place, and no English speaking staff (at least when we went).  It's a huge izakaya, and one of our favorites we've been to.  You take off you shoes before you get into the restaurant area and place them in a locker (taking a wooden "key" with your locker number on it), and then follow your server through the maze of private noren (curtain) covered booths.  Each table/booth is private, complete with a small tv, ash tray, call button, and curtains for privacy.  There is a small cover charge automatically added to your bill, about ¥350, but then you get 'complimentary' appetizers, which is a self-serve 'salad' bar with a few varieties of tuna sashimi, salad, and some pickled condiments.  We love this style of restaurants!  This place was fun just the two of us, but it would be great with a bunch of people, ordering a bunch of plates and sharing them.  As it's an izakaya, there isn't a lack of boozy beverages to indulge in as well.  I chose a local beer, and thanks to the previous no-active-duty-drinking-outside-base ban at the time, Aaron had some nice cold tap water and drove us safely home.  But this place was made to stay at All.Night.Long.  And it would have been totally comfortable to do so.

In Awase, near Comprehensive Park is a popular shopping center called Living Design Square.  It houses 4 large furniture/accessory stores, including a resale store, 2 cafes, and a kid-drop-off-zone (which I love, not for my non-existent children, but so other people utilize it and I don't have to shop listing to little assholes monsters children assholes scream).  I brought my friend Vickie here back when she was on island in the beginning of the year (and she's coming back in just a few days-YAY!!!) and we checked out one of the cafes called Soup Soup.  The atmosphere is nice and bright and open up on the second floor, and it smells delicious.  I know they serve other things asides from soup, but we weren't concerned with that.  They have a lot of different menu combos, and I chose a set with 2 types of soup and a drink.  All soup meals come with unlimited bread.  The bread is self serve, and they must have about 8 types of rolls and a toaster oven on the side to warm up your selection.  For the price, I remember it being good, especially on a cool rainy day.  It sort of has a Panera type atmosphere/food quality/speed of service, so while not my number 1 spot in the area, if you're shopping all day and looking for a bite, it's definitely a reasonable option.

Man, some of these places I ate at SOOO long ago.  And it's making me hungry as usual.  There are lots of other places we've eaten at, so this series is going to continue basically forever.  I'd also like to share with you photos of what I've been making at home.  Obviously I've gotten out of the routine of posting my own meals with recipes, but maybe I can at least share images and basic commentary on them.  What do you think?

Question: What do YOU think I should be eating in Japan?  Leave a comment below!

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06 October 2013

Eating Japan, Part 6

Other posts in this series can be viewed here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

Believe it or not, we can get some decent Mexican food here in Okinawa. There are a number of places around the island that we've heard just some 'so-so' reviews of, but our friends told us about Dos Manos and brought us there that same day, and I know we've found out go-to Mexican joint.  Everything tasted fresh and homemade, including the tortillas.  The portions were huge (I didn't finish mine, which is rare), and we loved the atmosphere of this restaurant.  It's small, just a few mini picnic tables, and I've been told it gets packed during lunch.  It's best to go earlier, because they often run out of meats for the day - a good sign that it's fresh prepared!

I'm not sure if I ever met a person who didn't enjoy ice cream.  Seriously, is there anyone out there?  If so, I don't trust you.  No offense, it just seems wrong.  So living on a sub-tropical island where there is 100% humidity most of the year, going to the beach seems as natural as breathing air, and eating ice cream just belongs.  So this famous place is called Blue Seal.  Blue Seal started out as a building to store dairy products for the military bases in the 1950's and people both on and off base started craving their ice cream, so they opened up shop off base.  Blue Seals can be found all over the island, and although I've only ever gotten ice cream, some locations do have other food - Japanese/American fusion fast food.  Can fast food be fusion? Sure it can.  Anywho, below we have soft serve ube and vanilla twist in an Okinawa branded cone.  Isn't that awesome the cone says Okinawa!?! I love it!  Anyway, Ube (purple yam) is my favorite while Aaron's is Beni Imo (purple sweet potato, which has a smokier taste).

Now one of my favorite snacks, I ordered Umi Budo (aka sea grapes) at a sushi joint not having any idea what to expect.  It's a local specialty and can be found at nearly any product stand, izakaya, or market.  It's a type of seaweed also known as green caviar, which is how I would be describe it.  I've eaten these by dipping them in a vinegar based sauce, eaten on rice, or on top of sashimi.  They are salty like the sea, but have the texture and 'popping' sensation of caviar.  A great tip I learned from a local was not to refrigerate them.  I'm not sure why, as I've never done it.  They aren't displayed refrigerated, and I don't find a need to.  They never last that long to question it.

Okonomyaki is a famous Japanese pan fried dish, which I've indulged in a few times, including the shot below of my order at a festival this summer.  It's known as a grilled pancake with cabbage, but I would describe it as more of a cabbage omelette.  There are only a million different varieties of this dish, but I'll give you the jist of it.  It's made of flour, eggs and shredded cabbage, but will often have green onion, a type of meat or seafood (squid or shrimp), and vegetables.  Once grilled on both sides, it's topped with a sauce (similar to a BBQ sauce), bonito flakes, mayonnaise and pickled ginger.  The consensus?  I like it.  I don't think Aaron has had it yet, but I would make a few changes to mine the next time I have it.  After all the word 'okonomi' means 'what you like'.  I would lay off the mayonnaise.  I know, it's trend in Okinawa (in all of Japan, I do not know), and cut back slightly on the amount of sauce.  I wish this was described differently, because if you try this, it is really good, but there are a lot of flavors and textures going on.  Please do not expect an american pancake or omelette.

Aww Bento Boxes.  So cute!!!  Not all bento boxes are cute little characters, but those are more fun to eat.  I love bento boxes because they are cheap, filling, and have a good selection of different types of food for all tastes and textures.  Below is Rilakkuma, a Japanese cartoon bear who is completely stree-free and lazy.  Look at his face! He looks just like Sammy!  This is my first real bento box I've ever made, and it was completed for $10 (including lesson, food, and bento box to keep) here on base at a bento making class!  It was so much fun, and much easier then you would expect!  And then I ate his face off.  Tasty!

So that's that for Part 6 of my Eating Japan series.  As always, thank you for visiting, and I can't wait to share with you more of the things I've been eating living overseas, keep an eye out of what's ahead next!

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29 September 2013

Eating Japan, Part 5

Food, food, food.  Nom, nom, nom.  I've been on the other side of the world in recent weeks.  Alaska, New Jersey, Vermont, New Hampshire.  More on that to come soon on my other blog, Where in the World is Kacey?!? Although I ate plenty of delicious things there, I have to be honest with you, my stomach wasn't too happy with the insane amounts of carbs and dairy consumed back in the states.  Sure, it was my fault, I was eating out nearly every meal.  Asides from my body going into junk food shock, I was really starting to crave my usual Japanese fair of fish, fish, fish, sushi, sushi, sushi, and curry.  The day after we arrived back home, we made sure to attack the sushi-go-round asap.

To continue on with my Eating Japan series, below is a few other things we have been consuming in the recent months.  If you wanna check to see what else we've eaten, check out the other posts Part 1Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.

I have a really difficult time here going grocery shopping and NOT buying something to eat immediately.  Even if I'm not hungry, I feel it's my duty to experience all the Japanese food culture I can.  That's reasonable, isn't it? While at one of the larger supermarkets here (San-A) I couldn't hep myself by grabbing a couple of things from the bakery, including this Sakana-Fry Sando (Fried Fish Sandwich), which is exactly what it sounds like. A delicious filet of tender white fish fried in a panko coating, with a spicy mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato on this amazingly soft bread that's called a Butter Roll.  It's soft, it's crunchy, it's served at room temperature or heated, and it's delicious.  It also costs about $1.00.  Can't beat that with a stick.

Salads.  Salads are really good here. They have tons of different kinds.  One of my favorite is one of the most simple and most often consumed.  It's what I would consider the 'house salad' and is super thinly sliced green cabbage, lettuce, carrots, cucumber, corn, and sometimes a few other veggies.  It's very simple and usually topped with a sesame ginger dressing.  This one was served with what tasted like a Russian Dressing/Japanese Dressing hybrid.  Super crunchy, super simple and tasty.

A while back we checked out a popular ramen chane called Tan tan-men (Actually, I think it's called Ichibantei, but everyone calls it Tan tan-men).  Known for it's crazy spicy noodle/soup dishes, we knew we had to try it.  My mistake was wearing a white shirt.  Lesson learned.  Both of us had spicy chili oil splatter all over us, but maybe we just eat too aggressively.  The meal started out with a small kimchi appetizer, and we knew it was going to be what we expected when we noticed a box of tissues in front of every other person.  We sat at the bar with a bunch of locals on their lunch break, and we all dove head first into our bowls.  It seemed like it at least, the bowls were the size of our head.  I'm pretty sure we were tired after eating it all.  As promised, it was spicy. I could see Aaron asking for even more spice though, he likes to push his limits of the Scoville.

I've already shared my love of onigiri with you, and this just takes it to a whole other level.  This my friends is a rice ball wrapped in meat, aka, Nikumaki.  Dreamy, don't you think?  I don't need to explain much, it's a rice ball wrapped in meat slathered with a marinade.

Drinks are delicious here. Sure, they have soda products, but my favorite is the varieties of teas and juices.  My favorites are Acerola and Mango (shown below).  Legit juice.

We found ourselves at Kami Sushi one afternoon.  It's a super popular place among American's here.  The sign on the front of the building says "Los Angeles Style Sushi", and it was true to it's description.  We actually haven't been 'wowed' by any of the popular sushi places geared towards Americans.  I'm not trying to sound like a 'I'm living in Japan snob' or anything, but I believe these places try too hard to please Americans.  The food is over salted and over sweetened for my tastes.  But I have to give them credit, this place is always packed, so people like it apparently.  I'm glad that both Aaron and I got a variety of things to try.  This is a photo of his plate below, a lunch set of course! I ordered some things a la carte including a roll, a hand roll, and some umi budo (sea grapes), which has become one of my favorite snacks here.  I'll cover that later!  We sat at the bar in front of the tempura chef (tempura was pretty good here as well) and were kind of mesmerized by his oil skills and his 'seasoned' arms and hands.  So overall, we had a good experience and might go back if a group of people wanted to go, but I'll keep on trying other sushi joints for a decent meal.

Does anyone living in Okinawa have any recommendations for me?  We are constantly trying new places, and would love to find more eateries off the beaten path!  I feel like this is a great series to continue doing, after all, we are always eating!  So there's lots more to come!!!

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Be sure to check out my other blog, Where in the World is Kacey?!? to see what goes on outside of the kitchen!

24 July 2013

Eating Japan, Part 4

I love loving food.  I'm sure you've figured that out by now.  I also love posting things here at Kacey's Kitchen that make other people happy, and I've gotten a great response from this series, so thank you for your comments.  Check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 if you haven't already.

There are many places around the island called Okinawa Soba House.  A few months ago (oh my gosh, I can't believe we've been here this long already) we tried out Hanakinah Okinawa Soba House which is located on 81 across from House of 66 Cents fabric store.  We loved this place.  It's very open and clean and the entire back wall is windows over looking the old housing on Camp Foster.  We were handed English menus and pointed to the self service teas & water area (this is very common here) and had a really hard time deciding what to get.  As usual, we both ordered a set meal,

Casa de Carmen is another American Village find, and one of my favorites so far.  Not many people I've talked with tried this place or even have heard of it even though it's street level right next to the main parking lot.  I came here for lunch alone one day after running errands and had the whole place to myself, which was nice because it gave me the opportunity to chat it up with the woman running the front end of things (the ownder stays in the back to cook).  It's a really cute and tiny place, and it was nice to sit inside but have the whole front of the store open to feel the breeze.  For about ¥900 I ordered a spicy fish dish (I can't remember exactly what it was called) served with rice.  Prior to my meal, they also brought me a brothy soup and a spicy roasted pine nuts, which were delicious as well.  It's definitely a place I want to go back to, and bring Aaron along with me this time.

You might remember this picture from my post about the Azalea Festival over at Where in the World is Kacey?!?.  It's hard NOT to find takoyaki around here.  I'm pretty sure it's got to be Japan's #1 street food.  Quoting myself from that post..."It's a doughy ball filled with octopus (tako), green onion, and ginger which is cooked in this special grill pan.  After it's done cooking, it's coated in a takoyaki sauce which is like a bbq sauce with mayonnaise and bonito flakes.  There are a lot of variations of this, but the dough and octopus stay the same, otherwise it would be a different dish.  I really enjoy takoyaki, but with a little less sauce.  This guy was drowning in it.  Just my preference though."

While hunting for a new lunch place in town near our side of the base, we kept striking out finding all these places to go that were only open at night.  Eventually hunger was getting the best of us and we agreed that the next place we saw that was open we'd stop in.  This is how we stumbled upon the Udon chain called Marugame Seimen.  We actually had no idea what it was called until I found something in the restaurant with it's facebook page, so I was able to look it up.  Here you are able to order a variety of Udon dishes, hot or cold, small or large which are made in house with 100% Japanese wheat flour and cooked in front of you.  You are handed your bowl and then you grab a tray and an additional plate and self-pick any tempura, inari, or omusubi. You then pay (the Udon is about ¥450 (large) and each tempura/inari/omusubi is around ¥100.  After you pay, there are various condiments and toppings you can add, including more soup.  Hot tea and water are self service as well.  Below is my Torotama Udon (the foamy looking white stuff on the left is sticky yam topping).  Of course it has my favorite soft boiled egg.  I topped mine with tenkasu (tempura crumbs) and lots of green onion (I actually went back for more after this picture was taken).  I think there is a location on 58, but the one we went to is at the intersection of 224 and 75.

A girl from New Jersey would assume that she wouldn't be able to find a decent bagel when moving to Japan.  After all, there weren't any bagel places in Oklahoma...or in Florabama.  A girl from New Jersey moving to Okinawa would be pleased to find out she assumed wrong.  Very wrong.  A great bagel/sandwich shop called Cactus Eatrip is only about 15 minutes south of our base on Route 58.  Once you pull into the 'parking lot', you'll realize that you need to pull a fancy Tetris maneuver or ask the super friendly owner to move your car for you - I'm looking at you Mrs. O!  He'll do it, no questions asked with a smile on his face.  He and his wife make the bagels every morning, and they taste like it.  It's so refreshing.  They might not be large, but they are tasty.  And a variety of flavors too...blueberry, basil tomato, everything, oreo, or my favorite black pepper, and more!  They have a bunch of bagel sandwiches: scrambled egg & lox, avocado & tomato, roasted chicken (approx ¥450).  For a bagel with cream cheese, it'll run you between ¥250 - ¥300, but they have a ton of options.  Maple cream cheese, honey peanut, anko cream cheese, rum raisin creamcheese, and more.  They have a pretty good sized drink menu as well, anything from french pressed (I think) coffees and expressos, mango juice, cocktails, awamori, beer, and my favorite, Iced Ryukyu Rosemary Tea.  In addition to bagel sandwiches, they offer a soup of the day and some cookies.  It might take a little bit of time for your food to come out, but everything tastes great and is well worth it.  It's really a place you want to go with a friend and hang out a while. It completely brings me back to New England hippy coffee joints.  It's definitely a favorite here!

You guessed it, there's more to come for the Eating Japan Series, so keep a look out!

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Be sure to check out my other blog, Where in the World is Kacey?!? to see what goes on outside of the kitchen!

16 July 2013

Eating Japan, Part 3

Oh man, doing this series is making me hungry.  It's a good thing I'm going to explore a new-to-me farmers market and plan on grabbing lunch there.  If you've been lame and missed out on the previous parts to this series, you'll have to catch up on Part 1 and Part 2.

Jakkepoes, Jakkepoes, Jakkepoes.  It's a name that I've been hearing for months and finally decided we needed to check it out.  There is part of me that could eat here forever without having "American food", but it's really fun and interesting to check out "American style" restaurants.  Even though the type of food is stuff we are use to in the US, there is always a Japanese flair to it.  It's never quite the same as you'd get in the states, and it's really fun to see the local take on our food.  About 20 minutes away from our house in Yomitan, tucked off the main roads through tiny streets, located within feet of the beach, is Jakkepoes, an American style pancake house, popular with both locals and visitors.  They have a variety of pancakes and egg dishes, anything from savory (meatball pancakes - which I want to try next), to decadent (rum raisin petit stuffed pancakes), to classic (strawberry smothered pancakes).  Aaron ordered the Banana pancakes which were plain pancakes smothered in sliced bananas, chocolate sauce, and a delicious homemade whipped cream.  Below is my dish, which was called Anko Lovers (made with my favorite Azuki bean paste that is also in the Imagawayaki I talked about here.).  All of the pancakes are plain, and although homemade and good, nothing terribly special (except for the fact you don't really find this style of pancakes very often in Okinawa).  The delicious part was the toppings - which gave me some great ideas for me to use at home. My pancakes were liberally powdered with matcha and something else I couldn't really distinguish. Something vanilla-y and slightly brown sugary, I'm not sure what it was.  A giant heaping of azuki, whipped cream and butter.  We were also given syrup on the side, which I definitely didn't need since my entire dish was sweet.  We thought it was a little high in price (I think around ¥900 each plus drinks), but it was tasty, filling, and a fun and friendly place to go to.  What's nice is they are open later in the day, so I don't have to wake Aaron up too early on his days off to drag him to breakfast.

One of the first ramen places we were brought to was Ramen Kagetsu Arashi, which is one of the largest ramen chains in Japan.  While it is good, reliable and comfortable, I'm often surprised by how many people think this is best ramen place around.  While we haven't found our favorite, we are constantly exploring new ramen shops and finding super tasty ones every week.  Maybe I'm turned off by the amount of Americans that eat there (locals also eat here too), maybe I'm a snobby bitch like that, but that's probably one of the reasons people like it so much...it's not too far out of their comfort zone.  That being said, the food is good, and we don't turn down the opportunity to go with friends.  They have both booth seating, bar seating, and tatami mat seating, which is my personal favorite.  It feels cozy and more like a home-style meal.  Another interesting thing about this restaurant is that you order your food off a ticket machine.  As soon as you walk in, there is a vending machine with food options.  You put your money in, make your selection, and it deposits both your change and a little tiny ticket that you hand to the waiter once you find a place to sit.  While it is a ramen shop, people go here for their fried rice and gyoza, which is of course tasty as well.  I really can't complain when this considered "fast food" here.

We are spoiled by living on base and having access to the commissary with American food, so we haven't really experienced any food withdrawals from back home.  If we crave it, I just make it, although we really do eat quite a bit of Japanese food at home, since it's really our favorite.  Once in a while we do want some sort of sandwich that I usually just whip up since sandwiches aren't really a 'thing' here.  However, after hearing about a delicious gyro shop on the Sunabe Seawall, we thought we should really check it out.  Aaron is right, we really are food snobs.  After all, we are beyond skeptical when someone refers us to a restaurant or says it's great.  We try it, but we don't get our hopes up.  Sunabe Gyro totally lived up to the hype.  I ordered their new fish gyro with fries and Aaron got the beef gyro.  Aaron's was good, but my fish was where it's at.  For 800¥ (approx. $8.07), you get a delicious gyro with fresh veggies, delicious taziki sauce, a soft yet crunchy pita, fries and a drink.  And it's really good.  The owners are really friends and fast getting your food out to you.  They speak good English, and you can order take out, or sit upstairs on the roof (which we didn't learn about until after our meal).  We'll be back for sure.

We had dinner and drinks (well, the girls had drinks and the boys drooled over them since active duty members were still on an off-base drinking ban at the time) with friends at Uroko, a great little place on the seawall.  We had a large group and sat outside watching the most amazing sunset ever.  It took a little while to get our food and drinks, and through some mis-communication someone never got their meal, but the staff was very apologetic and nice, we all agreed we would definitely give it another shot.  They have a huge menu with some rotating specials, and an extensive drink menu (alcoholic and non alcoholic).  Most of the dishes are small, so if going for a main meal, you might want to order a couple of them, which was totally fine with us since we wanted to try as much as possible.  Below is a picture of my seafood caesar salad topped with raw tuna, salmon, and octopus.  It was really delicious and I can't wait to go back!

Another Sunabe Seawall joint.  I swear, we go other places than that neighborhood.  In fact, we rarely go there, it just happens that I'm sharing a bunch of them with you today.  Gordies Hamburger.  The name even makes you want to go there.  With probably a dozen or so burger options, they also have chicken and pork burgers, hot dogs, fries, onion rings, salad, non alcoholic drinks, shakes, floats, beer, and cocktails.  They also serve breakfast everyday, which I need to check out.  Everything is really fresh and crisp, they even make their own buns and grill everything over charcoal.  They just recently opened up a patio, so I can't wait to go there to relax and grab a beer and burger one night.

This is one of my favorite sushi places we've been to so far. I don't even know the name of it and whenever I try to describe where it is to someone, they have no idea what I'm talking about.  It's definitely a more traditional sushi place, and only seats a few people.  The sushi was a bit more expensive than other places, but the quality was superior, so we were totally fine with that.  There are so many types of sushi places, it really just depends on the day what we are in the mood for.

We have lots more to include in the Eating Japan series, so check back soon!  Or even better, come and visit!!!

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14 July 2013

Eating Japan, Part 2

Onto Eating Japan part 2.  If you missed part 1, check it out here.  We love eating and eating here in Okinawa makes us really really happy.  I'm so glad I married a food person.  While he's always enjoyed eating quantities of food, over the past few years Aaron has really grown to also enjoy quality food.  He's even admitted to people that we are kinda-sorta-food-snobs.  Slutty, dirty, greasy food has it's place, but when food should be good, we expect it to be good.  Truth.

Here are a few more examples of food we've eaten since arriving in Japan.  More to come in future posts as well.  We don't want to make you drool too much at any one time.  We aren't liable for drownings.

While Mister Donuts use to be in the United States (is it still there anywhere?), it's now headquartered in Japan and is a crazy popular chain here.  Think Dunkin' Donuts of Japan.  But better, cleaner, and more fun to go to.  The stores are much brighter lit, and like many pastry shops here, you serve yourself.  You pick up a tray and YOUR OWN tongs, and go down a cafeteria style line picking out all the donuts you want.  You continue down the line to the counter where you order a drink if desired and pay for your selection (getting it wrapped if you were taking them to go.  The tongs are taken and washed - I love how clean they do things here.  Oh, and there is a sink right in the restaurant for you wash and dry your hands for before and after you eat (I LOVE this.).  The donuts here are a little different. They have character shaped ones (Hello Kitty) with impressive designs, square donuts, filled donuts, glazed donuts, etc.  The one below was a strawberry icing donut, and it had the texture and consistency of a funnel cake.  With icing on it.  It was yummy!

Obviously seafood is the thing to eat here, so you're going to see lots of that in this Eating Japan series.  But we don't just eat your typical sushi.  There are tons of fish and shellfish that you can get a million different ways.  On this particular day, I explored Umanchu Ichiba - the Itoman Farmers Market and some other places on the south end of the island.  I think this is my favorite market I've been to so far, and although it's too far from my house to go often, I'll be sure to stop when I'm in the area.  The market not only has your typical produce section (it's own huge building), but it has a seafood building center, a Okinawan products building center, and a green house.  There are about a dozen restaurants and bakeries, outdoor food stands, and a meat shop.  I picked up some produce and bought a couple of the largest oysters I've ever seen.  I planned to eat them right there, but somehow through my poor Japanese communication skills, the guy packed them for me to go.  He put the shucked oysters on a tray with a slice of lemon, placed a small bag of ice on top and then used shrink wrap to enclose the whole thing.  Placing it in a bag, I paid, thanked him and headed off to find a nice location to eat my oysters.  While eating them at the market would have been fine, I ended up driving to the most southern cape on Okinawa down little itty bitty roads not sure if I was headed in the right direction until I came out of the woods and into a small parking lot on a cliff over looking the ocean.  Seriously, check out that view and that huge ass oyster!!!  It was amazing and I'm glad I decided to picnic it on a cliff.  Not to mention, the oysters were FABULOUS!!!

The day after we arrived on island, our friends took us out to lunch to a place that they had not been to either.  It turned out to be a great recommendation from a stranger. Taj Okinawa, an Indian curry restaurant not too far from base is a pretty popular location, and for a good reason.  Below is Aaron's lunch set, which I believe was a daily special of mutton and lentil curry, naan, salad, chicken tikka, soup, and a drink (Indian milk tea if I recall).  You really can't beat the "set" meals they have at a lot of places here.  All of this food cost 900¥ (about $9.00), and remember, no tipping!  We've been here a couple of times, along with many of the other tasty curry shops in town, and I'm actually going again next week for a squadron spouse lunch.  I think I'm going to try ordering off the menu this time, and maybe get a different type of giant naan.  Mmmm...naan.

At one of our favorite kaiten-zushi aka sushi-go-rounds in Awase, I always get this dish.  For about $2.00 you get 2 large pieces of salmon over rice layered with very thinly sliced white onion and green onion.  I may or may not order multiple dishes of this.  There's a location near the ferris wheel in Chatan also, for those of you in that area.  I've already done 2 posts about sushi go rounds, here and here, so I don't think I need to tell you again how much we love them.  We really like sushi go rounds.  Some days we just get a couple of plates and try to stay under a certain amount of money.  Other times we agree that it will be our only meal of the day and we see how many plates we can stack up.  If you're curious...it's a lot.  A real lot.  Trust me.

I am loving all of the beverage options you have here.  At most restaurants you'll have the choice of coke, hot and cold varieties of teas and coffees, Orion or Kirin beer, and a variety of juice such as mango, guava, and below is a picture of acerorla juice.  I had never heard of acerola juice, but it was very delicious and served in this super cute square glass.

Another meal out when we first got here was at Kajinho or as it's better known, Pizza in the Sky.  It's an accurate nickname for this place as it is located on top of a big hill over looking the town of Motobu and the East China Sea.  It takes a bit of time to get there from the main road, as you follow this crazy narrow 2 lane-road-but-can-barely-fit-one car and has hair-pin-turns-that-no-one-can-see-around and it's steep-as-fuck.  So just as you think you've been driving too far and have no idea if you'll ever reach it, you finally find the parking lot at the top and make your way to put your name on a list for seating. They do have indoor seating, but we sat outside on picnic tables, and took pictures of the gorgeous view before getting our table.  With only large and medium pizzas to choose from, and one with toppings and one with only cheese, we ordered both, and a salad (which was so delicious).  This is our first meal with corn in an unexpected place.  Corn is put on EVERYTHING here, it's really funny, but most times, it really works.  For example, we thought it was pretty funny looking on pizza, but as we all ate it, we all realized that we really liked it, and wondered why more places don't do it.  The pizza is really good.  Both the crust and the cheese was a little different, but tasty, and while the food is good, the view is better.  Come for both.

Don't worry, there are tons more pictures of foods we've eaten, so be on the lookout for the next post in the Eating Japan series!!!

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12 July 2013

Eating Japan, Part 1

Oh man. We are loving Japan.  Check out my other 'lifestyle' blog Where In The World Is Kacey?!?! if you haven't already been doing so for our non-foodie adventures here.  It's really easy to eat out here every day, so I try to make a point of planning meals 5 days a week.  Don't get me wrong, we'd love to eat out every day, but it's not super friendly on the waist or the wallet of course.  It's so refreshing to have options though.  After living in the panhandle of Florida and Oklahoma for so long, we almost forgot what it was like to have too many options of amazing food.

Okinawan cuisine is influenced from countries all around the globe, and that makes us happy foodies.  Below are some of the things that we've been eating since we've been here.

I may have shared this before, but Japanese exclusive flavored KitKat's are where it's at.  It's sort of a 'thing' a lot of us Americans do here - track down the different varieties.  Matcha (Green Tea) is of course a winner, but our favorite is the dark chocolate.  We've found and enjoyed Beni Imo (purple sweet potato) and Hazelnut also.  I'm currently on the hunt for Azuki (Red Bean), Soy Sauce, Wasabi, and Edamame.  Let me know if you find them in a store (ordering online is cheating).

We've only been once to Hayatemaru Ramen, but enjoyed it.  Since we've moved to Japan we've eaten the shit out of  ramen, but really, who doesn't?  It's addicting and delicious and it's everywhere.  This place is in American Village downstairs next to SEGA.  There are only a few seats inside, and some tables outside - giant bowls of ramen outside in the shade, yes please!  If you can stop in for lunch, you'll get extra noodles for free.  They also offer a punch card.  Yay for free ramen!

Another American Village find, on the first floor of the Dragon Palace Building you'll find the Happy Bakary Cafe Van (that's how they spell it).  Here you will find a variety of Melon Bread, which is sort of like a muffin and sort of like a roll, but it is all sorts of delicious.  My favorite is the chocolate chip, pictured below.  The inside of the bread is light and fluffy and the outside is a crisp and sugary, but never overly sweet.  As you know, I don't like things that are too sweet, so Japanese baked goods totally rock my boat.

Every time we have driven past Toyo Hanten on Route 58 (which is all the time), I say I want to go there for Chinese food.  Months later, we finally did, and really liked it.  The restaurant itself is pretty cool, with large round tables fitted with lazy susans for sharing, and private tables/booths separated by curtains and beads for smaller groups.  They do have an English menu, but thanks to Aaron's dedication to learning Kana, we were able to order off of the Japanese menu (and yes, there were more options on the Japanese menu).  We weren't able to decipher every word, but enough to know the difference between a pork/rice/fish/noodle/etc. dish.  We ended up getting a shared set meal of 3 main dishes in addition to tea, rice, soup, and dessert.

I don't remember where this was, but it was pretty tasty for a fast food style meal.  It was white rice with shredded lettuce, chicken, and an egg.  I LOVE that you can get eggs on anything here!!!  I don't really understand the obsession with mayonnaise on everything, but they didn't put too much on this dish, so it sort of worked. (usually they smother stuff with mayonnaise).  Would I put mayonnaise on my eggs at home though? Nope.

This is probably my favorite Japanese treat.  I may or may not get one every time I go to the farmers market.  It's really Imagawayaki, but I still refer to it as dorayaki since that's easier for me to pronounce.  Both are the same idea.  Imagawayaki is made in a special pan and filled with azuki (red bean paste) during cooking.  Dorayaki looks more like american pancakes sandwiching the filling.  Those are usually served cold.  Both are delicious and traditionall filled with azuki (my favorite), but you can often find them with nutella or custard. Yum!

Sushi, sushi, sushi.  Sushi.  Oh man. Sushi.  Let me tell you this right now.  If we die from mercury poisoning or something like that because we've eaten too much fish while we have lived here, don't worry about it.  We loved every second of it.  How can we not eat fish nearly everyday when it's EVERYWHERE.  It's going to be rough going back to the states.  Even the sushi from the grocery stores here is higher quality than most sushi restaurants back in the states.  Below is a picture from special set meal from Kouwa Sushi in the Sunabe Seawall area.

Well, I have a ton more food to share with you, so I think it'll be best to break this up into a multi-series post.  What do you guys think of our normal everyday food so far?  Is it something you could live with?  For us, it's going to be hard to live without.  I don't want to think about it.

If you enjoyed this post, and would like to follow 'Kacey's Kitchen', please SUBSCRIBE HERE so you don't miss anything! Have something to say? Leave a comment below! 

Be sure to check out my other blog, Where in the World is Kacey?!? to see what goes on outside of the kitchen!