Saturday, December 8, 2007

Sukiyaki, Asakusa, and Anmitsu (すき焼き、浅草、とあんみつ)

Today easily was the most "Japanese" day I have spent so far. It started out with a traditional sukiyaki lunch and a visit to the world famous Sensouji Temple and ended with a delicious portion of Anmitsu!

I had heard of sukiyaki before coming to Japan but I never thought it would be so delicious. We went to the Chinya (ちんや) restaurant which is very close to the Kaminarimon (雷門)entrance to the famous Nakamise Shopping Street (仲見世). The restaurant has been specializing in sukiyaki for more than a hundred years. The name of the restaurant apparently comes from the fact that when it was initially built, the establishment was effectively a pet shop providing the wealthy with Pekingese dogs among other pets. There are three different kinds of beef to choose from for the meal - "marbled" (桐), "excellent" (楓), and "regular" (椿) with prices of 8100円, 5500円, and 3200円.

After the awesome meal, we headed through the Kaminarimon onto the Nakamise Shopping Street. Easily one of the busiest streets I have ever seen, this street reminded me of the night markets in Taiwan. We stopped at one of the shops and bought a set of chopsticks. The agemanjou (あげまんじゅう)we picked up while walking was so tasty. It is a fried dessert filled with bean paste inside.This street is one of the few places that I have seen Japanese people eat while walking.

Flanked left and right with stores selling traditional Japanese things from kimonos to chop-sticks, and trying to make sure we do not impede the flow of the people (the crowd actually included more foreigners than we have ever seen before in places like the Emperor's palace or even streets of Ginza on a weekend when there is no traffic) we proceeded to the Sensouji Temple (浅草寺)which boasts a five storey pagoda and is known to be the oldest temple in all of Japan.

Up until the Allied bombing of 1945 the was standing for more than 1400+ years. After it was partially destroyed during a bombing of Tokyo, it was rebuilt. Visiting the temple one can draw a fortune (100円)or buy talismans that are supposed to bring good luck in various aspects of a person's life from the store inside the temple. Of course, one can also pray ;)

After a walk around the streets we decided to go to a small but famous store that serves anmitsu, a traditional Japanese dessert. The dessert, just like the meal, was pretty healthy (save for the ice-cream) and reasonably priced (~500円). All in all, the day was very very enjoyable for me. I would have never expected dipping cooked onions and thinly sliced beef into whisked raw egg to taste so good but Sukiyaki proved me wrong. I will definitely try to have sukiyaki again as soon as I can and may be even try to figure out how to cook it at home.


1 comment:

Betty said...

Wow, your post brings back memories for me and the sukiyaki is making me hungry. :P Sukiyaki is actually very easy to make, more a matter of having the right utensils and high-quality ingredients, than any tricky preparation. It's the same as chinese hot pot, also called 打邊爐 (da bin lo) or more formally 火鍋 ("fire pot"). The only difference is the broth in the pot which changes with the region of China/Japan but I've never seen soy sauce in the Chinese ones whereas it seems quite common in Japanese. Instead, chinese put soy sauce (and optionally other things, try spicy oil ;) in the whisked raw egg. My family actually uses plain salted water because by the end of cooking with 5 people around the table, the soup is so condensed from all the meat and veggies we cooked that it needs to be diluted before drinking. There's no marinating to the meat except may be rice wine to seafood. I remember my friends in Vancouver and I used to buy live shrimps and keep them alive in rice wine until we put them in the pot one by one. Is that considered animal cruelty? :P The shrimps die happy(?) and highly drunk. :P I wish I can have hot pot in Pittsburgh - it's great for parties - but I haven't seen any sukiyaki-quality meat for sale here. Did you try napa cabbage in the sukiyaki? You should try lamb in sukiyaki. ;)