To tell you the truth, East Asia is probably the last region I’d choose to travel to in the Asian continent. True, that whenever one speaks about Asia, more often than not, the oriental influence first comes in mind. However, there is more to Asia than the Orient.
With that introduction, I just contradicted my decision of choosing Japan as the country for our Gourmet Sunday two Sundays ago. Yes, it was two Sundays ago, and just to rationalize, I have been busy with work for the past two weeks where my training in the hospital just started. So there.
Honestly, I only had a few encounters with the food from “The Land of the Rising Sun”. My most recent was about a month ago where I had my first taste of salmon sashimi and gosh darn it, why only now did I take my first taste of that? And it was not even I who fed that to myself! It was like butter. The most memorable though, and the previous one before my salmon-sashimi-revelation was about 7 years ago when I was a Senior back in High School, and when I was part of a team to represent our school in an Inter-School Entrepreneurial Competition. It was Mr. Brian Tiu, owner of Teriyaki Boy and now owner of quite a number of other restaurants as well, who mentored us. Apart from the trick of the trade that he shared and taught us, he let his food do the talking. From marketing to operations, differentiation and production, we had a swell time learning from the tofu steaks, gyoza (which I am not fond of until now), katsudon, tempura, and a whole lot more.
As I have said, I am no Japanese fanboy, neither Korean. But because my brother had a long history of Nippon addiction, he just had to insist of adding Japan to the list. My method of planning the menu was simple. I steered away from commercialized Japanese food and looked for more authentic and deep-rooted Japanese food instead. My research led me into making rafute (an Okinawan-style glazed pork belly), sesame green beans and of course, tempura. But because my brother is allergic to shrimp, we loaded ourselves up with yasai or vegetable tempura, lots of sweet potato, eggplant and spinach leaves.
It was a filling dinner. The sauce from the rafute was really good. We had our fair share of tempura that night so I won’t expect consuming some in the near future. Oh, and because I want the authenticity to come with the cooking, I found some dashi from the supermarket for the tempura sauce. I am just so proud and happy that the market is almost complete when it comes to international ingredients… though it comes with a price. But still, there is a small if not no limitations when it comes to what you want to cook for you and your family. You just need to know where to look.