The Farmer's Market
I was out with a friend a few weeks ago and we walked through a farmer's market in front of the United Nations University in Shibuya. There was so much cool stuff! I was most interested in the jams and their crazy flavors, but I also had the opportunity to try fresh wasabi (ground in front of us from a root), pink salt (I did not try the white or black salts), apple-garlic salad dressing, plum syrup, seed-filled breads, and lemon cake. I fully intend to go back sometime and try some more bizarre things.
On the left is wildflower jam (not sure what kind of flower), on the right is lavender jam. Other jam flavors included carrot-orange, basil, and the usual strawberry. Some booths offered samples on crackers, others diluted the jams with hot water and offered it in small paper cups like tea. It was cold, so that was a great way to taste new flavors.
I have no idea what I'm going to do with this plum syrup, but it'll be awesome!
I also saw this crazy thing, apparently a Lithuanian pastry baked on a spit of some sort. I can't remember what it's called.
The Chijimi Experiment
When we went to Niigata the second time, I had the opportunity to try chijimi. I'd never heard of it before, but was the only menu item that fit into a pescatarian diet. In doing some Internet research to find out more about what the heck it was, I found Kanako's Kitchen, a blog all about Japanese home cooking. Including a very easy-to-follow chijimi recipe, which went on my To-Do list.
I took a trip to the local grocery store and, to my surprise, had absolutely no trouble finding any of the ingredients. The thing I was a little worried about is nira, a Chinese leek that is apparently what makes chijimi taste like chijimi, but it was right there in the produce section. The label was even in Katakana instead of kanji, so I could read it.
I'm also in the habit of photo-documenting potentially hilarious and/or disastrous kitchen endeavors, and cooking is not something I'm particularly good at most of the time. Sure, I make a good pot roast (so I'm told, I've never tasted it, but that's another story entirely), but I wouldn't call myself particularly skilled in the kitchen as a generality.
At any rate, this is all the ingredients for the batter, substance, and sauce. I skipped the seafood, used dried onion flakes instead of real onion, and put shallots/chives/green onion in the batter instead of just in the sauce (there's some Facebook debate about what the round green things are, but I can't read the label on the box), but otherwise I followed directions like a good student:
First step: mix the batter together and refrigerate for 3-12 hours.
Next: put in all the vegetables and sesame seeds.
Stir, stir, stir...
Glop a couple spoonfuls in an oiled frying pan over medium heat, cook covered for a couple minutes on both sides...
Dude! I did it! Success! And not the "peanut butter cookies in the fish griller" kind of success, but actual success. It was actually pretty easy to do, and I'll definitely do this again.
The dipping sauce (not pictured) is a series of ingredients I never, ever would have put together: soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, and lime juice. But it's really good with chijimi.
I got four pancakes out of that recipe, one or two is enough for dinner. Leftovers reheated in the toaster are a little more crispy on the outside and just as tasty as fresh ones. I recommend anyone with an interest in cooking and access to nira give this a try.