Osuimono: the other miso soup

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Osuimono served at a Kyoto inn for breakfast. Bonus: the reflection of my right shoulder.

 

 

It almost feels insulting calling osuimono (お吸い物) the ‘other miso soup’ as the simplicity of this translucent broth makes it all the more complex.

The base has only four ingredients:
dashi 
sake
salt
soy sauce

The challenge is putting it all together.

In Japanese cooking, there are tens of variations of soy sauce, two most commonly used. There are eight common ways to prepare dashi, hundreds of sake choices. Which ones do you choose? Which combinations work well together?

Almost all classic Japanese foods is basically a ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’ scenario, where a person can spend a lifetime perfecting the art of *insert dish name*; in this case, ‘the other miso soup’.

Um. No thanks.

But I sure love a bowl of osuimono, possibly more than miso soup. Do please try it if you haven’t yet.

Note: in the US, osuimono is usually off the menu or written on the Japanese only one. Don’t be afraid to ask your server (only if the restaurant is owned and run by a Japanese).

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Rickshaws and Bullet trains and Yakuza — oh my.

*Note: this is one leg of an eight night, nine day in 15 or so different cities around Japan.

On my out of Kyoto was when things got weird and kept getting weirder.

I missed my bullet train, hopped onto the next one – all was well. Then, things took a turn towards crazy town.

Stupid me left my phone (iPhone!!) in the bullet train — yes, that bullet train, those insane Japanese trains that transports people hundreds of miles in a few hours.

Who does that? Me. I do.

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Ippudo in Hakata, Japan

*Note: this is one leg of an eight night, nine day in 15 or so different cities around Japan.

 

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What is it with the south and women?

In the US, there are Southern Belles. In China, the area south of the Yellow River was famous for beautiful women. And in Japan, Hakata Bijin (博多美人). Hakata is a southern region of Japan. Bijin means beauty. This region is known for the beautiful women and…ramen.

I’m standing in front of the original Ippudo in Hakata, Fukuoka — the Kyushu area of Japan. The queue is short. The store front has character. Everyone around me is ecstatic to eat at the original Ippudo and I’m just… not hungry.

Those who know me, know I eat. I mean EAT. Like, what-the-fuck-you-are-unlady-like-you-put-Texans-to-shame type chowing down.

This isn’t really anything to brag about, but I’m rambling on, hoping my fingers channel some room in my stomach.

It’s not really working.

What am I doing anyway? I’m hanging out here to have a bowl of Ippudo ramen made at the mothership just so I can say: I ate the original Ippudo — take that, foodies.

That is a bit lame. Which reminds me, I haven’t seen a Hakata Bijin yet. Hakata bijins are more interesting to me at the moment, so maybe I’ll just leave and go search for one.

Besides. There is an Ippudo across the street from my apartment in Tokyo and I rarely go. Afuri, known for their yuzu ramen and charred pork more aligns with my palate anyway.

Everyone I know in the States, is obsessed with this darn ramen. And I just can’t be bothered. I guess you can take a girl out of New York, but you can’t take the NY attitude out of the girl.

Kumamoto

*Note: this is one leg of an eight night, nine day in 15 or so different cities around Japan.

On the southern tip of Japan, there is a land centered around a castle and a bear.

The people are kind and directionally challenged (The tourist information woman told me to make a left, while tracing a right turn on the map. The train station employee inside of the ticket booth, guided me to the wrong train and I ended up going the opposite direction!)

The young men shave their eyebrows like this:

…and look like characters from mangas published for teenage girls.

There are trolleys with wooden floors and the insides are painted sea-green. The paint is peeling. The steel is rusting. The trolleys are rickety and the motor is so loud, the vibration shakes the wooden floors until they squeak. I think they may be falling apart.

I am in Kumamoto of the Kyushu region. Home to the majestic Kumamoto Castle built in 1467. Kumamoto Castle is one of the three major castles in Japan. There are 13 structures in the castle. Kumamoto Castle along with its 13 structures is a national treasure.

…at least according to Wikipedia. I didn’t get the chance to learn about the castle’s history or even see it up close; the darn thing was closed.

Kumamoto Castle is the main attraction of this city. Even if the grounds were closed, I hadto get as close to the castle as I could. And I did. I wandered around the outside quarters to see as much of it as I could.

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The Geisha Myth

*Not about food but, I feel as though this needs to be put out there.

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No. They are not geisha-sans. They are not maiko-sans (geisha-sans in training), either.

They are employees of that restaurant. I’m guessing it’s likely a ryoutei (料亭) — a super duper expensive Japanese restaurant with a fancy course meal. Of course, it’s $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$.

But do not fret geisha seekers, real geisha-sans still exist in the Gion district of Kyoto.

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