Oden … and the most fucking amazing guide to Tokyo

Excuse the F-bomb in the headline (I know, so inappropriate but whatever. This is my fucking blog and I can fucking drop fucking F-bombs heeeeeeere… weeeeeeeee) but I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to contribute to a once in a fucking (another F-bomb!) lifetime comprehensive guide to Tokyo that nothing out there even fucking (and another one!) comes close to.

There is so much information about everything one requires when planning a Tokyo trip. Beyond that, though, the writing is high quality and puts my writing to shame. (Note to self: step your game up.)

The guide is here and everyone with even a remote interest in Japan and Tokyo needs to smash the bookmark button a bajillion times over and share with all.

…anddddddd somehow, I snuck in.

Still in disbelief I’m included and in no way am I posting this because I contributed. It’s a beautiful, informative, fascinating look into the complexity of Japan from various viewpoints and an excellent guide. My contributions are: decoding conbini (convenience stores), unraveling Tabelog (the most accurate dining compass of Japan) and share mid-range priced sushi; I eat at spots that aren’t expensive as shit and here’s the proof.

Hope you enjoy!

Bonus: you may or may not know this fact but massive editing takes place (of course). My pieces would be NOTHING without the editors. Seriously, they are all stars. But just for shits and giggles (loving the ability to freely curse, obviously) there are several parts of my conbini piece that were massively edited (and for good reason). I wasn’t attached to a lot of the parts the Eater editors vanquished but I just can’t let the oden part go so I’m side-barring here.

On Eater:

Oden

From September to mid-April, there are often large, heated metal trays or pots near the registers of most conbini. Inside the trays are different ingredients — tofu, daikon radish, boiled eggs, and fish cakes — floating in a hot, fragrant (almost pungent) dashi broth. This is oden, Japan’s winter comfort food. While the absolute best typically comes from chefs who have spent a lifetime perfecting their broth and curating the ingredients to pair with it, the conbini version is fun to try.

Butttttttt lemme tell you how I really feel:

From September to mid-April, there are huge pots with weird shaped ingredients floating in a funky broth near the registers. This is oden and a Japanese comfort food staple, delicious when properly prepared. Conbini oden is more symbolic. When we see oden set-up in conbinis, we immediately think: start of winter and once they are cleared, we know that summer is here. I have never seen anyone actually buy conbini oden but if you happen to be here while it is served, it may be fun to try. Oden is best home cooked or at oden specific restaurants where chefs are usually 70 year old men who have spent their lifetimes perfecting their broths and hunting for foods that pair perfectly with their broths.

Oden properly prepared is like this ↓ and I also wrote about it here

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Updates 

It’s been a while since updating here and I am totally slacking, neglecting my own site. First and foremost I spent a lovely Thanksgiving holiday back home in San Francisco and finally made it to Nashville. Then for my birthday I re-visited Nashville and went to NYC for the first time since leaving (most of the food photos are on my Instagram: @MonaNomura)

So I will leave you with a book photo. Strand in NY has one of the best selections and I spent way too much on used books. Looks of food writing and food books. I was also gifted a bunch of back editions of my favorite food magazine: Lucky Peach.

Carrying all this home was a bitch (I never want to experience it again haha) but so worth it.


Oh. I also had my first piece published on Lucky Peach’s website with few more to follow. It’s not everyday you get to see your name on the landing page! Exciting stuff.

There’s also another big project I’m contributing to and will update when it launches.

2017 is starting off fabulously. Hope all is great with whoever is still reading this. Lol

You can read the LP piece here

Julia Child

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credit Paul Child, courtesy of Alfred A. Knopf

“People who love to eat are always the best people.” This has nothing to do with Japan or sushi or ramen or gyoza or Tokyo or booze but it does have to do with food. And anyone who loves food, has to love Julia Child. Right? RIGHT??

Anyway. August 15th was Julia Child’s birthday and she would have been 105 (!!!) Here are some of my favorite quotes because Julia Child is really, that amazing.

“I enjoy cooking with wine. Sometimes, I even put it in the food . . .”

“The best way to execute French cooking is to get good and loaded and whack the hell out of a chicken. Bon appétit.”

“It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate – you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.”

Bon appétit!

Reason No. Bajillion Japan is the best 

As if it’s not already amazing I live in one of the greatest countries on the planet, I get the best texts from friends who visit. 

Exhibit One: “We had the most mediocre gyoza tonight and it broke my heart please only you can fix it.”

Exhibit Two: “Hey Mona, you think theres a chance we can go to a small Japanese rock band concert, just a small venue – I would really like to do that.”

Top is from one of my favorite people on the planet who is visiting from New York. We went to my favorite secret gyoza place last time she was here. 

Bottom is from a super fun chef who lives in Copenhagan. Her and her husband (who is also a world class chef) will be in town later in May. Latter caught me off guard and made me laugh out loud. I thought she’d want to go eat or bar hopping but a Japanese rock concert?? So random! 

I love the people in my life 😊

Natto

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Fuck. 

Last week I was at a super weird bar in an alleyway of Hakodate, Hokkaido. The bar is run by a jovial Master and his wife. Locals and regulars fill the seats. I met some random salarymen, had a glorious time. Too much sake and sochu were had. In my drunken haze I think I asked one of the salarymen who turned out to be a natto distributor to send me natto.

Well. Not even seven days later, a box arrived filled with six three-pack variations of Hokkaido soy bean natto I’ve never seen before.

One problem: natto is extremely difficult for me. Which is the grown-up way of saying I HATE NATTO.

It smells like socks worn by someone who went bowling, hiking, ice skating, then finished off those activities by marathoning cross country in socks he’s worn since childhood. Natto really stinks.

And can we talk about texture? It’s slimy and gooey and the fermentation coats your entire mouth. GROSS.

I just… can’t. Or I CAN’T EVEN as the kids are saying these days.

And now I feel like utter shit because a stranger shipped what seems to be some out of control high quality natto, just because he was kind. (And probably felt obligated to.)

Anyone want these? First come, first serve.
Or perhaps this will be a good chance to re-visit challenging myself to consume these nasty things.

😦

#Japan, Basically

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This is how much sense Japan makes.

On one of the sites to rent a SIM, there is zero mention of pricing (not even approximations) but there’s a picture showing how the packaging can be turned into decoration.

Huh?

This is just so Japanese. SO SORRY. Because we cannot be accountable for what retailers charge their customers we cannot share pricing; even approximations. It’s like HELLO??? That is only THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. But you know. Here. You can have packaging that doubles as decoration as a consolation!

Hahhahahahha Japan is so frickin’ weird. Makes absolute zero sense but these quirks (at times frustrating) are what makes this country bizarrely charming 🙂