Thanks for your comments on my last post! Sorry I've been behind in my comments and posting, but I'm back from my trip to Japan now and still trying to recover from the jet lag (I don't know what it is about this particular trip, but I've never had such difficulty trying to adjust to different time zones!).
Before I get back into regular posts, I wanted to share some of the pictures and experiences I had during my brief trip!
Tokyo was definitely an exciting place to be, with tons to see and do and so little time to fit it all in! The biggest issue I had there was communication, but luckily the people there were so kind and patient and willing to help as much as they could!
As for food options, I'm a bit embarrassed to say that I didn't try a whole lot of authentic Japanese food while I was there. I knew going in that it would be difficult to find vegetarian options, but that difficulty was compounded by the fact that so many menus were in Japanese only (with pictures of the items, which did help a bit), and I didn't really feel comfortable choosing dishes without knowing what was in them. But at least I did manage to try some amazing udon noodles, soba noodles, and a few other delicious treats while I was there!
My first "meal" after arriving in Tokyo in the evening was actually at a Thai restaurant, since it was the first place we found with English translations that wasn't a pizza or pasta restaurant. I had a delicious coconut drink and this avocado salad with sesame dressing that was so good. Too bad it was also so tiny!
My first actual Japanese meal was my lunch the next day at a cafe in the Mount Fuji area. They offered lots of different udon noodle dishes using the local fresh udon noodles, so I ordered a bowl topped with vegetable tempura. I found it a bit difficult to eat with my limited chopstick skills, but these were definitely the best udon noodles I've ever had! I also had a fresh peach juice made with the local peaches - a nice refreshing drink to go with the hot noodles.
As I mentioned, I also tried soba noodles once as my last meal before leaving the Narita airport. One of the only vegetarian options on the menu was plain cold soba noodles that you eat with a dipping sauce (in the little pot), and some tempura on the side (I just gave the shrimp away to my fellow diners). This wasn't a particularly memorable meal, but it was a nice light and refreshing lunch to have before a long flight!
The only other authentic Japanese meals that I had while I was there were my bento lunchboxes during the conference that I went to, which were full of different items, some of them new to me like the lotus root. It was fun to explore and taste everything without knowing what some of them even were!
Another one of my lunches that I enjoyed was at a vegetarian restaurant that my sister Natalie had looked up for us ahead of time to make sure I'd be able to find food that I could eat (she deserves most of the credit for the planning of our trip). They had a small menu, but it was nice to be able to order anything I wanted!
Nat had a soy based veggie burger, and I had the same burger but on its own with sauce over a bit of spaghetti, kind of like a giant meatball. When combined with the side dishes of miso soup and pickled veggies, along with a Japanese style iced tea, this became more of a unique fusion style meal.
We also ate at a couple of themed restaurants in Tokyo. We only discovered that these existed once we were already there, and we had no idea there were so many cool places to eat! This was my meal at an Alice in Wonderland themed restaurant, where we ate in our own private tea party room, the host was dressed as the mad hatter, and the waitresses were dressed in Alice costumes.
The whole experience was really fun, including the food! I ordered a cocktail based on the fact that it looked pretty (there was no English description of what it was), and it came with a rose on top and a rose-scented mist that the waitress sprayed on it for me. For my meal, I got a cold tomato soup shot and a cheshire cat tail-shaped four cheese pizza that came with a rose honey to pour on top (at least I think that's what I was supposed to do with it!).
The other themed restaurant that we visited was a bit scarier than the Alice one - it was called The Lockup, and the idea is that you're treated like a prisoner. When you arrive, one person in your group is handcuffed (I was the lucky chosen one) as you're led to your "cell". We actually got a nicer room to eat in compared to the people who had to sit on the floor of a tiny, dingy jail cell, but it was still creepy!
We just ordered drinks, which came in neon colours in test tubes and beakers of various shapes and sizes, but the food menu was pretty funny to look through too!
There were plenty of treats to be found on the streets too, including lots of desserts! I was fascinated by the crepe places with their plastic displays of all of the filling combinations you could order. I finally tried one with bananas and ice cream on my last day there, and it did not disappoint! I'm still not really sure what the proper way to eat it was, but at least it tasted good!
Ice cream was also popular there. I didn't try some of the more unusual flavours that I saw like purple potato and buckwheat, but I did try a vanilla and green tea swirl cone on a very hot afternoon. I also ordered an exotic looking dessert one night that came with a mascarpone mousse, ice cream and sorbet, topped with mango, pineapple, and starfruit.
There were lots of goodies around the more touristy areas too. These were some of the offerings on the street lined with shops in front of the Sensoji temple in Tokyo (the only temple we had time to visit while we were there). Apparently rice crackers are a popular snack and they come in tons of different flavours, from sweet to spicy. I bought a curry flavoured rice cake (top left) that was actually really good - it was much crispier than the airy rice cakes we have back at home!
There were lots of other food stalls and delicacies available on the streets and in the markets that I didn't have the chance to try, including some cute animal faces made of bean paste, but it was fun to look at them!
Maybe if I ever have another chance to visit Japan again, I'll be a bit more adventurous in my food choices...but for now, I'm happy to be back home where I can eat lots of fresh veggies and salads - something I always crave after being away!
I'll be back soon with another summer recipe before the season is over! In the meantime, feel free to read my sister Natalie's blog post about our trip to see some more pictures!