Monday, August 07, 2006

ofukuro no aji (the taste of momma's home cooking)

As a starving student in Japan, I was always lucky enough to homestay with mothers skilled in the art of making anything I pleased. Sukiyaki, tempura, oden.... anything. And of course, they'd always teach me how to cook, as well as eat the dishes. I was 16 when I cracked open my first raw egg into a bowl and dipped in a savory slice of shoyu-marinated beef. I had no clue that was the real way to eat sukiyaki. Oh, and it was divine.

Now that my childhood is dead and gone, the attitude is more like, "Go make it yourself! Sheesh." Now I'm the adult. Now I have to be that woman who lovingly prepares the meals.

So I got really lucky this weekend when I happened to be the guest in a Japanese home, and there happened to be a Japanese mother present. There were over a half-dozen chirping mouths crying, "Feed me. Feed me." Oh and, boy, did she. First she marinated several trays of kalbi and lamb, and grilled them outside. She also steamed and sauteed some heads of broccoli, pouring onto it a light soy-based sauce. Then she prepared sushi rice, nori sheets, and fresh crab and showed us how to make our own temaki rolls. (see below)

To finish off the meal, she brought out little dishes of shredded nori, fresh grilled salmon, pickled vegetables and a very plump umeboshi. "I'm going to teach you how to eat ochazuke Kyoto-style," she said, which immediately made me drool. Kyoto style is where you eat the toppings separately from the rice and tea. That way you enjoy every single taste by itself. The best moment of the night was watching one person plop an entire ume into his mouth thinking it was a cherry tomato. The reaction on his face was priceless.

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