Friday, October 21, 2005

Tempura Tonight!

Here's my foodie hat trick: night number 3, writing about food, this time, Tempura. I hope all you people out there on the World Wide Waste of Time appreciate the fact that over the last three evenings, I have completely wrecked my stict diet of two months, in the attempt to provide somewhat interesting content on my blog.

Tempura is heavenly (you'll get this little joke later, trust me) and is one of my favorite things to eat. I get stuck on a desert island and can only have one thing to eat, ever? It would be vegetable Tempura.

Several resturants in Misawa serve Tempura. None are bad, but some are just okay (Kimura Udon, but I shouldn't be ordering Tempura at a noodle joint, anyhow) while others are brilliant, like "The Blue and White Sign Place"--not the real name, of course, just what the kanjii-illiterate Baka Gaijin calls it.

Tonight we ate at Kuroyama-ya (Black Mountain Resturant), the first resturant in Misawa at which I ate Tempura. It's a cozy place, done up to look like a traditional farmhouse. They have a really lovely Tempura Taishoku (Tempura set meal). I order it "Yasai dake, onegaishemasu." (vegetables only, please) because it normally comes with two big ol' shrimp, a piece of fish fillet, and three vegetables--whatever is in season and looked particularly yummy to the buyer that day. The Taishoku also comes with two kinds of pickles (the type changes), a bowl of rice the size of my head, and a consomme-like soup with mushrooms, negi (scallions) and ginger in (because Japanese soups traditionally contain 3 solid ingredients). I always scald my tongue, tonsils and throat on the soup--I just never learn.

The Taishoko I got looked similar to the one in the picture below, just with some slight variations on the dishes, tray, and the entrees. My dinner was certainly just as pretty as this picture.
In my meal, I had a half of an enormous and super-fresh green bell pepper, two piimon (japanese peppers), a slice of imo (sweet potato) a shiso leaf, a shiitake kinoko (mushroom), a cluster of shimeji kinoko (also mushrooms), a huge slice of kabocha (Japanese pumpkin-similar to an acorn squash). There was take oshinko (bamboo pickles) and the green mystery pickles that Chris and I both love. Chris is picky about pickles and there's not many he likes so he was happy to see that one of the two pickle dishes with his meal were the GMP's. I got his serving of take oshinko--SCORE!

I am always amazed at how light and crispy the Tempura is and how flavourful, too. The batter highlights the flavor, rather than hiding it. The coating on Tempura is always very light, almost sparse at first glance, not like how Americans usually think of fried things--with a heavy layer of batter.

Most people think Tempura is a traditional Japanese food. It's not. It was introduced to Japan by Portugese Missionaries in the late 16th century. Over the course of time the original has been altered to suit Japanese taste and the result is, you could say, heavenly. Go here to read more to learn about Tempura (it's getting late, I'm getting tired, and the article I link to says it better than I ever could).

In case you were wondering, my meal cost 1,300 Yen. At today's exchange rate, that's only $11.72, for a ridiculous amount of fresh, wonderfully prepared and beautifully presented food.

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