May 10, 2009

Fukuoka Gourmand

No, Beijing Gourmand hasn't relocated. But I did have some amazing food on a recent trip to Fukuoka, a city on Japan's southernmost island of Kyushu. I had plenty of the more commonly known foods such as sushi, sashimi, shabushabu and tempura, but I wanted to post on some food that might be less familiar to readers.

Jianbing fans will go wild for okonomiyaki (お好み焼き), a Japanese savory pancake typically made with mountain-yam flour, egg, cabbage, pork, and chopped onions. There are countless variations on okonomiyaki depending on your tastes (okonomi roughly means "whatever you like"); the above is a Hiroshima style okonomiyaki that includes soba noodles.

Wagashi (和菓子) is the generic Japanese term for confections, which are often served during the traditional tea ceremony. This sweet, called kuri-monaka (栗もなか), had a rice-wafer shell made to look like a chestnut, with a bean-paste jam and whole chestnut filling. The skewer (kushi) is made from a type of wood that supposedly has antibacterial properties.

I couldn't help but smile when I bit into this strawberry mochi (ichigo daifuku - イチゴ大福). I usually find mochi to be sickly sweet, but this had only thin layers of bean-paste and mochi dough wrapped around a plump farm-fresh strawberry. My companion and I achieved a sense of guilty satisfaction by nabbing the last two of the season.

When I posted on eating duck tongue I noted that it wasn't for shock value. I'm afraid I can't quite make the same claim about eating these live whitefish. They weren't actually that gross once you got used to the squirming inside your mouth; they were mostly tasteless, despite being half-drowned in sauce, but did have a shrimp-like texture. The young whitefish are caught in local rivers each spring and available only for a limited time.