japanese food

Chocolate Natural Tofu is Chocolatey, Delicious, Tofu

I’m a big fan of tofu. Recently I’ve been eating a lot of “Mascarpone no You na Natural Tofu” (マスカルポーネのようなナチュラルとうふ/Mascarpone-like Natural Tofu), made by Sagamiya (相模屋). While I wouldn’t necessarily compare it to cheese, it’s soft and tasty and is especially good with a drizzling of olive oil. But today, when I went to pick some up at the supermarket, I found something new on the shelf:

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“Mascarpone no You na Natural Tofu: Chocolate Aji (チョコレート味/Chocolate flavor)”!

Of course I had to buy it. I felt a little trepidation as I used the included plastic spoon to plop it out of the container onto the conveniently enclosed styrofoam plate:

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The consistency was a little watery. But the taste was…

REALLY GOOD!

It was something like a semi-sweet chocolate pudding, or a very squishy chocolate cake. There was only a slight hint of tofu flavor. It actually reminded me of a vegan cake.

Actually, as far as I can tell from the ingredients, this product appears to be vegan? So maybe give it a shot if you’re a vegan craving chocolate this Valentine’s! (I’m not a vegan, though, so I don’t know all the ins and outs of what is and isn’t vegan, so please check yourself if you’re a vegan planning to eat this.)

I give “Mascarpone no You na Natural Tofu: Chocolate Aji” two thumbs up (wayyyyyy better than Spoon Vege). It’s a seasonal item so it’ll probably disappear soon, so if you see it at your local supermarket, grab it while you still can!

Hida Beef Burgers at Lotteria: Tender, Juicy, and Expensive

I’ve been to the Hida (飛騨) area in Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県/Gifu-ken) twice now, and I highly recommended it. Shirakawa-go (白川郷) and Gero Onsen (下呂温泉) are amazing, and if you’re looking for a place to travel in Japan that’s just a little out of the way, you should check them out. But the best thing about Hida is the Hida beef (飛騨牛/Hida gyuu). This is Hida beef:

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Hida beef often comes served in the “hooba miso (朴葉味噌)” style, where slices of beef and tofu are laid on top of miso, which is spread over a kind of leaf (you don’t eat the leaf).

So when I saw that Lotteria, home of all the weird burgers, was selling a Hida beef burger with hooba miso sauce, I knew I had to give it a try.

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As you can see, the price is a rather steep ¥1,300. As this includes a drink OR a salad OR french fries, it’s not quite a bargain. Still, my husband and I shelled out for two of them.

As I entered my local Lotteria, I saw a sign above the counter proclaiming that the Hida beef burger was “10食限定 (juushoku gentei/limited to 10 servings).” I was able to take 2 home.

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As the box explains, Lotteria is currently in the middle of a campaign where a burger made from a different brand of Japanese beef goes on sale on the 29th of each month (肉の日[niku no hi/meat day]).

Let’s take a look at the Hida beef burger:

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Who put this thing together?

Lopsidedness aside, the burger was pretty straightforward. The patty was big and thick, and there was miso sauce on top, and some kind of different sauce on the bottom. There were no vegetables.

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The hamburger was a hamburg steak (ハンバーグ), with onions inside it. It was soft and juicy, and really good. The miso was sweet; the bit of bread left after I finished the burger (thanks to the lopsided construction) was soaked in the miso sauce and became a nice dessert. But I don’t know if it was worth ¥1300. Maybe about ¥800 or so. My husband pointed out that hamburg steaks usually contain egg, breadcrumbs, and other ingredients meant to make the patty thick and soft, so we don’t even know how much of this was actually Hida beef.

Like all of Lotteria’s crazy items, it’s something to try just for the sake of trying. I’m thinking of trying the Kobe beef (神戸牛/Kobe gyuu) burger when it comes out in January 2015. But I won’t be eating the Hida beef burger again. I can’t wait to go back to Gifu and eat real Hida beef.

Exciting Sushi at Sushiro

I finally went to Sushiro (スシロー) for the first time. Sushiro is a popular conveyor-belt sushi (回転寿司/kaiten zushi) chain. I’ve only started eating sushi fairly recently, so the only conveyor-belt sushi chain I had had experience with was Daiki Suisan (大紀水産), where I mainly eat 300-yen salmon and 500-yen crab. The reason I wanted to check out Sushiro was because I’ve been hearing a lot about their french fries which, you know, is kind of weird for a sushi place. But I found so much more at Sushiro.

For one thing, Sushiro is cheap! Most of the sushi there cost 100 or 180 yen. At Daiki Suisan, about the only thing that’s that cheap is the egg sushi! But at Sushiro, I had this amazing salmon roe (いくら/ikura) and my husband had huge scallops (帆立/hotate) for 180 yen each.

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Sushiro also had a lot of what’s often called “sousaku zushi” (創作寿司/creative sushi). A lot of this creative sushi comes about because it’s, well, cheap. But it’s still good! Here’s Sushiro’s take on salmon: nice salmon with roe (left), normal salmon (right), and salmon with a piece of avocado and a bunch of mayonnaise on top (middle).

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There was also scorched salmon with basil and cheese (right), and a prosciutto (生ハム/nama ham) sushi with onions and mayonnaise (left). There was a lot of mayonnaise.

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And shrimp tempura (えび天ぷら/ebi tempura) sushi:

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Besides all the interesting menu items, another exciting thing about Sushiro is the touchscreen ordering device at each table. You can use this device to order any variety of sushi, of course, but you can also get items as diverse as ramen, udon, desserts, drinks…and french fries.

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When you order something from the touchscreen, it comes around on the conveyor belt in little dishes marked with your table’s color (so other people won’t steal it!). The touchscreen sounds an alarm and a voice tells you a few moments before your order comes by, so you won’t miss it.

Here’s what came when we ordered 4 servings of miso soup with clams (蛤の赤だし/hamaguri no akadashi).

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As you can see, we were at the green (緑/midori) table!

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For dessert, I ate a parfait with soda-flavored jelly and ramune (ラムネ) candy pieces, but I forgot to take a picture until I was almost finished.

Oh, and I also ordered the french fries:

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…twice. They were crispy and hot.

By the end of our meal, the table was covered with piles of dishes:

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The bill was only around 5000 yen! That’s nuts!

If there’s a Sushiro near you, definitely go check it out!

Fancy umeboshi from Ousu no Sato

umeboshi in a bag

This is 京一輪 (Kyouichirin? I think?), a big, fancy, expensive umeboshi from Ousu no Sato (おうすの里) in Gion.

Kyouichirin umeboshi cost 300 yen. Not per box–300 yen each!

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This thing costs 300 yen! But it’s sooooooo good!

Umeboshi range from honey-sweetened to mouth-puckeringly sour, but Kyouichirin is the sweetest umeboshi I’ve ever tasted. It tastes like a fruit, without any hint of sour or pickly taste.

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This is how I eat umeboshi. Watch out for the pit!

Ousu no Sato is on the left side of Shijo Street (四条通) if you’re walking up the street with Kawaramachi Station (河原町) behind you.

Ousu no Sato Official Site