died in the wool ______

To have no set purpose in one's life is the harlotry of the will -Stephen Mackenna-

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


I'll never forget right before I came over here the first time I was getting a haircut. The conversation turned to Japan of course, and he said 'well, hope you're ready to eat a lot of rice'.

Which is kind of true. You cannot, however, forget about the diversity of rice...products avaliable here. Let's begin.

Osenbe: Rice crackers, and no, as most educated people are already aware of, not those styrofome circles that your parents gave you when you were sick. These are crispy and come in such an array of flavors. Some of them are salty, some of them are sweet, some of them are spicy, some of them have soybeans in them. A great snack.

Mochi: Essentially pounded rice. Mochi is the centerpiece for assembly activities in schools. Kids pound the rice until it becomes a huge white ball. Then they often grill cubes of mochi in a brasier. One person fans the flame while someone else turns the cubes and slathers them with soy sauce. Recently my roommate and I have been making them in our fish grill, and they are also wonderful in Nabe.

Frying mochi is also wonderful.You would think this would taste just like osembe, but it is reasonably different. I've found the kind with soy sauce on it to be one of my favorite snacks.

Mochi is also used in the skin of Manju and Daifuku. Kyoto has a special traingular manju which is great, and around the streets of Kiyomizu temple, in the attempts this contry takes to automate everything, there are little machines that fold and cut the manju for sale. They are my favorite of all the manju avaliable.

another great traditional candy that is rice paper on the outside is botan-ame. They come in a box where all the cubes of the gummy candy are smooshed together, but don't stick because they are individually wrapped with edible rice paper. They're very mild, and a great snack to pick up.

Rice is also more than just a white staple here. In the west we have rice pilaf, in Japan they have maze gohan or chirashi zushi. They take seasonal vegetables (such as chestnuts, bamboo shoots, even edamame) and mix them in the rice. Japanese would NEVER put soy sauce on rice. If they aren't eating one of the two above, you have two options. The first is furikake; dried seaweed, fish flakes etc made in tons of combinations.Vegetarian ones are hard to find besides the plum ones. The second option is tsukemono, or pickles. If you ever order a bento, there will always be a small section for pickeled vegetables. My favorite is shibazuke, which is a mixture of many different vegetables and is purplish.

Yeay Rice!


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