Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tokyo Day XYZ: Junk Food Everywhere!

Considering that I was in an Asian country, of course there'll be junk food  - especially from a hole in the wall!  Though the comforting factor is that Japan is one of the cleanest cities in Asia, although Singapore claims the title, it certainly didn't have me convinced.  Also, the Japanese' desire for perfection will guarantee that there are no crappy ingredients and haphazardly slapped together.

First, I present you...McDonald's!!  (Yes, I consider McDonald's junk food)

Chocolate pie
Deep fried pastry filled with hot lava chocolate sauce
Cross section of said chocolate pie

Fillet-o-Ebi (Shrimp fillet burger)

Cross section of Fillet-o-Ebi
Kinda like a McChicken but with shrimp instead
You can actually see shrimp bits here

My favourite: Apple pie
This is deep fried as opposed to baked.
The chocolate pie was just too weird and the idea of a deep fried chocolate pie just stops my arteries.  But in the name of science, I had bare through it.  Everything else was pretty good.  Still, it is a McDonald's

Next snack stop, isn't really a snack, but it's a street food.  We came across it when we were returning to our hotel pretty late that night (~11pm) and notice this thing popped up:

Pop-up night ramen stand outside of Shinjuku Station's south exit
At that point, we had been coming and going at that station's exit for days and hadn't seen this thing until now.  I saw Meow Father's eyes lit up, Mr. Meow had this look of "oh shit" on his face.  "Oh shit" because we all know my father wanted to eat there but we had just come from hours of eating sukiyaki at my cousin's place and are full to the brim and he *knows* we will have to eat there TONIGHT. I made a dash for a seat to eat there because that would be my dad's one and only chance as he was leaving the next day.  And this is what you get for 700 yen:

Plain ramen
I think part of the appeal of such a place is just because over the years, we had seen many Japanese drama and the typical salary man would stop by there and have a few drinks before finally returning home.  So, I guess, we see it as an authentic Japanese experience.

We move on to something a bit more snacky, takoyaki.  Typically, these things can be referred to as dumplings or pancake balls.  There really isn't a good term to label it besides the fact that you have a flour based batter which is poured into a cast iron grill mould like in the picture below and little bits of octopus is dropped into each well along with a few other ingredients while it cooks.  The fun part is watching the guy use a skinny little pick to flip it over which somehow forms its round shape.

I love takoyaki.  I don't even remember how I learn of its existence.  The closest I've come across in my dinky little town is a bag of frozen takoyaki at my local T&T Asian supermarket which I can either nuke it in the microwave or better yet, deep fry it.  Or, the sorry, half-cooked slop of mess that they serve and call takoyaki at the annual Hertiage Festival and charge you $5 for 2 pieces.  I've even attempted to make them at home.  T&T actually have premixed batter for sale and all sorts of condiments to go with it too.  But still, part of my goal while in Japan was to taste the real thing.

Takoyaki hole-in-wall in Jingu-mae, Harajuku near Kiddyland

Takoyaki - Grilled little octopus dumplings
Special sauce, mayo and bonito flakes

Takoyaki from a stand in Takeshita-dori in Harajuku
Much less impressive looking but still good.
I was not disappointed.  Each takoyaki has managed to burn my tongue.  I have learned that they're not supposed to be completely solid, they are supposed to be gooey inside with the outside still firm enough. They are also bigger than the frozen ones they sell here, or even the home made ones from a takoyaki home grill.

Once the parents have left Japan, Mr. Meow and I went to this amusement center in Ikebukuro upon the recommendation of a friend.

Namja Town
I did some research before deciding on going and found that this place has a Gyoza Stadium.  They sell all kinds of gyozas even regional flavours from all over the country, plus some original creations too.  Mr. Meow loves gyozas, so we had to go.

Gyoza Stadium
Rows upon rows of hole in the wall shops to purchase gyozas from
In the foreground, they're advertising "miso-dare gyoza from Shinshu" and "tokarashi gyoza"
6 for 400/450 yen

Takoyaki gyoza

Kurobuta (Berkshire pork) gyoza
Extra juicy, extra tender, extra fatty

Deep fried cheese gyoza
Best of the bunch

Also in Namja Town is the Dessert Republic, filled with cake shops that sells dainty little cakes and ice cream shops as well.

Mini Chocolate house cake
TAKE THAT, Duchess!

Black sesame and vanilla ice cream from Gelato Nero
Cannot taste the sesame, boo

A gazillion flavours of soft serve on tap
Chocolate ganache, plain, pumpkin, soy matcha, Ramune, melon, chocolate, coffee
Soy, royal milk tea, wasabi, ocean vanilla (??), Kyouhou grape, white peach

And a bajillion different kinds of cuppy ice cream
from different regions such as Chuukoku, Shikoku, Kansai, and Tokai areas

We settled on trying this one
Pear sherbet with 12% real fruit juice!!!

Pear sherbet
Namja has plenty of interesting things to eat, and if you speak good Japanese, perhaps the games there are interesting too.  The downside of it is, like any other amusement theme parks, the food is bloody expensive. It's a place where you'll go once and say "that's interesting, thanks, but I won't be back."

We return to Takeshita-dori in Harajuku on the day before Halloween hoping to spot some weirdos or even weirdos in costumes.

I remember the first time I was in Takeshita-dori about 10 years ago, there were long ass line ups going for these things:

Dessert crepes
Marion Crepes and Angel Crepes are right across from each other

This is their menu - a display case of its creations in plastic models

Notice she is actually almost making these crepes 2 at a time
Prepping 2 at a time and then rolling up each one.

Left: Double Chocolate-Mille Feuille-Whipped cream
Right: Strawberry, Ice cream, Chocolate sauce, Whipped cream
from Angel Crepes
All around the two shops, there are people standing and eating their crepes.  Apparently, in Japan, it is considered rude to be eating while walking.  I think the rudest part, considering the amount of people there are everywhere, is the possibility of walking into people with your food and dirtying their clothes.  So, we too, stood and ate our crepes.  While eating, we saw this:

A butch girl (pink) and a dude (blue) dressed up in Lolita get-up

I did notice something different about the Japanese crepes and the ones here, they are smaller, filled less and hence lighter (not filling), and most of them have ice cream.  It's almost like an ice cream cone but the cone is a crepe.
I love trying out local snacks and street foods but I have yet to figure out how I am supposed to fit all that in between meals (I also love discovering local eats).  I am just thankful that in Japan, the portions are small and the ingredients are light, thus enabling my gluttony further.

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