Thursday, December 24, 2009

Last Meals

(PICTURE: Enjoying my mom's banana bread.)

Relax Jeff Aidekman, this isn't totally a food post. Sheesh.

Perhaps my long time reader and recent critic has a point, I've written a lot about food recently. However, I love the food in Japan! I promise though, the second part of this post has a funny story (so, Jeff, you can scroll down and only will offend my mother).

Part 1: My Mother's Cooking

If you recall, Masumi has taught me a lot about Japanese cooking. She is my sensei. The first recipe she taught me was her mother's nikajaga. Well, it was my turn to return the favor. I had to be out of my apartment on the 19th but decided to stay until the 20th so I could spend a little more time with Masumi and Kensuke. Masumi asked me to teach her some American dishes so I immediately emailed my mother for recipes. As you can imagine, the average Japanese household doesn't have many of the ingredients we use in the states. Luckily there is a foreign food store in the Koryama station that had almost everything we would need. We gathered together the ingredients and with my mom's detailed instructions churned out three delicious August/Zucker originals:

1. Pumpkin Bread

2. Grandma Cele's Crouton Stuff Baked Chicken

3. Banana Bread

Part Two: The Best Ramen in Japan

(PICTURES: Masumi, Kensuke and I eating by far the best ramen I have ever had.)

Masumi told me that I could not leave Koryama without having had the best ramen in all of Japan. Masumi, Kensuke and I went to the ramen shop for lunch on my last day in Koryama. Needless to say, the ramen was amazing. However, what makes this restaurant truly special is the owner.

As soon as we walked into the restaurant (of course there was a wait at nearly 2PM because it is that good) I could tell right away who the owner was because he was manning the kitchen like a general. You know, if a general smiled and looked really happy all the time. At one point while we were waiting the owner ran out of the shop to chase to little girls and give them lollipops. Yeah, he's that kind of nice person.

When we sat down the owner wanted to know about the foreigner at his counter. He started to ask questions and Masumi and Kensuke answered him. He started to tell them that one of his ramen bowls was hanging in a restaurant in New York City. Hey, New Yorkers go to Ippudo NY at 65 Fourth Avenue and and look for a bowl with red lettering.

(PICTURES: That sign on the wall is for the ramen restaurant in NYC that has his bowl. The second picture I found on google images. I imagine one of those bowls behind the bartender is the same one I now have. I wonder if I bring it into the restaurant if the owner will hook me up when I say I am friends with the owner.)

The owner then told Masmui and Kensuke that I had a very kindly face and before I knew it he was giving me one of his famous bowls to take home with me. This was an amazing gesture and something that I will always remember. However, if you have ever eaten ramen you'll know that the bowls are slightly larger than your average cereal bowl. By slightly I mean they are at least two or three times bigger. In case you're keeping track from my last few posts, in my final 48 hours before leaving for a ten day backpacking trip, I was handed a GIANT calendar, traded for a large framed sumo wrestling hand print/signature and now was given a huge ceramic bowl. Yeah, there's not much room left to get anyone any presents. Sorry about that.

(PICTURE: The ramen master and me outside of the ramen shop with my new bowl in hand.)