02 December 2013

Eating Japan, Part 8

Check out the other posts in this series, Eating Japan to see what I've been consuming in my new country!  You can also find a link to the Eating Japan series on the top of any page!

There is a fast food burger chain all over Japan called Mos Burger.  You see these just as often in Okinawa as you see McDonald's.  But I've actually heard good things about Mos Burger.  So one day, I had a few minutes to kill in between a few errands, and what do you know, it happened to be lunch time and there was a Mos Burger across the street.  Walking in, the restaurant chain was impeccably clean.  It was also pretty quiet and peaceful.  I don't remember the last time I even thought about stepping foot in a McDonald's, but I just imagine chaos.  I placed my order at the counter, deciding to go all out with a beef burger, fry/onion ring combo, and my favorite juice, Acerola.  I took my number and sat down on one of the tables in the minimalist dining area.  There was also a smoking dining room in the back, if that fits your needs.  In a few minutes, my wicker basket and ceramic dishes were brought out to me, along with a real glass with my juice.  A second later, someone brought over a little ceramic dish filled with ketchup.  What did I think?  Well, for sure, the service, quality, and presentation beat out any American fast food chain I've ever heard of.  It was a really small burger, but I didn't feel gross eating it.  It tasted like food.  The super fresh bun, lettuce, and tomatoes helped tremendously.  While fast food burgers aren't my first choice of a meal, if I was in a position that I needed to go for a quick meal....I wouldn't even consider an American burger chain if Mos Burger was around.

Curry House Coco (known as CoCo's) is another super duper popular fast food joint here in Japan.  And actually, you folks living in California can find a few locations there as well.  I've only been a few times, and while it's not my favorite Japanese curry I've had, it's really not too bad at all.  It's cheap (you can get a huge plate of curry and rice with some sort of protein for around $6.50), it's fast, and it's tasty.  They must have 50 different toppings, and you can customize it anyway you'd like, with additional toppings (I put soft boiled eggs on everything), spice level, types of curry, etc.  They have salads and desserts, but I've never been bothered with those.  My friends with children love this place, they do a great job catering to children.  The kids food always comes out immediately, they get a 'prize', and like many restaurants in Okinawa, they get their own meal sets and plastic ware/child friendly cups.  Their curry can get insanely spicy, so it's not uncommon for people to ask what is the max level you've ever eaten at CoCo's (child-level spice is also available).

The first time you eat Kakigori - Japanese shaved ice - you will vow never EVER waste your time on a snow cone EVER again.  Yes, it's shaved ice with a sweet syrup poured on top, but it's not even close to being a snow cone.  Kakigori is made using a hand cranked machine.  A giant block of ice is placed in the machine and the person making it puts some serious muscle into grinding you out the most fluffy cup of ice you've ever seen.  The ice is thin and fluffy, never hard and crunchy.  The syrup absorbs into the entirety of it, and I've never had one with that gallon excess on the bottom - you know what I'm talking about.  Mango is my favorite, but then again I've never cared to try other flavors.  It's common to see Kakigori topped with ice cream, tapioca, or even red beans.  During the summer, it's impossible to NOT find this anywhere you go.  Little stands on the side of the road are everywhere, and it's an amazing refreshing treat after 110° days with 100% humidity.  Below is the first one I ever had after an afternoon of scuba diving (which is why I look like such a mess).  The stand I bought it from always has 2 old men running it, just hanging out with each other day after day.  I passed them a hundred times and thought after an hour or two of breathing air from a metal tank and my skin absorbing salt water, now was a better time then any.  So. Freaking. Refreshing.

You've probably noticed that a bunch of pictures I've posted of a meal is a bunch of small portions in individual dishes on a tray.  This is a very popular style of meal set called Teishoku (meal set).  These are by far the best deals and some of the best meals you'll have here, especially for lunch.  Nearly every restaurant will have some sort of Lunch Set, and you'll be able to find these on average for ¥600-¥1000.  It depends on the restaurant how many dishes are included, but typically they will have a drink, white rice, soup, a side dish, pickled vegetable, and the main course.  The picture below was posted over at Where in the World is Kacey?!?! during a bike trip around Kouri Island, but I thought it should be here as well.  

I've talked about the Awase Fish Market (Payao Fresh Seafood) before on Kacey's Kitchen.  It's probably one of my favorite places.  I know, I know, I say everything is my favorite!  I'm not sure what this set was called, but on the right is Ikura Don with tamago (a bowl of rice topped with salmon eggs, shredded egg, and umibudo), a large bowl of fish soup on the left (basically it was half a fish chopped up and thrown in some tasty miso based broth, face and all.  And the third part of my meal was a few pieces of the softest fish tempura that ever existed.  I believe this set runs for about ¥1000 (approximately $10).  And yes, I have 2 glasses of water.  You'll understand when you come to visit, the drinking glasses are super tiny (compared to American glasses atleast).

Inside of the Makishi Public Market in Naha, tucked in the back, sort of hidden unless you know it's there, you'll find a great seafood and pork market.  Not only can you find some of the freshest fish on the island (many are still alive), but you can buy it and have the restaurants upstairs cook it for you.  Woah, right?!  Whenever I'm down in the Kokusai area of Naha, I make sure to run into the market to see if anything catches my eye for dinner.  Most of it does, I just don't know how to cook any of it (where the restaurants come in handy!).  Anyway, a month or so ago we were down at the market and ate upstairs for the first time.  We bought a tray of sushi from downstairs and then grabbed a seat in the restaurant and ordered some sides to go along with our meal.  This included Mimigaa, which is boiled pigs ear.  It's served chilled with some vinegar and a taste of sesame seed oil and sliced cucumbers.  It's a little chewy and very good.  It's sliced thin and personally, I would love to put it over a salad.  Aaron also ordered Kobukuro, stir fried pork uterus, which, as far as offal goes, I rank up there with liver.

In response to the suggestion of my eating live octopus.  I haven't encountered it yet, but when I do, I'm going to eat it.
Question: Out of today's post, which meal would YOU most likely order if you had the option?  Leave a comment below!!! 
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Be sure to check out my other blog, Where in the World is Kacey?!? to see what goes on outside of the kitchen!

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