After I took the photo today, one of the old lady teachers got word that I had tried and liked her umeboshi, and forcefully piled about three large chunks of it on my rice. It was really, really sour. For those of you not "in-the-know," umeboshi is pickled Japanese plums. They are devastatingly sour, but have a nice dark pink color and also anti-bacterial properties. The only cultural comparison I can think of is something like your grandmother making delicious apple pie and passing down her secret recipe through the generations, only your grandmother is now Japanese and instead of pie we have pickled plums. Or something to that effect.
Speaking of wonderful traditional Japanese food, for the first time this year I had kiriboshi daikon for school lunch. I've been buying this stuff from an old bento box woman near my train station, so it was interesting to compare to the kyuushoku kind. It's daikon (huge white Japanese radish) that's been cut into thin strips and dried, then brought back to life again by stewing it with other traditional ingredients like soy sauce, sake, and fried tofu. It's kind of sweet and nutty, protein packed and very nutritious.
[clockwise from rice]
- rice (gohan ご飯)
- boiled vegetables with broth (yude yasai dashi ゆで野菜 だし)
- milk (gyuunuu 牛乳)
- braised, dried daikon strips (kiriboshi daikon no itameni 切り干し大根の炒め煮)
- fried tofu and capelin roe cakes (tofu no masagoage 豆腐のまさごあげ)
Yesterday's highlight was a young boy being sung happy birthday to by his classmates, then everyone kanpai-ing him with their milks. It was solemn and wonderful. This lunch was really, really tasty. The chicken dumplings hidden in the soup nearly made me cry. I'm sure you could count the ingredients on one hand, so it was more about subtle harmonies between the ingredients, such as the chicken and ginger. And how in the hell did they stay so juicy? I just made chicken dumplings last week and they turned out dry...yet another reason to speak with the school cooks.
[clockwise from bread]
- "tuna mayo toast" (tsuna mayonēzu tōsuto ツナマヨネーズトースト)
- milk (gyuunuu 牛乳)
- meat dumplings and vegetable soup (nikudango to yasai no sūpu 肉だんごと野菜のスープ)
- mixed canned fruit & yogurt (furūtsu no yōguruto フルーツのヨーグルト)