Octopuscarwash's Gourmet Adventures

I live to eat. Yes, I am an Asian Jew. My favorite meal is breakfast (oatmeal in particular). I'm only in high school, so I am a complete amateur. Some of my favorite cuisines are Middle Eastern, Moroccan, Japanese and Korean. I eat so much Chinese food that it's hard to say whether I like it or not... all I know is that I don't like what most of America seems to think of as Chinese food, Panda Express. I'm a pescetarian and love coming up with my own healthy fusion food.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Refuel after swimming and eat light for Japanese dinner

Got in a great swimming workout today-- lap after lap of just kicking, doing freestyle arms and butterfly. I realized I've been swimming better lately because I've been eating a little bit before practice, since I start to get hungry in the middle. The problem is, we don't have much in the house that's good for snacking on. Today I finally resorted to crackers and peanut butter... at home I always go for the all natural kind and avoid Skippy at all costs. I don't know what brand we have over here, but it actually has fully hydrogenated vegetable oil on the ingredients list! I've never even seen that on a nutrition label before... I've only ever seen partially hydrogenated. That company has guts... you have to give it to them. Since when do companies actually confess to what they put in their products (although trans fats are still listed as 0 g)? Anyways, I'll admit it. I had some peanut butter. Maybe it'll wreak havoc on my arteries and digestive system, but I felt really energized afterwards.
I came back starving (and realizing how manly my shoulders are getting), to be greeted by a rice cooker full of brown rice :) . We ordered from downstairs again (The delivery person got to the door at the same time as me!), but got all new dishes: the most wonderful eggplant dish with red and green peppers, tofu skin with green pepper, and the shredded potato which was stirfried and not deep-fried, just the way it's supposed to be. I also had the leftover shaobing from last night. So I basically carb-loaded: rice, potatoes, and bread. But when you're hungry from sports it really is a different kind of hunger. I feel like I'm a machine that needs to be plugged in and recharged.
After lunch I had my Chinese tutoring, and afterwards my parents decided they wanted to go hiking. Last time we hiked it was a pretty hardcore workout, but luckily, we just decided to go to Yi He Yuan, a beautiful park full of weeping willows and and lotus fields and all the cheesy classical Chinese things you have to be there to appreciate. We walked around the park and up to the top of the hill (really not very difficult), then back to the exit. This took around an hour and a half to two hours.
We ate dinner at Wu Dao Kou, the student district. There are a lot of foreigners there, especially Koreans, so there's an abundance of Korean restaurants and awesome clothes stores, as well as lot of little smoothie stands that sell green tea milkshakes. The nightlife is pretty awesome and it's definitely one of my favorite areas. We had dinner at a Japanese restaurant called Yi Shin that my mom's Japanese grad student recommended. The restaurant is very hard to find... hidden behind a shopping mall full of restaurants. It's located in a little black house behind a parking lot. My mom and I had already been there once, and it was definitely both authentic, good-quality, and relatively cheap. I'm just not sure if we ordered well the first time: She got salmon and salmon roe over sushi rice, there the salmon was cooked and flaked and there was so little that it was really just rice. I got soba in mushroom broth with "mountain vegetables," which was good, but very austere and unfulfilling. We split an eggplant dish, but it was so covered in bonito flakes that it felt a bit like eating pencil shavings.
This time, my dad got a tuna assortment on sushi rice, we shared a plate of assorted handrolls, I got grilled salmon (been craving it), and my mom got "mackerel pike," whatever that is... a hybrid of the two fish? What? We also ordered natto beans to start, since I was curious about them. My mom warned me, and she was right. I think maybe I could learn to like them, but I couldn't help thinking that the gooey brown texture reminded me of earwax... definitely an acquired taste, and the first time I didn't like a soybean related product! We shall see... I will conquer you, natto beans, and learn to eat you. Any advice on how?
I wish there were more restaurants like this in Chicago-- Japanese restaurants that aren't just sushi bars, because I love chirashi and grilled fish. Actually, apparently the most authentic items on the menu are the fried things, like fried tofu and tonkatsu. But I'm not so much into that.
Everything we got was good (although most of the handrolls were too mayonnaise-y, so I just had the plain tuna one). The mackerel-pike or whatever it was really was like a combination of the two fish-- it had the fishy (in a good way!) taste of mackerel, but was slightly less chewy. I didn't eat as much as I usually do because I ate so much at lunch. The people next to us were French (I miss speaking French!!) and seemed to know exactly what to order... next time, more sushi, for sure.
For dessert, my dad wanted me to try what's more of a Chinese than Japanese dessert: basically, "tofu" which is actually a kind of jello made of Chinese almonds (really apricot kernels) floating in sugar water. Very light, but I think I'll save my dessert calories for something else. I probably should experiment more with Chinese desserts, though, since I think most people are under the impression that they don't exist.
p.s. the restaurant has a "panda sushi roll!" Not sure how it would taste, but isn't it cute?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Lida,

You are brave to have tried Natto. I'm a Japanese with a Canadian husband who cannot put the thing in his mouth. I know it is tough for non-Japanese people to try it.

I usually add a raw egg york in it and also lots and lots of finely chopped green onions,,and don't forget mustard (not frenchies or dijon, but Japanese mustard.) And mix it very well until it looks fluffy. It is important to have each natto beans being kind of loose and free in the fluffy natto universe. It gets really stringy, so I add rice in the natto bowl to eat, not the other way around. Add very hot, freshly cooked plain rice. yum yum. (It might very well be still strange for you,,je le sais.)
My cousins from western side of Japan (where lots of people hate natto) have conquered it when my uncle added bits of sashimi (raw fish pieces) in the natto so it might help you too.

bon appetit....

Nobu from Montreal.

August 16, 2008 at 1:08 PM  
Blogger Lida said...

Hi Nobu! Thanks so much for commenting...
I'm sure Natto is something that can be learned to like eventually, since there are plenty of things I've grown up eating that other people might find weird (i.e. red bean desserts).
I'm not sure how comfortable I'd be eating a straight up raw egg, but I'l l definitely take the advice about the green onions and mustard (what is Japanese mustard anyway?).
I'm a rice lover, so I think I'll start with that.
Merci beaucoup!

August 16, 2008 at 7:52 PM  

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