Sunday, 25 May 2008
Kiso Valley - and ... did we eat traditional mountain food?
Alas another belated Japan post - this is never going to end. Sorry, got very distracted 1/2 way to continue- Any hoo, i thought this food post is by far a bit different from the other places we ate in Japan - because besides the offensive tempura. Yes, i am still not over the tempura issue.
Kiso Valley is the famed route that in times where Samurais lived, this was the road they used to get to Edo ( tokyo now it is known ) ha, people traveled by horses or by foot over these mountainous regions. Actually it is not just samurais but traders between the north and south of Japan used this route to get to one end or the other. These days - we have shinkansen or the highway :).
Some how or rather, you get the feeling Kiso is trying to still retain their traditional way of life very much, except for the cars and machineries around, people there are still very much traditional. After a few rounds of winding up and down the road - ( my stomach was also winding up and down ) luckily we stopped for lunch/toilet break. By the way, it was freaking cold in this place as well. The air - for those who are used to our haze laden air, is clear and crisp. My lungs were surprised that day. ( bikkuri neh )
Lucky for me, the restaurant / tourist stop has a gas heater that warms up the place. The guide cheerfully told us today is real local food... my hair sort of stood up a bit. Nagano Prefecture is famous for BEE eating .... then the hair standing turned to cold sweat.... Luckily it was normal food. *phew*. However, it was not the standard rice i was used to in Japan.
Seen red rice japan? my first time. Looks like our red rice locally but taste starchy(japonica) like japanese rice. And mix with some green bean like thingy. Nice... Red rice is supposedly less starchy but has more fiber than normal white rice making you less sleepy as it is not high in carbs. And it was served in this lovely bamboo like thingy.
Japanese food normally are accompanied by small dishes of either appetizers. This time, the appetizers were not something so run of the mill.
Oden was one of the appetizers with shirataki noodles and some vegetables and in such cold weather it was a welcome sight for me. This is quite sweet naturally with vegetables added flavor to the broth. Oden normally has fish cakes but there were no fish cakes here in this case. And the sweet broth is absorbed in the shirataki noodles.
Next, a rather tasty egg role with sesame added in it. Aiya, anything with chicken egg is nice by my standards. I only don't like soft boil egg that much but every thing else i eat.
We had more noodles after that, Soba that is, in a cold sauce. Hmm, i can't say i don't like soba. Compared to tempura, i actually welcome this more.
I think we had a fish dish but i cannot remember taking any photos - but there is also sweetmeat given to us, which did not really go well with me. Because it was - SALTY :( Strangely enough some people thought this was a dessert - what? ... maybe the pale appearance looks like something desserty.
The standard Tempura was given to us... which was not so bad for this place, probably because they used different veggie but every meal we had prawn tempura. Each meal is normally accompanied with a hot dish and this one was tofu hot pot. The skin of the tofu is lightly fried as if coated with floor and then basted in a sweet sauce. Not bad - very high protein.
As u can see, you are well fed in tours such as this. :) Was quite stuffed after lunch i didn't even nibble for tea after that. I must say Kiso valley was a mixture place for me. At one point i was pretty excited to going on the same road that the samurais travelled on but when i reached magome - it was a very small, small, small town. The whole Kiso valley now is more for winter sports ( see the slopes, good for skiing ) and in normal spring time, it is very quiet. Googling about, i found this place is also good for nature lovers, as there are hiking trails you can go on. Also, the wood around the woods of Kiso are used to rebuild the Ise Jingu in Ise of course. (Note: Ise Jingu is rebuilt every 20 years to ensure the traditions of building are renewed through every generation. Next rebuilding will be in the year 2013).
Let's see now, I have about 2 more japanese posts and ... i am done - :)