In September, I went out with my main school to my first drinking party (飲み会, nomikai). Don’t worry if you’re not an alcohol shipper. I’m certainly not and most establishments will provide you with non-alcoholic beverages. I wasn’t a fan of the beer, so I stuck with water and tea.
This meeting was at a traditional Japanese restaurant and it was hilarious to see the other women I sat with watch in rapt attention as I tried and enjoyed most everything I was served. Bear with me as I attempt to explain to you some of what I devoured.
Starting from the upper-most left corner is a nabe (鍋) pot. Translated into English, it sounds redundant: pot pot. Any potted soup will be called something-nabe. It was filled with shabu-shabu beef, enoki mushrooms, nira (にら, wild garlic leaves), tofu, and kimchee.
Moving to the right, to the blue dish, we have tougan-no-ankake (冬瓜のあんかけ, winter melon with a starch-based sauce) topped with crab. This was served cold and was very delicious. It’s not for people who have a thing against certain food textures. It was extremely slimy.
Third, in the small pink dish, is a foodstuff all anime-watchers will know: tamagoyaki; specifically hijiki-iri-tamagoyaki (ひじき入り卵焼き, rolled scrambled egg with sweet black seaweed). In Japan, you can buy a specific pan to make this so you are better able to maintain the traditional rectangular shape, but I choose to use my simple skillet. Because I’m a huge fan of eggs, I quickly consumed this.
To the right one more, there was 酢のもの（sunomono, pickled salad）. This was comprised of artificial crab and vegetables. I can’t recall if there was anything else in it. Maybe garlic…? According to Wikipedia (Praise be unto this database!), it’s related to namasu (膾) which is anything marinated in rice vinegar. Cool fact: it’s been in Japan since the Nara Period courtesy of China.
Continuing on, we have nimono (煮物). If you like vegetables, this bowl of goodness will make your belly happy. Also, at this point in the meal, any doubts I was having about my digestion were cleared. There are many recipes on the internet concerning the varieties of nimono you can make. This specific one was most likely chikuzenni (筑前煮, vegetables with seaweed and chicken). It originally came from the Fukuoka region of Kyushu, the southernmost portion of the Japanese mainland. This tells me this is an immigrated foodstuff.
The bowl at the very end above the towel is sashimi. This needs no explanation other than it was delicious.
Trekking onward, we see a tiny white bowl filled with something that doesn’t scream “edible”. Soft and fluffy in appearance, kiriboshi (切り干し, dried daikon radish) is soaked in vinegar. It reminded me of extra-chewy sauerkraut.
Next to that is the egg custard (tamagodoufu, 卵豆腐). Reminiscent of tofu, it is not for the faint hearted. Smelling strongly of eggs and sugar, it took me a hot New York second not to gag. The only custard I’m used to eating is the lemon custard in my lemon meringue pies. It’s most often steamed. Its next-door neighbor is a simple hijiki salad. I can find this at my MaxValue in the premade section.
Sitting right behind it is a seared scallop or hotate (ホタテ). Never having had scallops before, I thought this had an interesting texture. Without knowing what it was before I put it in my mouth, I could definitely tell it was from the sea. Duh, Ashley! We are talking about Japan here.
In the lower-most corner of the tray, in the green bowl, is nikogori (煮こごり, fish Jell-O). If you haven’t connected the dots about the Japanese loving textures, here’s your last chance. Nikogori is made of boiled down fish bones. Sometimes chicken is used but fish is the norm. Just like Jell-O, you can put whatever the hell you feel like in this. I know for sure there was soy sauce in mine. Also, if you have an elderly person in your family, this highly recommended as it is very nutritious (see this article from 2007). I feel this is exactly like head cheese.
Next to the gelatin, in the yellow bowl, is kurage-no-sunomono (クラゲの酢の物, vinegar-soaked jellyfish). I’m going to assume the meat was dried and boiled back to life. Again, this will be off-putting if you have a dislike for certain food textures. This is the closest thing I can think of to eating a human without truly being a cannibal. Crunchy, sour, and absolutely wonderful, it can be served cold or hot. For anyone reading this that lives in or regularly visits Las Vegas, there is a Chinese dim-sum restaurant off of Sahara called Orchids Garden that has this as an option.
Last, but not least, is the potato salad. I’ve noticed that the Japanese like to put cherry tomatoes in this. As a note, Japanese mayonnaise is not the same as American mayonnaise.