January 23, 2006
one snowy weekend in Tokyo
Friday: the weather forecast was telling us that we were going to have quite a bunch of snow in Tokyo on Saturday. Now we usually don't have much snow in Tokyo, really - one winter may typically have a couple of times or so of light snow - but this time, there will be relatively a lot, they said. Here, "a lot" means a few inch deep of snow; if you wake up and see outside to find basically everything is white, that's "a lot". For Tokyo, at least. This winter we happen to have the coldest winter in 50 years or so, and some areas of heavy snowfall have had over 10-feet deep snow, seriously; some hundred people have died in snow-related accidents in the past month and a half. So it wasn't that surprising that we were having relatively heavy snow even in Tokyo.
That evening, I made myself a cup of hot drink, thinking about how much snow we were to have next day...
Warm and sweet white hot chocolate with yuzu and ginger, topped with a mound of "snow" or fluffy foamed milk. Excuse me for keep using the same combination of white chocolate and yuzu over and over, but this was a winner. Usually, I prefer thick and strong one when it comes to hot chocolate, but this time I wanted something nicely light, so I went with a no-cream/milk-only version (based on a recipe that seems to have appeared in Cooking Light magazine); heat water with sugar and slices of ginger, add chopped white chocolate, juice and grated zest of yuzu, and milk, which I separately steamed and whipped up to form fluffy foams.
Finished with thin strips of yuzu zest and a couple of grinds of white peppers, it was nice and mellow but not overly sweet, probably thanks to the addition of tart yuzu and zesty ginger. A keeper.
Saturday: yes, the weather forecast had been part right but part wrong; it did snow quite a lot, only heavier than they had forecasted...
It almost didn't look like Tokyo, or Japan - it was definitely the heaviest snow I've seen in Tokyo in the past five years or so.
To warm up in a cold night such as that one, we had a nabe or hot pot dish for dinner. Nabes are an extremely popular winter dish in Japan, and there must be as many kinds of nabe dishes as there are households in the country; you could almost put anything in a nabe dish, from vegetable to mushrooms, and from meat to fish. That day we had Yuki-nabe, or "snow" hot pot. Also called Mizore (sleet)- or Yukimi (snow viewing)-nabe, Yuki-nabe is named so because of its resemblance to snow/sleet. Here's how;
You put some vegetable/meat/fish/seafood in an earthen pot (which is what folks usually use for a "nabe" dish), then -
Cover with grated daikon radish, a lot of it, as you can see. This white clouds are what makes the dish resemble to snow or sleet (admittedly, more like the latter), so you need a lot of it. It's quite a labor to grate one whole daikon radish or more, but once it's done, your yukimi-nabe is half ready. Cook it over a heat until everything's cooked - we don't usually use things that require long-time cooking for this dish, so it shouldn't take more than 10-15 minutes until done.
When it's ready, serve the dish in a pot, still sizzling...
...with a squeeze of yuzu and a dash of soy sauce...
I don't know about others, but this stuff is my all-time favorite comfort food of the season, definitely.
By that time, though still pretty cold, the snow had turned to icy rain, while the following day's forecast was sunny weather, meaning we weren't likely to have the snow lasting very long.
Sunday: mostly clear, with some clouds rolling in.
This picture was taken in an open space, which is why you still see snow covering the land, but on most roads and sidewalks, there was only what once had used to be snow - muddy and squishy.
Now, here's my good company in a chilly winter afternoon:
I-scream! What's better than indulging yourself with some premium-quality ice cream in a warm room when it's chilly outside? And this time I got Dean & Deluca's (for your information, they now have stores/cafes in Japan). I don't know if the same line is available in the US or it's Japan-exclusive, but there are Bretagne Caramel Walnut, California Strawberry, and Belgian Couverture Chocolate, along with Madagascar Vanilla which isn't shown above.
Now, now. I have no problem with Dean & Deluca's presence in Japan. They seem to have been doing good here, having just opened their 4th and 5th shops/cafes in Tokyo since they opened their first store in 2003, and I am totally happy with it. What doesn't make me happy hands-down is the fact that these ice creams are sold in convenience stores. A Dean & Deluca product in a convenience store; what's going on? Even though this gives me a convenience (yes, literally) of being able to get quality ice cream within a minutes' walk, I just can't stomach this apparent mismatch of a supposedly high-end gourmet food product and a, um, common-or-garden retail store.
Whatever. All told, it looks like I do stomach their ice cream anyways; and they're good. In a fond farewell to the snow that had a short life on this land, I built a snowman with the ice cream...
Ah he's slanted and already melting (and looking yummy, above all), it looks like he's going to have an even shorter life than most other snowpeople out there...
And for the entire week beginning today, we are going to have a more typical Tokyo winter weather; fair and dry. Winter is far from being over.
posted by chika at: 1/23/2006 03:37:00 AM