Because Japanese homes are so intimate in size, entertaining traditionally takes place at a restaurant or bar. Therefore we were surprised and pleased to be invited for dinner at the home of our friend’s mother, who lived in a prefecture close to Kyoto.
Our hosts seemed as excited for us to be in their home as we were to be there. Like any good party, we congregated in the kitchen, where food preparation was in full swing. The ingredients were beautifully fresh and the fish looked like it had only just been caught. We noticed food quality was generally excellent in Japan.
Reiko told us she had discussed their choice of meals with her husband – a business man with experience entertaining foreigners.
Reiko and her Mum.
Inside a Japanese home.
We left our shoes at the door. In a Japanese home you could be given house slippers to wear. If there are other slippers at the toilet door you are meant to swap out of your house slippers and change back when re-entering the living space. Toilets in Japan are so Hi-Tech with many buttons. The one in our Airbnb house had English Instructions taped to the wall, but I had to rely on Reiko for help with this one.
The dining room contained a western dining suite, but we ate sitting on floor cushions at a traditional low table. The room alongside was covered in a selection of traditional tatami matting with a small shrine.
Our invitation came when we were already in Kyoto, so we needed to buy a gift for our host locally. It would have been better to bring something from our home town or another place travelled to prior to arriving in Kyoto.
In Australia gift giving is not considered necessary, but it is important in Japan. We decided on flowers. There is no strict “being invited to a home” gift in Japan. Wine is OK – Chocolates also – but don’t bring dessert to be eaten with the meal because this will be prepared by the host.
At the end of the night we left with carrying Japanese mementos and sweets. Initially we decided to take the sweets home with us, but our curiosity got the better of us and we devoured them the next day. I really wished we had been more prepared in the gift department!
First Course – Temaki sushi
Each person constructs their own sushi from a selection of fillings laid out on the table. Helping with food prep in the kitchen was a fun ice-breaker. Raw salmon, tuna fish and omelette were sliced into sticks while Marty stirred the cooked rice to both cool it and to gain the desired level of stickiness.
Fillings were piled on one half of a rectangular piece of Nori then rolled into a cornet shape. Sushi attractiveness is all-important and we became quite competitive on presentation. I’m positive it made them taste better too. The sheets of Nori were deliciously crunchy!
Ingredients: Shiso or Pirelli Leaves, radish sprouts, raw fish, omelette, crab legs, fish roe, freshly grated wasabi, nori sheets.
Second Course – Shabu Shabu Hot Pot
My prep job with this course, was cutting the star pattern in the top of each mushroom and although I thought I did quite well at the time, the photos show I could have been a little neater.
Sometimes hot pot stock base is Bonito (fish) but our flavour base came from squares of strong looking kelp. Vegetables were added to the boiling stock in order of cooking time, the final being the brightly coloured Namafu.
Quite bland tasting by itself, Namafu absorbs all the flavours from the pot and adds a splash of colour. Talking of colour, Namafu mimicks the autumn colours of maple and gingko leaves – like those we’d just been admiring in the nearby temple garden.
When the vegetables were cooked we held fine slices of marbled beef between chopsticks and swished them three times (no more and no less) in the stock before placing them on the plate with a selection of vegetables. The beef was meltingly good – the minimal cooking time keeping the beef tender.
Cooking Hot Pot was a relaxed way of getting to know each other while eating delicious food and having fun.
Ingredients: Kelp, Wombok (Chinese) Cabbage, hot mustard leaf, daikon radish, Shitake and Enoki Mushrooms, noodles, tofu, Namafu.
Oh and I nearly forgot the addictive Goma-dare dipping sauce, made from ground Sesame, soy sauce, vinegars plus more.
Third Course – Fresh Fruit
A fruit platter was the perfect conclusion to such a tasty and healthy dinner. The persimmons were from a neighbour’s tree and Reiko said they were far sweeter than shop purchased ones. I hadn’t eaten persimmons since our Turkey trip and they were delicious. It was a pleasure to feel satisfied yet not over full at the end of three courses.
After Dinner Fun
For after dinner entertainment we tried the traditional Japanese game called Kendama. It involves a hand held timber toy with a spike and two different sized cups. The easiest form of the game involves throwing the attached ball into the air and catching it in the biggest cup/ small cup/spike. I fluked it and was applauded for my talents. It wasn’t as difficult as it looked but I only succeeded once and Marty not at all.
Winning Kendama moves!
Score 1 for me – I’m not usually talented in the games department.
We can’t wait for Reiko and her family to visit us at home in Australia. I wonder what Aussie game I might get them to play!
Thanks for visiting, I really appreciate it and would love you to add your travel post to the link below for Nancie’s Travel Photo Thursday which I co-host with Ruth from Tanama Tales and Rachel from Rachel’s Ruminations. This week I am also linking with a new link up called Lovin’ Life Link-up. The Link is in the sidebar. Pop on over if you’re interested. It is not just about travel but loving life in general.