Thursday, April 05, 2012

Konichiwa Niseko!

Its been 12 years since my family and I went on a vacation together. Its been far too long and we should definitely not wait another 12 years before the next one! We always have so much fun as we have a common interest ie. food! I think our love for food came from my late father. He definitely loved to eat and when he was alive, he would always drag us out to obscure places for specific dishes he had discovered. Sotong bakar here, drunken prawns there,... Anyway, he would have loved this trip as we had some seriously amazing food. I haven't been back to Japan since I was 8 years old. We were in Tokyo then and funnily enough, most of my memories involve the food I had eaten back then. Chocolate ice cream cubes, beautifully laid out steam boat dinner, hot steaming roasted sweet chestnuts eaten on the bullet train, being carried by my brother so I could reach the bowl of ramen we had at a street stall. Hmmm, so I guess I've always loved food!

Top left: Lovely simple breakfast of rice, veg, seaweed and pickles at Kansai Washington Hotel. Superb! Creamiest tamago I've ever had but not sweet at all. Top right: Just your average regular beef. Look at that marbling! Bottom: Pigging out at ramen shop in Kuchan. 

Fast forward to 2012. We flew into Osaka for one night. Upon arrival, it was quite late in the evening already and we grabbed a bite to eat at McDonalds! I know, sacrilegious having McD's in Japan! But you know what. Its the best ever McD's I have ever had! The patty, cheese and bun taste very different. Who knows, maybe we were just really hungry. We continued our journey the following day to Chitose on Japan's new domestic airline called Peach. Its fairly cheap but they are pretty disorganised as they only started operations a couple of months ago. Kinda like Air Asia back then. Gasp! The horror! Yes, even the Japanese can be disorganised. But in a very calm manner. Oh but the food on board is way better of course. Once we got to Chitose, we had to take a coach to Niseko resort. It was a long and tiring 2.5 hour bus ride as I was feeling quite ill and Her Madesty was just full of beans! Despite being nauseous and looking after bouncy HM, I could still enjoy the landscape. It was really quite beautiful. Its a small place so the roads are extremely quiet and everything was covered in a blanket of snow. We stayed at Yutaka townhouse via SkiJapan which was just enough to house the entire family. Lovely townhouse with fully equipped kitchen, laundry, etc... All the things you would need for a longish vacation. The food in Niseko is delicious and being on the island of Hokkaido, all things dairy are to die for! I'm not kidding you when I say that you can get really decent food at their version of 7Eleven called Lawson. Lovely yogurt, milk and Hokkaido butter. Nyum! And this is not even the gourmet stuff. Wow, who can blame the Japanese for having such high standards? Their idea of junk is like gourmet for us. Guffaw. Prepackaged katsu sandwiches, onigiri, ice cream, they all taste amazing. HM was a great traveller and ate all that was presented to her, from shabu-shabu to onigiri to grilled tofu. Such a good little girl.

We had a lovely meal in a ramen shop in Kutchan (town near Niseko). We ordered gyozas and minced pork mayo sushi to the two bowls of ramen and fried rice. Yes, there were only three people eating. Well, four if you count HM. Loved the shoyu based soup. Didn't much care for the salt based soup as they put so much raw bean sprouts in there that it was just overpowering. We took away 3 portions of katsu rice for the kids dinner and the entire bill came up to less than RM140. Surely it would've cost more in KL? At Niseko we had a fabulous meal at Izakaya. Loved the raw squid marinated in uni, aromatic chargrilled squid and scallop sashimi. I have never tasted scallop sashimi like this. It actually has texture to it. Firm and sweet. Delicious! We had some nice dishes at A-Bu-Chan 2 the following night. Melt-in-the-mouth beef and scallops cooked in butter. Its a little bit pretentious and I much preferred the food at Izakaya.
Top: View from the gondola. So serene, all that powdery snow! Bottom left: raw squid with uni as a marinade, waaah! Bottom right: the biggest mother ebi sashimi we've ever had. Deliciously sweet & springy in texture.

We were sad to leave Niseko but Kyoto was calling. OMG! Chitose airport! The mecca of good food! You can get all kinds of Hokkaido goodies here. If you are flying out of Chitose airport, go very, very early to enjoy all the samples and eat till your hearts content! I am embarassed to admit that we did not see much of Kyoto. Apart from visiting Kyomizu Temple on our first day, we spend most of the time just wandering around the market (food) and looking for more food! So much to eat, so little time. Sigh. The Japanese diet must agree with me because I managed to lose weight despite eating so much. Speaking of weight, there really isn't any overweight people in Japan. Seriously, theres no one even vaguely chubby here. It was so obvious we were tourists. Big-sized, loud tourists from Mainland China. Choi!

We had some amazing meals in Kyoto. Akaneya Junshinken was some superb izakaya dining. I particularly enjoyed the marinated baby squid sashimi and stuffed and deep fried lotus "patty". Oh and the amazing stuffed yam dish which tasted like dim sum woo kok but so much more delicate in texture but full on in taste. Looking back, some of the meals have merged into one. Thats the problem when snack carries onto lunch and spills over to tea and melds with dinner! Sigh, blogging about all this food has made me miss the food again. I don't know how the Japanese do it because if I lived there, I'd be as fat as f%$@.

Top left: marinated raw baby squid. Bit squeamish at first but glad I ate it. Yum! Top right: one of the many things we ate going up to Kyomizu Temple and all the way down too! Bottom: HM's" tapow". I thought it was tamago but its actually sushi wrapped in swiss roll?!?! Very strange...

Love you Niseko-Kyoto, hopefully will see you again soon!