Sunday, May 31, 2009

Boiled Crawfish

Boiled CrawfishWhen you smell boiled crawfish around your neighborhood in Louisiana, you know spring arrives. The season of Louisiana crawfish is from early spring to early summer. The best crawfish boil is done at home using a big pot with Cajun spices, potatoes, onions, corns, garlic and other vegetables and eat with many friends and family. This is one of the typical Cajun dishes. Do not hesitate to use your fingers to get dirty because this also brings the dynamic sprit of Cajun culture. Actually, it is impossible to eat crawfish without using your fingers!

Acadians, as the Cajun ancestors are known, originally came from France. In the early 1600’s, Acadians moved to settle Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in Canada when France established its colonies there. However, after British took over the colonies from France, in 1755 many of the Acadians were brutally deported. According to Wikipedia, more than 12,000 Acadians were expelled from Canada between 1755 and 1763.

Eventually, many of the Acadians escaped to Louisiana where France had colonized. First, they arrived to New Orleans, which was already occupied by other immigrants. As a result, they were forced out further southwest of New Orleans, which were undesirable swamp areas. They had to live in horrible conditions in which the summer was terribly hot and humid and malaria and yellow fever were constantly present.

Living in an unwanted swamp region was challenging. However, this circumstance gave plenty of “spices” into the distinctive Cajun cuisine.

Crawfish has been used for just bait for a long time. They had been considered as smelly and ugly creatures. However, throughout the tough life living in swamps, Cajuns discovered their unique taste and turned them into an exquisite Cajun dish. Adding Cajun spices, vegetables and, sometimes, Cajun sausages brings out the fine flavor of crawfish in an excellent way.

Boiled Crawfish
Once a year, my husband and I decided to eat boiled crawfish to celebrate whatever we wish. This spring, we celebrated my fist spring in Louisiana and have a high regard for Cajuns who amazingly survived, thrived in this region and developed their own unique culture.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Çoban Salata

Çoban SalataWhen Erika, one of my girlfriends, was dating with an Arabic boyfriend, she took me to a Turkish restaurant in Boston. I was very excited because it was the first time for me to taste Turkish food.
“Let’s start with Turkish salad and rice. They are really good, “ she said.
So we started with Çoban (pronounced “tso-ban”) Salata and pilaf. They were supposed to be appetizers. However, after we finished them, we decided to order the same dishes, again. I just fell in love with this simple yet delicious salad. The salad simply consists of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and parsley. But there was some particular spice I could not figure out at that time.

Turkish food is famous for various kinds of spices. That was why I believed the salad had some special spices until just a few weeks ago when I took the first Turkish cooking class. Unexpectedly, the menu was Çoban Salata, pilaf and two other dishes. I was thrilled. Then I found out that the secret of the delicious flavor was a popular herb, mint.

Mint is very easy to cultivate. In my garden, mint grows like weeds and out of control. It had never crossed my mind that this herb gives such a precious flavor.

By the way, Erika is still a beautiful and joyful bachelorette living in Boston. Her current boyfriend is Italian. So she takes me to Italian restaurants in Italian District whenever I visit her. She introduced me to numerous kinds of good food. I admire her excellent choice of food and, of course, her patient and generous men.

4 tomatoes
2 cucumbers
1 green pepper
1 cup chopped green onions
¼ cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
¼ cup finely chopped mint
3 tbsp chopped dill
Extra virgin olive oil
2 lemons
Optional: Feta cheese

1. Dice the tomatoes, cucumber and green pepper. Place them in a large salad bowl.
2. Add the chopped green onions, parsley, mint and dill. Pour the olive oil and sprinkle lemon juice. Stir them well.
3. Add salt and stir right before you serve. Serving with feta cheese is optional but it is good.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Green Beans with Tomato Sauce (Fasolakia)

One thing that extremely surprised me about my husband’s cooking is the use of lots of olive oil. His olive oil consumption is about 500ml per week. This is equivalent to mine for a few months.
“It has to be Greek, cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil,” my husband, whose native country is Greece, said and poured plenty of olive oil on meat, fish, vegetables, breads and even many of the Japanese dishes I make.

Fasolakia (or baby green beans in English) is one of the typical Greek summer dishes and requires lots of olive oil. Usually, I try to use less olive oil than my husband wishes. But for this dish, I do not hesitate to use tons of olive oil. Green beans match with tomato sauce and olive oil flavor very well.

Although green beans are a very popular summer vegetable in Japan, I did not know they are very nutritious food. Green beans are an excellent source of vitamin K, which prevents blood clotting, osteoporosis and oxidative cell damage. They are low in calories and very healthy food.
Fasolakia is usually served with feta cheese or anchovies. If you would like to try in a Greek way, cut down the salt in this dish and enjoy it with salty anchovies or feta cheese!
1 lb green beans
1 chopped onion
2-3 cloves of garlic
3 cups chopped ripe tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional: 3-4 chopped potatoes

1. Wash the green beans well. Cut off both ends. If they are too long, cut them half. If they have strings on the sides, remove the strings.
2. Heat 3tbsp of olive oil and the garlic in a large pot. Add the chopped onion and fry them until they become transparent. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and bay leaf. Add the green beans and the chopped potatoes (optional). Season the mixture with salt and black pepper and simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes until the green beans become soft.
3. Add the 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Serve this with feta cheese!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Burdock Kinpira (Kinpira Gobo)

Burdock Kinpira
Kinpira is a traditional Japanese side dish, in which small striped vegetables are fried with sweet soy sauce. Burdock kinpira is the most well known among all kinpira dishes. People started eating burdock roots about 300 years ago and at the same time kinpira became a typical home made dish. It was named after Kinpira whose father was Kintaro. Kintaro lived more than one thousand years ago and is famous from many children fair tales because of his supernatural capabilities. Since burdock is very healthy and believed to be an excellent source of energy, people named this dish after Kinpira.

Roots of young burdock are one of the most popular root vegetables in Japan. In China dried burdock roots have been used as an anti-fever and cough remedy for centuries. This vegetable is an excellent source of dietary fiber, zinc, potassium and vitamins B1 and B2. It helps to clean the stomach and intestines and to avoid constipation. Also it is high in inulin (a type of naturally occurring sugar in some plants not to be confused with insulin which is a hormone that affects metabolism), which can help to manage diabetes. However, in most of the European countries, they are treated just as weeds.

Sadly, I have not seen burdock roots in any regular grocery store here in Louisiana except in some Asian stores. Even thought I can find them in one local Asian store, most of the time, I always question the freshness of the vegetable.

The other day, I found some nice looking burdock roots at one of the Asian markets in my place. My friend, who is a nutritionist from Japan, suggested that they were fresh enough. Thus, I purchased one bag of burdock roots, nearly 2 lb, and decided to cook burdock kinpira.

Although burdock roots were not as fresh as I wanted, I really enjoyed burdock kinpira. I do not remember when I had kinpira for the last time. When I was in Japan, this dish was a common one on our family’s dinner table or in a lunch box. It reminds me of my mother’s cooking. I truly wish that people can appreciate the benefits of eating burdock roots and in the near future this vegetable would be available in many stores.

Using burdock roots and carrots is a typical combination. However, adding chicken, pork, or green beans can be more nutritious and also may become the main dish. Serve with rice!

1 lb burdock
2 carrots
1 red pepper
2 teaspoon roasted sesame (both white and black sesame are fine.)
3 tbsp sesame oil (any oil for frying is fine.)

Ingredients for sweet soy sauce:
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sake
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp sugar

Scrape off the skin of the burdocks. Do not peel off since the skin has a lot of flavor.
Cut into 1.5 inch-long small sticks. Put them in a bowl and add water until all the burdock sticks are covered. Add 1 tbsp of rice vinegar. Leave them for about 10 minutes in order to remove their natural harshness.
Peel the skin of the carrots and cut them into small sticks of the same size as the burdock sticks.
Slice off the stalk and remove the seeds of the red pepper. Cut into small rings.
Heat the sesame oil in a pot. Drain the burdock sticks well. Fry them along with the carrot sticks for 2-3 minutes. Add the ingredients for sweet sauce and the red pepper. Continuously fry for another 5 munities until all the sauce is gone.
Transfer to serving plates. Sprinkle them with the roasted sesame before serving.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Grilled Blue Fish

Grilled Blue FishA “Buy One, Get One Free!” advertisement always reminds me of a grilled fish in my family. When I cook a grilled fish, I usually make Greek version and Japanese version at the same time, which makes me feel that I get an extra for free!

Grilled fish is one of the very basic dishes in both Japan and Greece. Every time I visit Greece and order a freshly grilled fish, I always regret for not bringing with me a bottle of soy sauce. When we are in Japan, my husband always asks me for olive oil and lemon juice on front of a juicy grilled fish.

Therefore, when we cook grilled fish at home, we make a friendly decision for each other. We grill a fish and add different flavors for each other. Olive oil and lemon juice are necessary in Greek cuisine. Seasoning a fish with a lot of oregano and sprinkling olive oil and lemon juice makes the grilled fish authentic Greek / Mediterranean cuisine. Concurrently, soy sauce and sake (or mirin) are essential in preparing most Japanese dishes. Adding spicy ground daikon and ponzu or soy sauce on a grilled fish creates a perfect Japanese dish. Try both ways and decide which one you like!

Japanese Grilled Blue FishFor the Japanese version
3lb of a whole blue fish
½ cup freshly ground daikon (Asian white radish)
Ponzu sauce (or soy sauce)
§ 1cup soy sauce
§ ½ cup lime juice
§ ½ cup rice vinegar
§ 3 tbsp mirin
§ 5 tbsp dried bonito flakes
Mix them and leave the mixture overnight or for a few days. Strain.

1. Remove the guts, gills and scales of the blue fish. Wash it well and wipe water around the surface. Spray sake or brush sake on the fish.
2. Sprinkle with olive oil and lemon juice. Season the blue fish with a lot of salt both sides.
3. Prepare charcoal for barbeque.
4. Grill the fish until the fish is done.
5. Transfer them to a serving plate.
6. Drain the ground daikon. Place it on the serving plate. Pour 3-5 tbsp of ponzu or soy sauce.

Greek Grilled Blue FishFor the Greek version

3lb of a whole blue fish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Lemon juice

1. Remove the guts, gills and scales of the blue fish. Wash it well and wipe water around the surface.
2. Sprinkle with olive oil and lemon juice. Season the blue fish with the salt, black pepper and oregano both sides.
3. Prepare charcoal for barbeque.
4. Grill the fish until the fish is done.
5. Transfer them to a serving plate. Sprinkle the fish with olive oil and lemon juice. Serve with yogurt dip!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Meat Balls (Keftedes)

KeftedesAfter I watched the 2003 Greek movie, Politiki Kouzina (Istanbul Cuisine as it is directly translated in English or A Touch of Spice as it better known internationally) my Greek meatballs became spicier.

This is a story about a Greek boy who was born in Istanbul, Turkey. His grandfather had a small store selling spices in Istanbul and giving lessons to the little boy about not only spices and cooking but also about life and faith. When a political conflict between Greece and Turkey erupted, his family along with many other Greek families were deported from their hometown of Istanbul with just a few belongings. However, his grandfather was left behind. His family escaped to Athens, Greece, yet they were not fully embraced by their own people in Greece. After more than three decades, the boy, later became a world renowned astronomer, went back to see his dying grandfather for the first time since his family had left Istanbul. Throughout of this journey, he realized there was a touch of an important spice missing in his life.

In this beautiful movie, there was a scene in which the grandfather gave this little boy a tip of how to make delicious meatballs. Adding a little bit of cumin and cinnamon gives them incredible flavor. Right after I watched the movie, I tried to cook Greek meatballs and followed the grandfather’s tip. It came out excellent! I loved it and since then my Greek meatballs cannot be done without these hidden flavors.

The traditional Greek meatballs are usually fried coated with flour. However, this time I baked them in the oven, which made my life much easier. These meatballs can be served as an appetizer or part of a sandwich.

KeftedesGreek meatballs Recipe
Ingredients (about 20 to 25 meatballs):
1 lb ground beef
½ cup panko (bread crumbs)
1 finely chopped onion
2 cloves of garlic
¼ cup finely chopped flat leaf sparsely
¼ cup finely chopped mint
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus 3 tbsp olive oil for frying the onion and the garlic
1 egg
½ cup red wine
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
A pinch of cumin and cinnamon
Lemon juice

1. Heat 3tbsp of olive oil and the garlic in a large pot and fry the chopped onion until the onion becomes transparent.
2. Preheat the oven to 360 F degrees.
3. Place the onion and garlic with the rest of the ingredients in a big bowl. Mix them well. Leave the mixture for 10-15 minutes in room temperature.
4. Break off pieces of the mixture and make small meat balls and place them on an oven pan.
5. Bake them for 25-30 minutes. Transfer them to a serving plate. Sprinkle them with lemon juice. Enjoy them!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

BBQ Pork Loin Ribs (Like Paidakia)

Pork Ribs with French Fries“It tastes like paidakia,” my husband said.
Paidakia means “little kid ribs” in Greek. When my husband and I went to Greece for the first time, Stelios, my husband’s childhood friend, took us to a local restaurant in Marathon City (yes, this is the place where the first Marathon run took place, almost 2,500 years ago) where we had delicious paidakia. The barbecue pork loin ribs we had last week was the closest taste to the paidakia we could get in the US. They were as tender and juicy as paidakia.

I got these pork ribs from Target. I paid $6.16 for 4 chops with a $3 coupon. So it was $3.16, which was a great deal!

The real reason I went to Target was to buy meat for our cat. When one of our beloved cats died of cancer a few years ago and one woman told us that she cooked for her healthy 18-year-old cat, my husband and I decided to cook for our surviving cat. At that time, the news about toxic dog/cat food became a big issue. That incident also made us think that cooking for our cat might help him be healthy. We have bought chicken, pork, beef and catfish meats from a regular super market and baked them to feed our cat. As a result of this, our cat, which used to be obese and weighted more than 20 lb, lost lots of extra weight and now he is a healthy 13.5 lb. He is healthier than ever. He is now 14 years old but he is much more active than ever before.

Eating homemade food may help him to be fit and active. Buying meat and fish and cooking for a cat is a little bit pricier than just buying cat food. Yet, thinking of taking him to a hospital due to his overweight problem and other related problems, we simply believe this is a much cheaper and wiser option. I believe this healthy diet can apply to humans. Buying good food supplies and then cook at home may cost and take you some extra time but eventually it would pay off. You may be able to save a lot of money by not having serious health problems.

Eating good food does not mean eating expensive food. Cooking and eating $3.16 for 4 pork chops was a fantastic experience. Moreover it reminded me of that beautiful summer night in Greece.

BBQ Pork Loin Ribs Recipe

4 pieces of pork loin ribs
½ cup red wine
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove of sliced garlic
Oregano, salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon juice

1. Make some incisions in the meat and insert the sliced garlic in the pork ribs.
2. Place the pork ribs in a flat dish. Sprinkle the wine, ¼ cup of olive oil and 2-3 tbsps lemon juice. Turn to coat well. Season them with salt, pepper and plenty of oregano. Marinate them for about 15-20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, prepare charcoal for barbecue.
4. Grill the pork ribs until they are well done. Then, transfer them to a serving plate and sprinkle them with lemon juice. Serve with French fries and salad!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Greek Yogurt with Honey and Walnuts

According to the Global Sex Survey done by Durex, a British condom maker, every year, Greece has ranked No. 1 as the most sexually active nation in the past few years. My husband, whose native country is Greece, said, “This might not be accurate because Greek men are more likely to exaggerate how macho they are.” He may be right. It is difficult to tell this survey is correct since the questions are so intimate and it is impossible to verify the results are true.

It is said that this simplest Greek dessert, Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts, is an aphrodisiac. Couples eat this sweet before going to bed. Is this dessert really an aphrodisiac?

Surprisingly, yogurt, honey and walnuts contain high amounts of “fertility vitamins”, such as vitamins C, E, essential fatty acids (EFA), and zinc.

As stated by Bell Online:
Vitamins C, E and EFA are important for women.
Vitamin C “helps to protect cells and strengthen the immune system.“
Vitamin E may increase egg quality. “
EFA can help the health of your reproductive system, insulin levels, heart and brain.”

For men, Vitamins C, E and zinc are essential.
Vitamin C has been shown to reduce DNA damage in sperm by 91%. It is also shown to reduce agglutination and abnormalities.”
“Studies show that vitamin E can increase sperm potency by 2 ½ times.“
“Even a mild zinc deficiency can cause drastically lower sperm counts. Zinc may also improve sexual function.”

Yogurt is rich in zinc. Walnuts are high in EFA and also they contain some good amounts of vitamin E. Honey is an excellent source of vitamin C. Some vegetables and fruits are high in vitamin C. However, after harvest, they rapidly loose their vitamin C potency. As compared with these vegetables and fruit, honey keeps its vitamin C well.

So, is Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts an aphrodisiac? Honey is rich in tyrosine, which helps reduce stress. Eating this simple, yet, extremely healthy dessert may help relax. As result, people may feel intimate with their partners and this may be consistent with the results of the Global Sex Survey.
Greek Yogurt with Honey and Walnuts Recipe
1 cup Greek yogurt
¼ cup walnuts
3-5 tbsp honey

Place the Greek yogurt in a bowl. Add the walnuts and honey. That’s it. Enjoy it!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Hummus dip

It was no so long ago when I first tasted hummus dip. I was a graduate student in New York City and one of my classmates, who was from Israel, took me to a falafel fast food, yet authentic Middle Eastern restaurant. Falafel is a fried ball made of chickpeas. This is very popular fast food in Middle East. Usually, falafel balls are served as part of a sandwich. Such sandwiches are stuffed in pita bread along with fresh tomatoes, lettuce, onions and hummus (or chickpeas in Arabic). It is totally vegetarian food.

However, when I tried it first time, I thought it was ground chicken liver. It had a very rich flavor and texture. Also the seasonings that I had never teased enriched chickpea paste. After knowing it was made of chickpeas, I was amazed.

Making a GOOD hummus dip was not easy. Later, I become addicted to hummus.
I bought many kinds of hummus dips already packed and sold in stores. However, none of them was right. When I spoke about my hummus experience, my classmate, Jonathan, said, “It is very easy to make it. You just boil chickpeas and put them in a mixer with some tahini, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. That’s it!”

Therefore, I decided to make hummus. It had been quite challenging to make it just right. Each time I made it, I felt something was missing comparing with the hummus I had in the authentic falafel restaurant. It has been already a few years since I first made it. Now it feels pretty close to the authentic flavor! Hummus can be a good dipping sauce with vegetable sticks!
Hummus recipe
1 and ½ cups dried chickpeas
3-5 tbsps tahini
3-5 tbsps lemon juice
3-5 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon fresh ginger
1/8 ~1/4 teaspoon of cumin, coriander, cayenne pepper, paprika, salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ ~ ½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Soak the dried chickpeas overnight.
2. Wash the chickpeas. Place them in a pot and fill with water.
3. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Then, lower the heat and continue to simmer for 40-50 minutes until the chickpeas become soft. Strain the water and keep it aside. Put a few chickpeas aside for decoration.
4. Place the boiled chickpeas in a food processor along with all of the other ingredients and ¼ cup of the water from 3.
5. Process until smooth. Add more seasonings or water, if necessary.
6. Spoon into a serving plate. Add some paprika and decorate with a few boiled whole chickpeas and olives. Serve with pita bread!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Risotto with Calamari and Scallions

May 1st is the Festival of Flowers Day” uncle George from Greece said over the phone the other day. Like Greece, there are already a lot of flowers blossoming everywhere in Louisiana. It is the best time to be in the South! My husband and I bought a lot of plants to fill out the empty spaces in our garden this spring. Some plants already have many flowers. Their sweet fragrances and stunning colors make me very happy.

A Japanese proverb says, “dumplings are better than flowers”, which is similar to the sayings “pudding before praise” or “bread is better than the songs of birds.” This means that eating dumplings may satisfy you more (in a materialistic way) than just watching beautiful flowers. In order to make myself fully satisfied and also celebrate the “Festival of Flowers Day” on May 1, I decided to cook this seafood risotto.

I used ripe tomatoes in this risotto, which were grown in Louisiana that I found at a local market. They look a little unattractive, but very juicy. As I mentioned before for the Greek Salad dish in this blog, tomatoes are a very healthy vegetable. They are rich in vitamins C, A and lycopene. Unfortunately, cooking tomatoes may damage their vitamin C potency, because vitamin C is easily destroyed by heat. But humans can absorb lycopene in tomatoes more successfully (three to four times more!) if they are heat processed.

Sadly I ran out of dill and I was not able to find any in the market (our own dill in the garden is still to young to be harvested). So I used green onions instead of dill. However, using dill is highly recommended!

1 lb calamari
1 lb scallions
1 chopped onion
1-2 cloves of garlic
3-4 chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 cups rice
¼ cup green onion (dill is better!)
½ cup red wine
2 tbsp tomato paste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Wash the calamari pieces and scallions well. Cut the bodies of the calamari into rings.
2. Heat 3tbsp of olive oil and the garlic in a large pot and fry the chopped onion until they become transparent. Add the tomatoes and fry them for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the wine, tomato paste and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for about 20 minutes.
3. Add the rice in the tomato mixture. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes.
4. Add the calamari pieces, scallions and green onions. Stir and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or "al dente" (Italian for having it a little bit hard on the inside). Turn off the heat and add ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Culinary Travel to the Uontana Arcade (魚の棚商店街 - Uontana Shouten-gai), Japan

The Uontana Arcade (i.e., a covered market place) is one of the oldest arcades in Japan. It is located in the city of Akashi, Hyogo prefecture of Japan. It is operating for nearly 400 years. They say when the Akashi castle was built in 1619, the Arcade was created to provide fresh supplies to the people living around the castle. It is incredible that this Arcade still actively supports the daily life of the local population. The overall length of this Arcade is about 350 meters and there are about 110 stores selling everything from fresh fish, vegetables, fruits, freshly cooked/processed food, kimonos and traditional kitchenware, and so on. The city of Akashi is one of the primary fishing locations in Japan and especially the Akashi octopus and red snapper are well known all over Japan for their big size and delicate taste.

Since the fishing areas and the Arcade are very close to each other, fresh fish is brought from the sea twice a day, in early morning and afternoon. It is a very unique place while most of the Japanese fish markets have only one shipment in early morning. As result, this promotes the high quality of fishes in the Uontana Arcade. Although this is a very historical and attractive spot, many of the guidebooks for travelers in English, sadly, do not mention about this exciting tourist attraction.

One early summer day, when my husband and I visited my hometown of Takarazuka in Japan, we visited the Uontana Arcade along with my family. When my sisters told my husband, whose native country is Greece, that they would take us to a great fish market, he was very excited. Especially he was thrilled that the famous Akashi octopuses were in season. He immediately suggested cooking Greek food with the famous octopus for my family.
When we arrived at the Arcade , it was before noon. There were already many people looking around and shopping. People at the stores were energetically calling at us to attract our attention and trying to sell us their newly arrived fish, selfish, squid, and of course, the famous Akashi octopus. My husband said with high excitement that the fish markets reminded him of the fish markets in Greece where also fresh fish, selfish, and octopus are available. That is when he discovered the similarity between Japanese and Mediterranean cuisines, which mainly use fresh seafood and local vegetables. I also realized that people in Greece and Japan prefer to purchase a whole fish rather than buying a piece of fish fillet because with the fillet it is difficult to tell if it is fresh or not.
Before buying some fish for dinner, we decided to have lunch at one of the many sushi restaurants in the Arcade . It was an old traditional-looking restaurant. They let us sit on a traditional Japanese floor, or tatami, which is made of rice straws, and brought us oshibori, which is a wet hand towel usually offered in not only sushi restaurants but also in many restaurants in Japan. Each of us ordered a deluxe sushi set and some pieces of nigiri-sushi.
Big pieces of extremely fresh and delicious fish were used to make this sushi, which satisfied us in great deal. Particularly all of the sights and details fascinated my husband since it was the very first time for him to be in such a restaurant. “I feel like I am in a movie directed by Akira Kurosawa!” he said. Please do not forget to click on the slide shows about the Uontana Arcade and the Himeji Castle to the right of this blog.
After lunch, we went for shopping. We purchased an ultra fresh large octopus, some rockfishes and tuna sashimi. Of course, my husband cooked a delicious Greek food with them at that night.
Actually the world renowned Himeji Castle was the main spot we visited that day, which is the most visited castle in Japan. It is a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site and become internationally even more famous after it appeared in a James Bond film “You Only Live Twice” and also at two of Akira Kurosawa’s films, namely “Ran” and “Kagemusha”. The recent film ” The Last Samurai” had also scenes from this castle. This has been my most favorite castle in Japan and we enjoyed the many buildings, views from the castle and the stories behind this castle (including some stories about hunted places in the castle). The Himeji Castle is located only a few station stops away from the Uontana Arcade. If you are going to visit the Himeji Castle, you should definitely consider stopping by the Uontana Arcade. I bet you will have an amazing experience that most of tourists visiting in Japan are missing.