Food in Japan is typically only steps away from your door step. It is accessible, it is cheap, it is delicious. You may even come to realise that eating out is much cheaper than preparing yourself. However, you will hit a point where you miss home cooked meals and that is where I am at.
After living in Japan for weeks, I finally decided to cook in the kitchen of my apartment. Although Japan has much great foods to offer, I wanted to eat something that reminded me of home. I missed my parents cooking. I wanted to eat something to reminded me of my family kitchen, of my dad’s cooking. My parents retired in July last year after opening a Chinese restaurant for over 33 years. For most of my life, I had different dishes every night and simply ordered off the menu. Now, I have not only moved out but am overseas. Food maybe accessible, cheap and delicious, but I do crave home cooked meals. There is always a certain satisfaction or enjoyment you get from being able to cooking something from scrap in your own kitchen too. As a result, texted my mom and asked her to send me a recipe and steps for making one of my favourite dishes, Steamed Black Bean Pork Chop.
The recipe and instructions seemed easy enough. I headed for the local supermarket to my apartment with the list of ingredients in mind. I thought it would be easy to find the stuff I needed, but I was so so wrong. According to the recipe, I needed corn starch to mix with black bean, water and pork chop. Corn starch helps the pork chop taste better according to my mom’s notes. However, I had no idea which flour was which on the shelves of the supermarket because the text or packaging was all different. I never thought that finding flour for cooking purposes in Japan would led to an odd Gaijin experience.
I literally stood in the flour aisle for 10 minutes trying to figure out which flour was which. The language barrier was one thing, but the different in types of flour in the supermarkets was another. Back in Australia, we have white flour, plain flour and corn flour. Nice and simple titles on the packaging. In Japan, it wasn’t so clear. There is weak plain flour, strong plain flour, corn starch (made out of potato) and corn starch (written in katakana). The whole process figuring out the flour was pretty hilarious because I attempted to ask the shop assistant and even she has no idea which one for the purpose of my dish. At one point, we had 3 shop assistants and myself all standing in the aisle looking at the flour and such staring. Like said, odd Gaijin experience.
I did end up buying a type of flour during that trip, however, after a little trial and error, I bought a bag of weak plain flour and one bag of corn starch used by potato. As it turns out, I should of bought the corn starch flour labelled コンスタチ. After a second attempt, my dish was a success. I didn’t end up steaming the pork chop because my rice cooker and stove are not capable of doing so. However, I did cook it in my fry pan and it tasted divine.
I do foresee more cooking challenges in the future in Japan. As it turns out, supermarkets in Japan mainly sell ingredients suited for Japanese food only. I never realised how easily accessible ingredients and produce was back at home. Flour is not only confusing here, but shopping for food is not cheap as I thought it would be. I never expected I had to pay 980Yen for a small bunch of grapes or 380 Yen for three big juicy apples.
You may think that maybe eating out isn’t too bad and it really isn’t. It may turn out to be more convenient and cheaper at times, however, I miss home cooking. My dad’s cooking more specifically. However, dad is not here with me, so I will continue to experience the ingredients here and see what I can make.
What you have in your kitchen is crucial as it gives you indication what you can cook or not. The kitchen in my Japan apartment, no doubt, seems dramatically different to what I had in my house back in Brisbane. I shouldn’t and haven’t complained because having seen what my friend kitchen looks like in their Tokyo apartment, I can definitely say I am lucky. Until recently, there is a new addition to my kitchen and that is an oven. I made a trip to Costco with my friend, A, a few weeks ago. We did some serious shopping where we bought not just the oven, but also bacon, ravioli, pesto paste, crackers, and some other baking good. A and I are hoping to do more cooking and backing in the coming months. For more, I leave you with the featured photo for this post. It is eggs and bacon, cooked from the ingredients we bought from Costco. But anyways, keep watching this space on what dishes we make or discover on our adventures.