Page 19 - seniors today August issue
P. 19

egg meal for the waiter. A growing number of          Izakaya Yakitori and Shojin Ryori
        cafes and restaurants, including traditional          Izakaya and Yakitori often have vegetarian
        Japanese ones, offer vegetarian options and           options - brightly coloured root vegetables
        English menus. In convenience stores and              like daikon, yam, sweet potato, are grilled on
        bakeries, vegan snacks like dried fruits, nuts,       sticks with mochi rice cakes. Tempura, which
        red bean pretzels, edamame rolls, black sesame        is actually a Portuguese import, uses seasonal
        and cheese bagels satisfy hunger pangs. As do         and aromatic vegetables such as renkon or lotus,
        the wonderfully flavourful Ume Onigiris, which        satsumaimo or sweet potato and sansai or wild
        are rice with plums wrapped in seaweed. Even          mountain greens, which are a spring speciality.
        Shinkansens or bullet trains serve vegan ekiben       The influence of Shojin Ryori - a traditional
        or bento boxes!                                       Buddhist vegetarian cuisine - is evident in
                                                              modern Japanese food. Humble, yet elaborate,
                                                              these meals grew around Buddhist temples.
                                                              They feature seasonal, local vegetables and
                                                              a mind-boggling variety of tofu, to create
                                                              beautiful dishes using light cooking and
                                                              preserving techniques.
         A vegan bento box          Ume onigiri

         Kaiseki is the most elegant and extraordinary
        of all Japanese cuisine. Beautiful yet austere,
        ancient yet innovative, the ingredients are
        cooked or left raw, leading to a perfect balance of
        taste, texture, appearance and colour. The meals      Mushroom with tofu        Dessert at Benesse House
        have moments of great beauty and taste. White          Food, a love story
        miso with black sesame, foraged vegetables and          Eating good food, be it in a roadside shack or
        herbs, a confounding variety of tofu, the sharp        in Michelin star restaurants, is a passion. Often
        and sour pickled vegetables, are all served in         our dates of travel are fixed around reservations
        heirloom lacquer bowls. Pine needles and fall-         in hard-to-get restaurants.
        en leaves cover grilled gingko nuts and sit on          Add to this my deep love of Japan – its culture,
        centuries old ceramic plates. Gohan, or rice is        its aesthetics, and the beautiful simplicity
        served with a simple splash of colour, some-           of everyday things. In Japan, I feel I am time
        times hiding a nest of grilled wild mushroom,          travelling between the future and the past,
        sometimes crisp, with herbs, served in its own         between the ephemeral and the permanent.
        broth with seasonal flowers.                           Centuries old Buddhist temples exist peacefully
         It is easy for a vegetarian to feast on this awe-     with current fads, be it cat cafes or robot
        someness in Michelin starred restaurants and           restaurants. It is a place of contrasts - cherry
        ryokans by simply emailing food preferences.           blossoms and autumn leaves fall softly, and
        The chefs are only too happy to stretch their          tsunamis rage and ravage the coasts. This
        culinary creativity.                                   reconciliation of opposites I felt most keenly
                                                               while eating in Japan. Dishes, prepared
                                                               using the most cutting edge technology, are
                                                               served in traditional kaiseki feasts, often on
                                                               heirloom plates and bowls. Local ingredients
                                                               are interpreted, absorbing the latest in
                                                               international food trends, creating something
                                                               distinctively Japanese.
                                                                And with apologies to Ibn Battuta, Japanese
                                                               gastronomy – it leaves you speechless, then
        Kaiseki meal in Ryokan   Kaiseki meal with sha-        turns you into a storyteller.
                                                                                   SENIORS TODAY | Volume 1 | Issue 2
   14   15   16   17   18   19   20   21   22   23   24