hello and goodbye


Breaking the silence to say that I’ve moved to Tokyo.  Summer was lazy, and I did little besides watch anime, work out and travel with my family – almost no cooking was done, and I avoided writing all summer. The blank screen is a terrifying creature. While showering I’d mentally compose fragments about all the delicious things I ate in Paris, Malaysia and Burma – and then it all dissipated along with the steam from the shower.

Inspiration is not to be sniffed at, however, and a day trip to Enoshima with the Himesama drove me back to the kitchen the very next day.

It was genuinely perfect weather for the seaside – the tail end of summer is sunny, but not at all hot, the sea breeze whipping our hair into windblown messes. Cross the bridge from the station to the island, and take a walk up the hill —

— to various lookout points. We skipped the Enoshima Lighthouse Observation Tower, but even without a panoramic view of the ocean, I don’t think we missed too much. Another trip, another time.

An old man with whom we chatted with was at first curious as to why we were taking pictures of everyday-looking streets, surprised at our admission that this was our first time in Enoshima… and then incredulous to find that we weren’t actually Japanese. As we whiled away the better part of an hour talking, a ginger tabby sidled its way into the space between our thighs, and M and I couldn’t help but pet it. Humans, automated petting machines – same thing if you’re a cat, evidently. Selfish buggers.

Enoshima has unusually many cats, and though apparently all abandoned cats from outside the island, they’re very well taken care of here. (Visitors dote on them.) There’s even a donation box for them along the main road leading up to the shrine.

Along the sidewalks there are occasionally interesting picture tiles — this one was part of a series of shell-themed tiles along the left side of the island.

We found our way to the other side of the island where the Iwaya Caves are, and spent some time walking along the rocks.

Still, people evidently don’t just come here for the views —

— I can’t begin to express how amused and gleeful I was to find out that the five of them (with M at the bridge in the background) had come all the way down from Tokyo for the express purpose of recreating this picture. In the original, Akira, on the left is holding a duck named Tapioca; in this photo that’s a small bag of tapioca flour.

One of the high points was definitely listening to Hiraga Sachie’s Enoshima while riding the Enoden (江ノ電;えのでん) – something I’d wanted to do ever since hearing that song earlier this year. It’s a beautiful song – cheery, but somehow melancholy, about sea breezes, silver light, drifting, remembering hellos and goodbyes, all on the way to Enoshima.

We stopped at Kamakura and found our way to the beach in time for the sunset, and sat there into the darkness with the waves, the cars roaring past, gusts of salt wind.

The trip to Enoshima alone was splendid fun — I am glad that I ended up going with MQ, and not alone as originally planned — but getting Tsuritama swag didn’t hurt either. (It was part of a summer promotion where collecting stamps at four stations around Enoshima would get you the fans above. I know, I know…) One of Enoshima’s main tourist attractions, though, is the local specialty, shirasu-don (しらす丼;しらすどん) – ‘shirasu’ being baby anchovies or sardines.

A man we met on the train to Katase-Enoshima, who was visiting his parents, recommended that we visit Tobiccho for exactly that. There were queues at Tobiccho. If there’s a queue in Japan, what’s at the end is usually worth the hype. We looked at the 12.30 crowd, left, came back at 2.30 and there was still a long queue. The wait was blessedly quick though, and pretty soon we had this beauty sitting in front of us.

Tobiccho is, I believe, deservedly famous. Our 2-colour shirasu-don (生しらす釜揚げしらすの2色丼, 1313円; half raw, half boiled shirasu-don, Y1313) was some kind of mini-revelation, a symphony of flavours and textures. Crisp, sweet, finely grated daikon, carrots and purple cabbage. Mild, slimy seaweed. Raw and boiled shirasu mingling and dissolving on my tongue, highlighted spicy grated ginger and daikon. The whole thing bound together by the sticky richness of an onsen tamago (hot spring egg).

Both of us sat there for close to an hour, washing every other mouthful down with miso soup (made with their special seaweed). It was a good meal – no, it was awesome. So awesome that I couldn’t stop thinking about it all the way back to Tokyo, and mentally constructing a homespun version in my head. So awesome I had it for lunch again today.

I can’t make any claims as to its authenticity, and don’t intend to, neither being Japanese nor from Enoshima. But while hardly as refined as Tobiccho’s version, it was still delicious. Delicious enough to write home about. It’ll keep summer alive for a while here — at least, until my supply of Tobiccho shirasu runs out.

Home-style shirasu-don
Serves as many as you please

A bibimbap-esque dish like this is very much about ratio, and thus attaining a perfect interplay of textures and flavours – crisp, gelatinous, crunchy, sticky, savoury, sweet, citrusy, gingery, etc. None of the ingredients should be texturally too dominant, but rather complement each other. For an amateur such as myself, julienning is the kind of kitchen work that might drive one to drink, or to invest in a grater. (You can imagine which one I’ll be doing…) Once the chopping is done, though, assembly is a snap – it’s simply a matter of arranging and mixing.

Ratio is largely a matter of personal taste, but it’s important that there should neither be too little or too much rice — just enough for the egg to be able to slickly bind everything together. Here, I used sansho-flavoured tsukudani shirasu (marinated and/or preserved shirasu) from Tobiccho, but it would probably work with different kinds of shirasu, or even replaced with something like cooked minced meat for a Not-Shirasu-Don. If using tsukudani shirasu, a light hand with the seasonings is likely best to allow all the delicate flavours to emerge. Ponzu is particularly recommended for a burst of citrusy brightness.

Cooked short-grain rice
Tsukudani shirasu
Daikon (Japanese white radish), julienned
Carrot, julienned
Chives, finely chopped
Lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
Reconstituted wakame (seaweed)
1 onsen tamago (hot spring egg)

Any or all of the following seasonings: 
Shichimi (7-flavour pepper)
Shoyu (soy sauce)
Ponzu (citrus sauce)
Kewpie mayonnaise
Grated ginger and/or daikon
Sesame seeds, toasted

For the wakame:
Reconstitute some wakame in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain. Dress with a pinch of dashi powder, a drizzle of sesame oil (go lightly), mirin, ponzu and soy sauce. Set aside.

Onsen tamago:
Method courtesy of Harumi Kurihara10 minutes before you want to eat, put a room-temperature egg in a bowl and pour boiling water over it. Cover and leave for 10 minutes. Drain.

To assemble:
Mound cooked rice in a bowl. Arrange carrot, daikon, lettuce, shirasu and wakame in bowl. Crack the egg atop this mess and pour a little ponzu on top. Sprinkle generously with chopped chives. Mix and devour immediately, seasoning with shichimi, ponzu sauce, shoyu, Kewpie mayonnaise, grated ginger or daikon, and/or toasted sesame seeds to liking.

Tobiccho (main branch)
1-6-7 Enoshima, Fujisawa City, Kanagawa, 251-0036
11:00~20:00 (last order)
nearby, but they have no customer-specific parking available. 
their operating days aren’t always fixed, and they’ll close in case of typhoons and the like – when possible, check before heading there.


6 Replies to “hello and goodbye”

  1. Wow this looks rill nice. The shirasu-don I mean. I once ate one in California that had raw kale and avocado in it! I love the shots of the ocean and the town too. Hope you keep this blog alive while you’re in Japan.

  2. お久しぶりです。lang-8のJunです。東京で勉強されているんですね。知りませんでした。新しい記事を楽しみにしてます。

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