For the holidays, my mom got me a copy of Japanese Soul Cooking
, a cookbook by Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat. The book explores the comfort foods you’d find in both neighborhood restaurants and in homes and includes step-by-step photographs. Although I haven’t tried the recipes yet, before leaving for Japan I jotted down a few of the author’s favorite places in Tokyo to try some of the dishes shared in the book. They noted that the recommendations were Japanese speaking only, but not to let it discourage you.
My top choice was to try soba at Kanda Matsuya, founded in 1884. I found a long line of people and assumed I was in the right place, but checked with the group of people behind me in line to be sure. They were curious as to how I found out about Kanda Matsuya, so I told them about the cookbook and they invited me to sit at their table. I had planned on ordering hot soba, but instead went with the cold soba they recommended (along with a thick potato soup, tempura, and grilled chicken and pork to start). The cookbook has some interesting history and information woven in with the recipes, one note being that for mori soba, made up of just cold soba, dipping sauce, and garnishes, the soba needs to be perfect.
When we were just about finished with the mori soba, a pot of sobayu – the leftover hot water that the noodles have been boiled in - was brought to the table. This is poured into what sauce and spices are left in the dipping bowl after finishing the soba.
There is so much more that I’d want to try and see in Tokyo, but Kanda Matsuya and Takemura (below) are the two places I’d absolutely want to experience a second time. Founded in 1930, Takemura offers tea and sweets like oshiruko, a sweet bean soup with mochi. We were welcomed with a cup of sakurayu, a drink made from salted cherry blossoms in water. After we finished the tea and soup, my new friends wrote my name on a chopstick wrapper. This would have to be the best souvenir from the whole trip, and it will be put in a frame. Arigatou gozaimashita!