School Lunch in Okinawa October 1-4

Monday October 1

Menu: Milk, barley rice, cabbage chanpuru, baked miso fish fillet, clear broth root vegetable soup

Review: Its been about three weeks since I’ve had any of these meals.  Normally, I’d have expected two weeks of American food to wash away any true memory of the dishes.  Strangely, this trip I was disappointed by food I ate.  I went and searched out all the foods that had strong memory ties, yet they all felt flat compared to my memories, that or perhaps four years of eating Japanese food has finally changed my palate.  The flavors in Japanese food are distinct, yet clean.  Natural ingredients highlight the flavors of the components, rather than attempt to change them.  Above you’ll see a traditional Japanese meal.  Rice, soup, fish, and vegetables in a tasty balance.

Tuesday October 2

Menu: Milk, kufaa ju-shi- rice, marinated vegetables, baked cheese and fish, fatty tofu soup

Review:  My last meal in the US before jumping on my plane in LAX was at Panda Express.  I know, it’s not fine dining, but I always enjoyed the orange chicken there, and nothing else popped out.  Still, I ended up getting a rice bowl with fried rice under the chicken.  I got through about half the chicken than tasted the rice.  It was probably the most flavorful rice I’ve ever eaten.  Even with vegetables and egg mixed in, it somehow had no taste.  Even the simple white rice we have at school has a delicious if subtle flavor that makes it worth eating.  Though I try not to waste food, the rice was so blah I didn’t finish it.  Now the rice you see above, with all kinds of goodies mixed in, is in a whole other realm.  Unlike my Okinawan fried rice recipe, ju-shi- is all cooked together when the rice is made so it has a different texture and flavors.  It’s the kind of rice often eaten on New Years and special days where offerings are made at family shrines.   Maybe I’ve been spoiled.

Wednesday October 3

Menu: Milk, taco rice, prune, Chinese cabbage soup

Review:  If the portion above looks a little large, it’s because it is.  When scheduled change and extra food shows up, sometimes the portions get a little out of hand.  That happened this time with a whole load of extra rice and meat.  I have to say that with this meal the original take is better.  Tacos are great be it on rice or tortilla, but this version is flavored for a wide range of students, so most of the usual spices are omitted.  It ended up being nutritious but almost sweet, which the inclusion of sweet peppers didn’t help.  Overall, I wish they had just gone and used a seasoning packet, but then some students might not have eaten it.  An okay meal, but not very Japanese, and only vaguely Mexican.

Thursday October 4

Menu: Milk, mushroom spaghetti, chestnut croquet, consomme soup

Review:  This meal, while tasty was far from Japanese.  The only thing that kept this one from one bowl was the soup.  Even that was rather nontraditional, but how often have you had spaghetti and vegetable soup together?  The croquet was dry and rather strange as well but all together the meal was pretty good.  There were two people who hate shitake mushrooms, so it was kind of funny watching them pick each one out of their meals.  Something I might have done before coming to Japan.

Friday I took off to fly to Japan for the launch of Samurai Awakening.  From now on, each week I’ll bring you a new post on Japan.  Thanks for reading More Things Japan!