Culinary Memoirs of A Biologist Who Loves Food

Welcome, Be Hungry, and Know Your Food!

"Know and learn from what you eat or else you'll be eaten", this is the main idea of this blog that set by a young Indonesian biotechnology researcher, Adhityo Wicaksono. Enjoy reading this blog, and hopefully later you can understand the depth of foods, beverages, and ingredients of the world through details within science and culinary art!

Latest

Quest to Find Indonesian Most Pricy Mushroom – Kulat Pelawan (Part I)

Mushroom is everyone’s favorite around the globe. Aside of its property as healthy food, which is because it has fiber as plant does, and it also has amino acids which normally found in animal tissues. This makes mushroom a good vegan substitute for meat.

Throughout the globe, mushroom comes from both cultivation (i.e. shiitake, oyster mushroom, maitake, enokitake, etc) and also mushroom hunting in the wild (i.e. black trumpet, truffle, chanterelle, morel, etc), and even mushroom hunting is one known tradition during fall season. Interestingly, the mushroom species gathered from the wild has very indulgent price, soaring up from USD 10 per kilos to USD 10,500 per kilos (truffle).

In Indonesia, wild edible mushroom is less known than the cultivated one. There are plenty of them are available in this country, such as:

  1. So mushroom (Javanese: So = Gnetum gnemon plant) or Scleroderma aurantium, which are edible when it is till young
  2. Bantilung mushroom, native on Kalimantan island
  3. Supa kelapa (Calvatia sp)
  4. Suung bulan/Moon mushroom (Gymnopus sp)
  5. Kulat Pelawan/Pelawan mushroom (Heimioporus sp)

This time, we will explore the most pricy and valuable of them all: Pelawan mushroom from Bangka island, which price could stand to USD 200 per kilos!

kulat-pelawan_20170404_072051

The shroom on its natural habitat (Source: Sajiansedap.com)

Hutan-Pelawan1

Pelawan trees (the ones with red barks) (Source: ddwkkbangka.blogspot.co.id)

What makes the facts about this mushroom even crazier is: It is rare because it grows only on Pelawan tree (Tristaniopsis merguensis Griff) that grown in Bangka (as people claimed so far) only during rainy season, then IT GROWS ONLY IN A TREE WHICH HAS BEEN STRUCK BY LIGHTNING!

Probably it sounds like a magic stuff comes from your fantasy book. But it is actually make sense if you see it from scientific side. Lightning is actually contributing on atmospheric nitrogen fixation (turning atmospheric nitrogen, N2, into NO or nitrous oxide compounds, which later carried to the ground by rain, forming NO3 or nitrate, a plant nutrient) which is 5-8% of total nitrogen fixation (Noxon, 1976; Anonymous, 2011). Other things, I heard it from my biology lecturer that plant growth would be amplified under strong electric induction, and this is the reason why the plants grow under the electric grid are bigger than normal – this should has some connection with the nutrient flows.

The Pelawan tree and the mushroom forms a mutual symbiosis relationship. The mushroom grows as an ectomycorrhizae in the tree roots (Tasuruni, 2012). As the mushroom gets its place to live, the tree obtains extra nutrients as the fungal hyphae extends the surface area of the root hair.

Okay, stop with the crazy science talk.

So I decided to order the dried mushroom online, IDR 200k (USD 20) for 100 g via Tokopedia (here). Surprisingly, my order arrived on the next day!

 

First impression upon unboxing: The mushroom has very strong smoky flavor. Then I soaked the mushroom for around 15 mins (some said that I supposed to soak it overnight) and then I cut the stalks.

img_6023

The mushroom, soaked

Then I sliced the mushroom, and prepared some fettuccine.

img_6024

The sliced shrooms, the mushroom water, and the pasta

Then I sauteed the mushroom with olive oil, add the mushroom water, some seasonings (salt and pepper only, since I wanted to try it naturally), and as the flavor is very strong, I added some dash of cream on it.

img_6026

Fettuccine with Pelawan Mushroom

Even after I added some cream, the smoky flavor was still very strong. I wonder how should I cook it as pasta dish and as Indonesian Bangka original dish.

Today, I decided to give it to my friend, Daniel Vigone from MammaRosy Kemang Jakarta. I wonder how he’s gonna cook it.

And I think the story will continue, as I planned to go to Bangka to investigate the Pelawan forest in Namang village for myself this May or June.

(To be continued)

-AW-

KULAT PELAWAN – Heimioporus sp

Class: Basidiomycota

Family: Boletaceae (in the same family as Porcini or Cep, Boletus edulis)

Distribution: Supposedly endemic on Bangka island, Pelawan Forest on Namang Village

Price: IDR 2 million/USD 200 per kilograms

References:

Anonymous, 2011. The Nitrogen Cycle, https://www.saylor.org/content/BIO_Kimball/users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/N/NitrogenCycle.html, accessed April 9th, 2018

Noxon, J.F., 1976. Atmospheric nitrogen fixation by lightning. Geophysical Research Letters3(8), pp.463-465.

Tasuruni, D., 2012. Morphological and ITS rDNA Sequences Analysis of Pelawan Ectomycorrhizal Edible Mushroom and its Ectomycorrhizal Structure. Thesis. Institut Pertanian Bogor.

Advertisements

Indonesian Cheese: Dangke (from Enrekang, South Sulawesi)

There are literally THOUSANDS of cheese variants throughout the globe. But I believe only a small number of people knows that there is a cheese variant in Indonesia. First, before you think that I’m bluffing that it is cheese, let me explain about it etymologically:

Meriam-Webster Dictionary: Cheese (n) a food consisting of the coagulated, compressed, and usually ripened curd of milk separated from the whey

Bahasa Indonesia Great Dictionary: Cheese (n) a food made from the essence of milk by hardening fermentation

So to be defined as cheese, a milk should be processed, fermented, and sometimes compressed to solid form.

img_5758

Dangke cheese, on its raw uncooked form

Dangke, cheese made in Enrekang regency of South Sulawesi (north from Makassar), is made of buffalo milk. Instead coagulated by rennet like usual cheese, it is coagulated using a protease enzyme extracted from the latex of papaya (Carica papaya) called papain. The latex of papaya itself tastes bitter. So right amount of concentration and proper mixing is required to make this cheese.

How to enjoy it? During my visit to Makassar, I visited my girlfriend house and her mother marinated the sliced cheese with the mixture of salt, garlic, and coriander, mashed together and poured with water before the cheese is being fried. The result is just fantastic!

img_5759

Fried Dangke

img_5761

The interior of bitten dangke

It has a bit or fried exterior like fried Halloumi from Cyprus, rich and a bit bitter taste like Emmenthal from Swiss, and soft, porous texture like tofu or Paneer from India. Although this one is bitter in some cuts, showing that the mixing of papain is quite uneven. However, it is one of the best experience that I would have and it is very interesting that we have our own cheese!

DANGKE

Originated: Enrekang regency, South Sulawesi, Indonesia

Price: Around IDR 25.000,00

Milk: Water buffalo

Hardness: Semi-soft

Further fermentation: Not required

Coagulation: Papain (proteinase) from papaya latex

Melting: No

Frying: Yes

Expiry: Only in hours if placed outside refrigerator, up to 2-3 days refrigerated

-AW-

Midnight Snack – Perkedel Bondon, Bandung

Bandung is a artsy and full of youth spirits heaven in the West Java. Creativity and diversity of the citizens and the students of many universities in Bandung, including some of the national tops are becoming the source of the radiant light of Bandung life. And we all know, no life would be sustained without a food, a good food to be exact! Bandung is a city filled with tons of delicacies that would attract all culinary tourist to come. It’s all from the traditional ones like nasi tutug oncom, gepuk, lalab, and surabi, to uncountable modern ones.

From the late 2-3 years behind, I heard a news about a perkedel stand in Bandung that opens at 11 pm, and right before it opened, it already packed with lining up costumers!

For those who doesn’t know what perkedel is, it is a fried mashed potato, which sometimes also made of maize, mixed with leek or meat, and usually coated with egg white prior to frying it. The name might similar to frikadeller, a Danish flat meatball which might introduced during Dutch colonial period.

And about the name “Bondon”, maybe it would be inappropriate to say it out loud, but it means “prostitute”. Maybe it compared to the food because it opens at night and only localized in one place. Well, no comment about it!

Okay, back to topic! So, how the famous Perkedel Bondon looks like??

Here’s the story:

Since the place is quite far away, I decided to buy it using Go Food service and I ordered it about 11:06 pm (6 minutes late, I was overslept). Moments after the order received, this conversation happened:

Go Food: Evening, sir. I’d like to confirm, did you ordered Perkedel Bondon?

Me: Yes, I did

Go Food: Umm sir, before I proceed, I’d like to ask if you had ever buy it before?

Me: Nope, what about it?

Go Food: The line is already long and it would probably took 1 hour to the kitchen! I’d suggest if we bypass the line by bribing the parking officer so I could go straightly to the kitchen and have your order. What do you say? Let’s say we give ’em about 10000 rupiahs (a bit more than USD 1.1)

Me: Errrr, okay. But don’t take it from my Go Pay point, I’ll pay the 10000 later when you’re here

Go Food: Right away, sir

I know, bribery is bad. But I feel bad if the Go Food driver have to wait for an hour and in one hour probably I would be fell asleep since the next day I will have an important presentation.

Curious and curiouser, how good it would be since they have a queue that long??

Then, surprisingly, 20 mins later, the driver arrived. He said that he was number 16 on the line and that was even minutes after the store opened!

Now, unboxing time!

img_5762

Appearance-wise, it looks quite normal

Unlike normal perkedel, its outer surface is crunchy and sometimes there are some chopped leek. Along with the perkedels, they also provide a sauce, from its appearance, it looks like a sambal.

img_5763

Inside, it seems so fluffy and good

Okay, here goes nothing!

img_5764

With the sambal

Plainly, it tastes just flat. Very mild. I doubt that I taste any hint of pepper and salt. The flavor is straightly the potato taste and with a hint of leek. Once I dink it to the sambal, a strong shrimp flavor arise. It appears that the sambal is mixed with fermented shrimp paste (terasi or ebi, not sure), which enhances the flavor.

In the end, I’d say it is not bad. It is crunchy, hearty, and makes you full easily, but flavorwise, it just plain without the sambal and nothing else. Funny thing is, after I let it down in my room until the next morning, the flavor enhances, it becomes richer, especially in leek flavor. I don’t know if I say this: Safe it for your breakfast!

PERKEDEL BONDON

Jalan Suniaraja No.134, Bandung (near Bandung Station)

Open Hour: Everyday 11:00 pm – 03:00 am or until it all sold out

Price: IDR 2000 each piece

Note: Buy it by Go Food IN TIME, or wait in line for hours

-AW-

Zenraku Dashi Chazuke, Jakarta

It has been 3 months since I made a visit to Japan, and seriously, I still miss their colorful but simple food. I love Japanese food so much. For me their food is so natural (some people, especially some Indonesian think that it is too bland, not for me though) and their basic tastes are simple: sweet, salty, sour, and umami – and I like it. So in short, after my food hunting in Tokyo (Ikebukuro, Chuo, and specifically Tsukiji Fish Market), Kyoto, and Niigata (for sushi), I am still looking if I could have some again here in Jakarta.

A month ago, there is a new restaurant to try in Grand Indonesia, and it is a Japanese restaurant. As their sponsored ads were popped up in my Instagram feed, and it caught my attention, I decided to make it a try on their opening day (January 19th, 2018). Their spot is cozy, their food price is also good and reachable, and the taste is cool – let’s talk about it on my review!

“So, I know you know about ochazuke. What is it?”

Chazuke or ochazuke (お茶漬け) means to submerge in tea (ocha お茶漬), so basically is a rice dish, consists of rice (plain, white) with some toppings (from fish, beef, chicken, roe, or more), then poured with tea, or hot water, or dashi (出汁) a fish (normally made of drenched fermented bonito fish flake or katsuobushi 鰹節) and or kelp (kombu 昆布) based broth, which is rich in natural umami flavor that enhance the flavors of the main ingredients to the next level. Originated in Heian Period of Japan (794-1185), hot water is used. Later in Edo Period (1603-1868). Funny enough, in Kyoto, this dish called bubuzuke and when it served to you as a guest, that means you have been overstayed in the restaurant and THAT is a polite way of the restaurant servers to ask you to leave. But I believe in Zenraku, since the main theme is chazuke, it doesn’t mean that way! Hehe (but of course don’t stay too long and buy nothing, it’s improper!).

So I ordered two kinds of chazuke that day: Salmon – as my first impression to see if the fish is good, and tarako or pollock roe – my favorite topping in pasta and onigiri during my visit in Japan.

img_2742

Salmon Chazuke and by the way, this is typically the set that you get: The dish, pickles plus wasabi, and a pot of dashi

So their basic rice topping is chopped mitsuba leaf (三つ葉 – it is a fragrance and a bit spicy leaf), nori (seaweed), white sesame seed, chopped leek, and tempura crumble. In some dish I saw edamame or green soybean is also added. The salmon is partially broiled, mainly on the surface. It is delicious as I tasted it. Once I poured the dashi, wow it escalated! It is awesome!

Initially, I thought there is a tea added to the dashi, but actually it is a fish-based dashi and it brings a perfect amount of salty flavor (added into the dashi), to the whole meal!

img_2748

Tarako Chazuke

The second meal, Tarako Chazuke, I poured the dashi a bit gently over rice, not to hit the roe as it will change its consistency and probably the taste. In short, I keep it raw, while I use the dashi to enhance the flavor of the rest part and slowly sips into the roe. And wow, wow, it is so delicious. The combination of tarako saltiness and the umami, it is just spot on!

It is not enough!

So then I made my second visit (February 1st, 2018). If I love the foods, I will made my second visit. This time, I couldn’t spot the Japanese chef. So things rest to the main chef of the restaurant now.

Today’s decision: To try something new (so I tried the sampler) and I think I need more fish, but probably the different one (red snapper).

img_7084

Red Snapper Chazuke

Different from the salmon, red snapper is served as cubes, and already marinated with sweet soy based sauce. The sweetness balance the saltiness of the dashi. It has more flavor than the salmon and it is delicious!

img_7082

Sampler Dashi Chazuke – Left to right: Beef, unagi (broiled eel in tare sauce), and chicken.

An extra chopped thin omelette (tamagoyaki) is added into the chicken and unagi, and edamame is also added specifically in unagi. I like the beef as it is soft and kinda melted to the rice, the chicken is good, and the unagi, it is okay – the problem is the unagi is a bit hard. In conclusion, the beef is the best one among the three.

Then, I finished my meal. All my meals are awesome, I have to say. The atmosphere was relaxing, I’d love to make another visit again someday. The price is okay, it’s reasonable and matched the quality. The thing I needed to complain is the waiter/waitress. They’re still a bit clumsy and confused during the opening, and I got a wrong food. I believe they could make it better soon, so overall, I was enjoying my lunch!

ZENRAKU DASHI CHAZUKE

Food rating: 5 out of 5

Service quality: 3 out of 5

Grand Indonesia – West Mall LG Floor. Jl. M.H. Thamrin No.1, Kb. Melati, Central Jakarta, Indonesia. Phone: +62 21 2358 0486

Cards? – Yes, Debit – Mandiri and BCA

Opening Hour:

Everyday at 10:00 am – 10:00 pm

Price Range:

Food: Chazuke (IDR 49k – 72k, extra toppings IDR 12k – 38k, add ons IDR 4k – 12k), Others (IDR 15k – 42k)

Beverage: IDR 8k – 52k

Foursquare: –

TripAdvisor: –

Zomato: Link

Tips: It probably will be crowded during lunch or dinner hours.

-AW-

2018 – Fresh Start!

Hey guys! It has been a wonderful 2017 and I hope this year I can write many food stories here!

Let me start everything by flashback from 2013, the first road as a food blogger and writer. If you wondered why I decided to become someone like this, you maybe know: I was inspired by Anton Ego in Ratatouille and Gordon Ramsay. It is a head-up start. As I eat here and there, sometimes I was wondering about why things are quite fluctuative here in Indonesia, especially Jakarta. People were experimenting their own creations and MOST of Indonesian bloggers I know, they are simply saying “The food is good! Try one!” and “The restaurant is a good place for hangout, come there!” but they made me wonder a big question:

WHY?

In 2013, I met various talented chef and awesome restaurants during my career as food journalist on ShoppingMagz. But sometimes, I also met some cringey restaurants which tried to present me mediocre foods, but they wanted me to promote them. I also remember one story that they didn’t want me to review their food but they wanted me to promote their restaurant. Another story, this one is a quite tragic one: I found some really good restaurant, they are unique, had some original recipes and creations, sadly they were unpopular an even went to bankrupt.

WHY?

That’s my question, again. Then it lead me to write my own articles here where I could explore my writing style and telling people the truth. I was then decided that I have to be a food critics in Indonesia!

But it was SO HARD.

Reason? One, many of us are stubborn.

Me: Your food should be better if you add blablabla *ingredients*, don’t you think?

R: But, I think it was great this way

Two, many of us love to make a weird trend, called in Indonesian “kekinian” (direct translate: “nowadays”; simply “caught the eyes of the youths”). They add Nutella, Ovomaltine, green tea powder (2014-2016), now rainbows and tons of melted cheese like mozzarella and raclettes (2017ish). People loves it. From that, I just realized that I’m, most of the time is a food purist. I love martabak manis the way it is: with chocolate sprinkles, grounded peanuts, grated cheddar, a bit of toasted sesame seeds, dash of condensed milk, and some spread of butter. Yum. This beats all those Nutella. Whatever you say!

Three, you make a critique, a deep one, and people started to hate you. Even if they said that they need an input. Man, do you need an honest input that would help you to had a research on your business, or you are actually need someone to promote you?

Four, you can’t limit man’s imagination. No matter how purist you can be and no matter how idealistic are you toward food, of all variants of a single food, there will be some good ones. Even if you want to find an original version of food, let’s say, a traditional gudeg of Yogyakarta, in one of its original town, there are a lot of varieties of it. Some claimed that they used the original recipe. They’re not wrong from some perspective.

Last, five, the more you travel, explore the globe, visited many nations, you will learn that:

  1. You could rate some foods because you already know the best one or the original one
  2. You could rate some foods, compared them with another as long they are good. Reason: Why bother with the bad one?
  3. Sometimes you don’t need to rate some food because some experience are beyond a mere rating and honestly, beyond any explanations, because when you eat it you are simply enjoying it!
  4. Some foods are also don’t need a rating because you are trying to educate people to know what’s the original version looks like, and how it would change in different places, and how if people trying their best to tweak them

Don’t get me wrong, criticizing some foods, drinks, and a restaurant is fun sometimes and I will continue doing it in the future, but I’d rather not doing it if those are really really bad (in my rating, below mediocre or below 3 out of 5) because it will spread a bad vibe to myself. And I will writing more rating-less food articles as I will go travel in more places in the future!

In my start of 2018, I’m deeply inspired by this guy and his YouTube channel: Mark Wiens. He’s an awesome traveler and food vlogger. He always seems to enjoy his meal and his trips in various countries and I believe that he LOVES whatever he does.

Love

Let’s start 2018 with that. Let’s spread good vibe and positivity! And last but not least, I wish all the best for us this year, I wish I could travel in more place around the world in tandem with the growth of my scientific carrier!

Note:

  • I am open to food promotion and endorsement, after I tried it. So if you interested in my concept, give me one first, I’ll do my work next. I will never review something that is not good for my taste buds, because it will make me lying. Contact me as the e-mail address written on the “About Me” page.
  • I would love to review an original concept rather than the common one. I love uniqueness and originality.
  • I will only review modified or fusion foods and drinks that don’t defy the original idea. I’m a purist. I love authentic sushi more than the fusion one.
  • I’d be happy if someone would sponsor me to have a culinary journey in some regions.

-A.W.

Sea Pineapple Sashimi – When You’re Eating Plant-like Animal

Some people might asked me, “What is your strangest meal you’ve ever had?”

A decade ago, I might answer swordfish. It has chicken-like texture while has a fish like flavor, so I mentioned it like when you eat a chicken in the sea. Five years ago, I might answer sea urchin roe. It has a creamy, pasty, like consistency with there are some sea-like flavor you might be confused to imagine. Even I wrote an article about it (in Bahasa Indonesia).

Now? Whatever I mentioned, it felt just nothing.

Nope, I’m not eating some random insects nor worms (although it might be considered staple food in some part of Asia, for example the sago worm in West Papua region), but no, even I’m not eating insect… whatever I’ll show you, will probably make you think that insects are something normal. And for God’s sake, it is not poop!

Brace yourself…

img_4919

That red thing…

That thing’s called sea pineapple. No, it’s not SpongeBob’s home. It is actually a tunicate (Urochordata), in Japan some people mentioned it as Hoya (ホヤ), scientifically called Halocynthia roretzi (Von Drasche). If you wondered what is tunicate, it is also called “sea squirt” and called to be the ancestor of modern fish.

Let me say this straight: That thing is rooting (you can see the root above) on the ocean floor and has a single-spaced heart, it was told so… later it evolved a capability to swam freely, and become fish. Mind blown, right?

Enough with the scientific things, how about its taste? More importantly, how could we eat it?

I found this alien-like fauna in Tsukiji Market, Tokyo, Japan, in the morning, when I had sightseeing around the place with my little brother. Amongst some indulgent produces like oyster, unagi or eel, premium cantaloupe, then… you see this. At first, I was reluctant to buy it. Aside to save my money, I also had a “conflicted feeling” when I see it. But then my wacky part of my brain took action, and this conversation happened…

Me: Excuse me, can I have this and eat it here?

Shellfish Monger: Sashimi?

Me: *kinda shocked, but what else could possibly done to eat it in its original form* Yes

img_4896

The sashimi form looks even more bizarre…

In disclosed way (the view was blocked because the distance and the fact that they put a barrier in the chopping area, probably to prevent any mess), I just wondered how do he managed to turn it into some kind of delicacy. All I heard was the sound of shell peeling by knife, then he added a splash of soy sauce, and put some toothpicks on it. And there you go…

Me and my little brother were never feel more confused that time. But we decided sooner to just simply dig it an sink it (as Rhett and Link said).

The verdict about the taste, it has some similar texture and taste like when you eat oyster. However it was a bit more chewy, but not rubbery, you can still bit it and flow it through your mouth. The taste was stronger, but weirder, I’m not sure, but it was a bit metallic but I’m not sure up till now. It was told that this unique flavor comes from unsaturated alcohol substance called cynthiaol (Nguyen et al., 2007).

To conclude everything, it was a unique, bizarre, and awesome at the same time to had this as something you could it in the morning during your trip in Japan!

Reference

Nguyen, T., Taniguchi, N., Nakajima, M., Na-Nakorn, U., Sukumasavin, N. and Yamamoto, K., 2007. Aquaculture of sea-pineapple, Halocynthia roretzi in Japan. AQUACULTURE ASIA, 12(2), p.21.

Where to buy:

Tsukiji Market, Chuo, Tokyo, Japan.

Price: JPY 600 per piece.

-AW-

Yubari King Melon – World’s Most Expensive Melon!

Everybody loves melon. They are sweet, some are crunchy, some are soft and melts when you take a sip in your spoon. Did you know that there is a melon so expensive, it was once sold in auction for USD 23.5k?? Guess what, Yubari King Melon from Japan.

The melon is a hybrid cultivar (Cucumis melo ‘Yubari King’ – Hybrid between Earl’s Favourite x Burpee’s “Spicy” Cantaloupe. When you can see below, the coloration is golden orange, and it’s beautiful… and also you can see there is only small part of subdermal flesh is available, contrast to normal melons.

img_4885

Sliced Yubari melon in Tsukiji Market, Tokyo

Yubari King Melon is one of the fruits produced in Hokkaido, the northern part of Japan. As you can tell, the climate is dramatic.

img_4884

Fruits of Hokkaido in Tsukiji Market, Tokyo. You can see some specials: Yubari King Melon (JPY 800 per cut) and Pink Strawberry (JPY 800 per stick)

I made a quick research today (here and here) : It was said that the plant was kept in unfriendly climate of Hokkaido so it grown specially in the greenhouse. Only one fruit grown per plant, maximizing the sugary photosynthetic input only to one fruit. The farmer cut the badly grown female flower and pollinate it manually using paintbrush. To prevent sunburn, EACH fruit was capped with “hats”.  In the end, it was said that only the “strongest” fruit survive until harvesting time. The harvested fruit stem was sniped nicely by the farmer to keep it aesthetically appealing, to complement the perfectly round fruit.

Okay, for the taste…

It was crunchy and sweet, very sweet! Although honestly it is not as sweet as Indonesian melon I bought in my home country, the flavor is very consistent. I believe that you will get the same premium sweetness if you buy another Yubari melon, while in here, you may get the plain one or the sweet one. Another aspect is the subdermal flesh to main fruit flesh ratio. Normal melon has larger subdermal flesh, Yubari melon has smaller part of subdermal flesh. You can basically eat the flesh to the nearest bites next to the rind! Well, it is worth it the price.

Where to buy:

I bought it on Tsukiji Market, Tokyo, Japan. Some recommendations say to check it on Sembikiya Market in Tokyo.

-AW-

Unagi Hashimoto, Tokyo

I love to eat unagi ever since my first try a long time ago. If you ever wonder what unagi is, it is a Japanese term for eel, specifically, grilled eel (unagi kabayaki, うなぎ蒲焼). I remembered the first time eating it on Sushi Tei Indonesia in around 2009ish, the moment when the quality of restaurant is still very good (now most of the unagi is chewy, and sliced thinly in smaller portion). And now it is very very hard to find a good unagi, and probably if you found one, the price will suck your wallet dry. The declining population of freshwater eel is also contributing to this rarity.

I know that the best unagi is served in Tokyo and Shizuoka area. The question was, where to buy it?

Thank God, last November I had a chance to visit Japan! My goals are food, study, and family. To have a remarkable culinary trip, to meet my potential professor for PhD and for research collaboration, and to walk with my brother and my new family (me and my new siblings, long story to tell).

And then, I found this:

There are only few traditional restaurants on this planet made their mark to The Michelin Guide, and even has certified with one star! So then me and my little brother, Arif, went to the Chuo neighborhood, we went to the designated location using Google Map, commuted along Yurakucho Line from Ikebukuro Station to Edogawabashi Station, and ended up in the exit no. 4.

It was our last day to travel in Tokyo before we went back to Indonesia again. The day was already getting darker, and cold. Then we walked and walked, and we arrived in the restaurant. There was a warm feeling by seeing it. It is, not only a restaurant, I said, it looks more like a house, a home for someone.

img_4926

The warm front door

img_4920

It looks and feels like a home, right?

Then we went in through the sliding door, it was quiet. Some men and a couple talked in their seats in farther distance.

“いっらしゃいませ!(Irrashaimase! – Welcome!)”

An old lady greets us, then she leaded us to our seats, “Is it okay if you seat on tatami?” We nodded as we agreed, and she smiled when we made an attempt to seat in (painful) Japanese manner, “Sit normally, it is okay” then she showed us the English menu of the restaurant. There was normal unagi don or grilled unagi over rice bowl (うなぎ丼), unagi kabayaki or grilled unagi served without rice (うなぎ蒲焼), and unagi shioyaki (shio means salt – 塩, yaki means grilled 焼き) or unagi served without the sweet tare (たれ) sauce, more to the unagi original taste – suitable if you want to try the real taste of the eel. We ordered the medium sized unagi don. Then the old lady handed us a warm wet towel and a cup of lukewarm green tea. We feel so much at home.

img_4925

The restaurant interior, seen from my little brother seat perspective

It was quite long, it maybe took 20-30 minutes to serve, but we understood since they grilled the eel from scratch, we know that it would gonna worth every yen we spend there. Then, the renown dish arrived. We glanced, we gulped, and we were amazed… so much.

img_4923

The Unagi Don (うなぎ丼) Set with Various Pickles, and (not included but given for free) The Green Tea

The dish was so simple, so humble, yet appears so majestic. You can tell it was properly grilled and done by a very passionate person in a kitchen.

img_4922

The grilled unagi over the rice

The rice was so uniform, sticky, and in perfect consistency, you can grip them while using a chopsticks no matter it was already glazed with the sauce on the top. The eel meat was so fluffy yet melted like butter when you cut them with chopsticks. As I grow in Indonesia, we always thought that unagi is sweet. We were wrong. It has deep flavor comes from both the fat of the unagi, and the soy sauce or shoyu (which normally salty) but added with some sugar to make a tare sauce which sweetness only tasted for a bit. There was only one downside for the dish, we had some eel spines, but we managed to pick them and we’re fine to continue.

img_4921

The various pickles

When we eat unagi, we are normally also served with pickles or a dried spice called sansho (山椒) or Japanese pepper from a plant called Zanthoxylum piperitum (L.) DC. As sansho is for addition of peppery flavor, the pickles are for neutralizing the taste bud. Here, they have one salty pickles made of cabbage, and two from radish or daikon – one in original taste (a bit salty) and one in sweeter taste. If you eat the unagi and the pickles in returns, you can relive the flavor of unagi for again and again. It was fantastic!

Then we finished our meal, in the same time, we were thankful for the meal! I said to the old lady, “This is the best unagi (we ever had)!” (“これは最高なうなぎです!!”) and she thanked us and she said that she’s glad. Then we paid the meal and leave. We wish to have the experience again one day in the future for more!

 

UNAGI HASHIMOTO (うなぎはし本)

Michelin Guide Star: 1 out of 3

My Rating: √√√√√ (4.9 out of 5)

2-5-7 Suido, Bunkyo-ku, Chuo, Tokyo. Phone: +81 33811 4850. Website: Link

Closest Station: Edogawabashi (Gate 4), Yurakucho Line

Open Hours:

Everyday except Thursday – Lunch: 11:30 am – 02:00 pm, Dinner: 04:30 pm – 08:00 pm (last order at 07:30 pm)

Price Range:

Small Dish: JPY 250 – 700

Main Dish: JPY 700 – 4000 (Unagi ranged from JPY 2600 – 4000)

Beverage: Green tea (Ocha) is free, the rest JPY 550 – 900

Foursquare: Link

TripAdvisor: Link

Notes: It is a quiet restaurant, it is a nice place for romantic or easy dining. Not for family visit.

-AW-

International Food! (Part 5) – Ghanaian Jollof Rice

Man, it has been more than one year since I wrote my last article. I supposed to write this one down in August 2016, but apparently due to a hectic transition of myself, I had to prioritize some other things first and I haven’t had any time to write this down.

Okay, so short story, I went back from Finland to Indonesia and I have to search for another place, somewhere in this world to continue my PhD, while now I become a teacher for university preparation school in Jakarta, where I teach high school students for biology subject. Back to topic, some moments before I went back to Indonesia, my good friend, Kofi from Ghana, taught me how to cook a special dish originated from his home country! Here it is:

jollof-on-jar

Veggie Jollof Rice!

At first glance, I thought it was a bit confusing why there are some European spices, rice, and tomato are like gathered together in a potluck, then I realized the backstory of Swedish colonization in Ghana. Much like the cultural exchange between Indonesia and Netherlands (mentioned in my old article written in Bahasa Indonesia).

As I remember, you only need some chopped ginger, garlic, onion, chopped tomato (or bottled Marinara sauce), tomato paste, oregano, some salt and pepper, and also chicken for additional topping and Basmati rice as major ingredients. To mash the ginger and garlic, you can use pestle and mortar, or you can go traditional and use Ghanaian Ayewa instead!

ayewa

Ayewa

First, boil some chicken legs, add some salt and pepper.

jollof-1

Mash the ginger and garlic

jollof-2

The result

Chop the ginger, onion, and garlic for sautéing. Mash more chopped garlic and ginger, and add into the boiled chicken for extra flavor. Roast the chicken for later topping for rice, and leave the stock for making tomato sauce, keep boiling until more oil appeared on the surface.

jollof-3

Chop the onion

Hot the pan, pour some olive oil, add the garlic and ginger, and then the onion. Add some pepper and salts.

jollof-4

The chicken (top) prior to roasting, and sautéing pan.

Add chopped tomato and tomato paste into the pan, sprinkle the dried oregano. Pour some of the chicken stocks, reduce it until the oil separated on top of the pan.

jollof-5

Mixed with tomato

jollof-6

Tomato reduction oil, poured into the rice cooker bowl

Add the oil from tomato reduction and some of the tomato sauce part into the rice cooker bowl. Pour the uncooked rice, and mix well. Add some frozen vegetables if desired.

jollof-7

Add the uncooked rice

jollof-8

Balance the mixture, so it won’t be too oily, but not too plain as well

jollof-9

Add some water to cook the rice. Switch the cooker on.

Cook the rice on rice cooker. Alternatively, you can cook it on stove as well, although it will be longer to done.

Assemble the chicken, sauce, and rice.

It will be like this:

jollof-served

Jollof Rice with Chicken

Enjoy!

Part 1 – PaF International Food Night

Part 2 – Peruvian Lunch and Bunny Chow

Part 3 – Venezuelan Street Foods

Part 4 – Medieval Dishes

-AW-

International Food! (Part 4) – Medieval Lunch at A.D. 1393

I had a chance to go around the Second Restaurant Day in August 11th, 2016! On that day, I visited a food tent built only at the following day on the park of Turun Linna (FI: Turku Castle). The place caught my attention as they mentioned in the restaurant day website that they serve medieval food. And so I went there…

ad-1393

A.D. 1393

As I walked, as someone who watched Game of Thrones like me thought I hope this is not the tent diorama of Red Wedding or something in Jeoffrey’s wedding this food tent named A.D. 1393 looks like something out of the medieval age, built by the peasants around the king’s castle. Later, I was to getting so curious on what kind of food they serve there.

ad-1393-book

The book where all the recipes come from.

I saw some people dressed in medieval style and then I saw some foods. Firstly I asked them about how they managed to recreate the food, and they answered that they got the reference from a book called “The Good Wife’s Guide”, a translated book, translated by Gina L. Greco and Christine M. Rose.

Wow… that’s really interesting! So how’s the food?

ad-fish-rice-and-bulgur

Boiled Pike with Yellow Sauce, served with bread, Saffron Rice, and Creamy Spelt

ad-fish-yellow-sauce

The Yellow Sauce for the fish

I was amazed on the simplicity of the meal I had.

Me: How did you cook this fish?

Woman: We just simply clean the pike, dice them, and then boil them in the water with salt.

Me: That’s it??

Woman: Yup!

The flavor of the fish is very natural… I mean, it’s so natural, the… fishy flavor are still there! Even the spikes are still there. Although the yellow sauce (I forgot to ask on how it’s made) gave a bit flavor in it. The rice and spelt are also unique for me. The saffron rice has a near risotto like flavor, but more bland except the taste of cream, same for me on the spelt.

Woman: To make the rice and spelt, cook each of them with 50:50 of water and milk until they soften and absorbed the liquid. Add egg yolk and mix them until their texture are like carbonara pasta. For the rice, add a bit of saffron.

Ummm… I don’t know if I forget but… no seasoning at all mentioned by the book? Or is it because spices are pretty expensive in 14th century?

ad-pea-soup

Pea Soup with Bread.

The pea soup has better flavor than the fish in my opinion. We have a good combination of onion and pea sweetness in it.

Me: How about this pea soup?

Woman: We boiled the whole onion, chopped it, and add the pea to the mix.

Me: Nothing more? For the seasoning?

Woman: Well, salt and pepper… and also white wine.

It amazed me, honestly. I never know a method of cooking the onion by boiling them and diced them and then placing them back in the pan for sautéing with oil. Later, white wine and water are added and reduced. To enhance the flavor, salt, pepper, and ginger is added.

I read a book about medieval food before, a Roman book made by Apicius (first written cookbook in history). I saw many… well, I’m not sure that bizarre is a right word, but… intriguing way to cook in earlier time. Less flavor and the ingredient’s natural flavor is the key.

I wonder how was the medieval food of my country looks like…

Part 1 – PaF International Food Night

Part 2 – Peruvian Lunch and Bunny Chow

Part 3 – Venezuelan Street Foods

Part 5 – African Jollof Rice

-AW-

Learning The Blues

Be blue, be smart

Bunny Eats Design

Happy things, tasty food and good design

Cooking in the Archives

Updating Early Modern Recipes (1600-1800) in a Modern Kitchen

sapereaude

Go ahead Universe, ping-pong Me as You please..

Jurnal Amdela

Saya menulis, maka Saya ada.

Mawi Wijna on WordPress

Just another Wijna's weblog

ARief's

just one of my ways to make history

mechacurious

curiosity on mechanical stuff, hobbies, and some more...

TOPGAN ORGANIZATION

TOPGAN organisasi yang turut membangun bangsa

ramdhinidwita

Please Correct Me If I am Wrong

Ganarfirmannanda's Blog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

My Life in Europe

because studying abroad isn't always about studying.

Silent Servant's Notes

Short Way to Serve Well

The Strangeman

Melihat Dunia Lewat Kacamata Pijar Riza Anugerah

Being Slaved by Figures

one figure at a time

the bakeshop

bread hunter + cycling + travelling + urban ecology + architecture + design

Catatan Perjalanan Sang Bayu

I know who I am. I know what I want. What about you?

Hari Prasetyo's Blog

Just super stories of my life