Untangling My Chopsticks by Victoria Riccardi

August 5, 2012 at 9:26 pm 1 comment

Before I left for Japan, I read a lot of non-fiction – travel guides, specialty books, personal memoirs, etc.  There wasn’t enough time to read everything.  Anyway, I did start this book before leaving and then finished it when I came back.  As I said in my previous message, I do post on Goodreads for my books and this site for my food/travel adventures.  This is a second crossover.

*Untangling My Chopsticks is a biography in the same tradition as Under the Tuscan Sun or On Rue Tatin.  Basically, she travels to a foreign country, encounters difficulties, but manages to overcome and survive.  This sentence shows what is common but doesn’t really capture the whole story or some of the very charming characters that helped along the way.  Some of the help she receives follows a distinctly Japanese way of doing things and the reader is given an insight into what it might be like to try to live and work as an expatriate.  Not only does she learn tea kaiseki, she leaves with lifelong friendships.  If you’re headed to Japan, and Kyoto in particular, this would be one to skim.  It’s not quite as dreamy and story-like as the other books but it does give you a flavor of Kyoto.  I particularly liked the author’s description of making mochi.

*As in many of these books (fiction & non-fiction), there are recipes at the end of the chapters.  I made two recipes from the book.  The first one I made was the green tea ice cream. Rather than brewing tea, this recipe uses matcha – a concentrated green tea powder.   This is more true to Japanese flavors and Asian flavors in general – the ice cream is not sickeningly sweet and the tea flavor is very strong.  You can adjust the strength of the tea flavor by using less matcha.  You can also make a simplified version of this recipe by adding matcha to softened vanilla ice cream.

The second one I made was the Year Crossing Buckwheat noodles.  I did not use the fish cake – instead I used marinated tempeh.  I loved the flavor of the broth here and the runny egg yolk just adds another dimension.  For the fish cakes, you could probably also substituted cooked fresh fish or marinated/cooked tofu, as well.  I’d still like to try some of the author’s tofu recipes.

*After having visited Japan, I can tell you that it’s sometimes incredibly difficult, with the language the hardest part (at least for me).  With my upbringing and familiarity with Asian cultures in general, after one week I was able to blend.  However, I couldn’t really ask the more difficult questions or convey the more complicated ideas.  Of all the cities we visited, though, I loved Kyoto the best (with Nara a close second) but Tokyo was actually quite do-able for a big city and really, really clean.

*I loved trying all the different types of kaiseki meals when we were in Japan and you can read about one in my previous post.  (I will get to posting about some other meals.)  However, we found that the food from snack food to high end specialty restaurants was made with care and service was excellent.


Entry filed under: Books, Food. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

Kaiseki in Tokyo Taking courses….Food Science and beyond

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