April 22, 2008

Delicious Slime

Last night, for the first time in a long time, I enjoyed a meal where I couldn't identify many of the things I was eating.

While E, predictable Japanese eater that he is, opted for the Sushi set meal (His grand total for the trip thus far is 5 sushi meals, which sounds like he has exercised restraint. But, there are also 5 meals of ramen in the mix for both of us, so he's really just splitting his preferences unless I drag him somewhere where one of those is not an option.)

I went the adventurous route, and chose the ryukuan ryouri, a multicourse meal of traditional foods from the island of Okinawa. The meal focused on local ingredients, but was prepared with obvious influences from its complicated history of trade, war, and power relations with its larger neighbors (Japan, China, Thailand) resulting in a unique cuisine.

The first course appeared to be pickled greens on top of pigs ears on the side of some slimy textured blocks of deliciousness (some pickled root vegetables, some cubes resembling aspic). One cube, in one course, appeared to be some sort of textured root, but when I bit into it, was a tender, cold pork preparation that was unlike anything I'd every tasted -- amazing. Even E was impressed, and this is a boy who is picky about his swine.

Slime, in one form or another, was the base of most of the courses, including a gooey broth over fish, and a delicious slurpy, slimy, slightly spicey goo-based seaweed and rice soup that reminded me, vaguely, of a few of the ochazukes I'd sampled in mainland japan.

You'd think that slimy dessert would be hard to do well, but they pulled it off -- a starchy poi-like pudding with tapioca balls and a yellow jello-like substance that seemed to have the same flavor as the juice they served us at our arrival (Shekwasha, I believe) over fresh fruit. I was in heaven. Light. Acidic. Starchy. And nowhere to be found any cloying sweetness. Now that's how I like to end a meal!

After all of the carefully presented courses, I found myself pleasantly filled, and very healthy. It is widely reported (but I couldn't find a source) that Okinawa has the highest number of centagenarians, per capita.

Perhaps we all need a little more delicious slime in our diet.

Update: I found this link to help identify some of my meal. I am certain that one of the courses was some delicious tofuyo in a slightly spicy broth-sauce, I was trying to place its cheesy-like texture and flavor while eating it, so I was happy to learn what it was.

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