Sunday, August 24, 2008

Black noodles + Japanese summer

While I try to keep things entertaining around here, there will inevitably be some food posts on occasion because, well, I love food. But don't worry, I can guarantee no pictures of sushi or food that is all wabi sabi and shit. SO. I had wanted to go to the Awa Odori festival in Koenji today, which is a huge dance shin dig that I went to a couple year ago. It's always held on the last weekend of August and definitely worth seeing, with a high level of carnie in the air. Since I used to live in Koenji in one of the most ghetto dorms on earth and then later in Nakano (really, who hasn't?), I always make a point of visiting old favourites when I'm on that side of town. Today we went to eat kuro goma tantanmen or black sesame tantanmen. Gives me shivers just thinking about it! Tantanmen is a type of noodle dish originally from China, similar to ramen, usually spicy, and with ground meat on top. Throw in the black sesame and you get almost black soup and the tastiest thing since Diet Coke.

Just North of Nakano station there is a restaurant called Minpai (明白) that a friend first introduced me to four or five years ago and I've been using it as the measuring yard for every bowl of tantanmen I've eaten since. Minpai is a clean-looking casual place that serves Chinese-style food like gyoza, noodles and ebi chilli. Their specialty is the black sesame tantanmen as well as a white sesame version, and crispy pan fried gyoza. I know my amateur keitai pic above looks really appetizing but you've got to trust me on this one, tantanmen are delish!

We decided to scrap the festival plans unfortunately because of the rain and came back to our part of town. On the way home from the station we went by the Mitsui Memorial Museum which has a Japanese summer themed exhibition on until mid-September. It had the potential to be interesting-summer in early modern Japan through pictures and other objects-but was a bit of a snore. There were some interesting ukiyo-e, a couple huge scrolls depicting the famous Sanno festival and some traditional smoking boxes and hairpins but the rest I could have done without. There is only so much ceramic ware a girl can see and I reached my limit circa 2004. The time period was right (I tend to gravitate toward specific aspects of the Heian and Edo periods) but not interesting enough to merit a second glance. This afternoon was kind of a bust and I'm so disappointed about the festival but I'm hoping my sushi date followed by drinks at the Mandarin Bar will make up for it!

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