I recently attended a tea ceremony in Kyoto where I was introduced to a Japanese proverb, ‘Ichigo Ichie’. The saying is used to remind people to treasure every moment as a ‘once in a lifetime encounter’. This concept made me pay special attention to my surroundings with a renewed sense of appreciation, and set the scene for the rest of my stay in Kyoto.
Kyoto Tea Ceremony – May 2016
Kyoto has a mysterious and magical energy that fills you with curiosity, so I had an intensively aware experience, admiring everything from the pebbles on the ground to the utility wires that drape through the ancient city. Stories would pop into my head about the locals as they walked passed. I saw elderly people on bikes looking so fit they could easily live forever, their faces like a time machine that took me far back into their history. Among the faces I saw the fear of war, the devastation of earthquakes and the relief of survival. Their spirituality and bond to the land was obvious and showed me what contentment really looks like, a state I hope to achieve in this lifetime.
My visit to the Gion district continued to make my Kyoto experience special. After reading ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ many years ago, I was like every other tourist that had arrived in Kyoto with the hope of seeing a glimpse of the mysterious Geisha. I don’t know if the appeal of Geisha is my unconscious desire to please a man or because I feel pride when I see Geisha representing the power of beauty, intelligence and creativity that all women can be. Geisha are not as popular as they once were and the numbers are declining, so I was really excited when I spotted this beautiful Meiko (apprentice Geisha) heading out to an appointment. I had been strolling through the Gion district, enchanted by the old Japanese town houses and lanterns that light up the streets and alleyways at dusk. Still sensitive to my surroundings I noticed a taxi had stopped outside the front door to one of these ancient homes, then the driver got out of the taxi to meet his client. I sensed there was a level of importance present, so I prepared myself for the unexpected. The front door opened and the Meiko carefully stepped out onto the pavement making it into the taxi just before other tourists swarmed the taxi. With my finger on the shutter button of my camera, I was able to capture this moment which was as satisfying as taking a shot of rare snow leopard. An encounter I will treasure forever.
Of course food was the main highlight of my stay in Kyoto. Japanese people have a way of intensifying the beauty of nature and creating an environment that is based on pride and respect which extends to their food, especially noticeable in Kyoto. As expected the food was unbelievable. The Nishiki Market in downtown Kyoto was my paradise and I was blown away by the freshest and most traditional food I’d ever seen. It felt like I was walking through an episode of food safari with my favourite celebrity chef, Adam Liaw. If I could try everything I would, but I was content watching the buzz of the locals busily shopping for their favourite ingredients in preparation for their weekly nutritional meals, inspiring me to explore Japanese cuisine in my own kitchen….
I started with Ramen because I tasted so many varieties in Japan. Although I was never disappointed I came to the conclusion I prefer Miso based Ramen and discovered it’s so easy to make a home-made version. This Ramen actually cured my Japanese withdrawal symptoms and I’m sure will warm you up all through winter.
Miso Ramen – Homemade
2 litres of water
100g of white miso paste
3 x Tbs of cooking sake or mirin
3 x Tbs of sesame oil
4 x Chicken legs
1 kilo of pork spare ribs
1 large leek (chopped roughly)
1 x large carrot (chopped or shredded)
6 x cloves of garlic (whole)
1 x red chilli (medium heat or to taste)
30g of Fresh ginger (or to taste)
6 x Shitake mushrooms (sliced into long quarters)
Salt to taste
Spring onion (finely chopped) for serving
1 soft boiled egg shared between 2 people (chopped in half) for serving
Seawood or Nori sheets (roughly chopped) for serving
Bamboo shoots (chopped lengthways) for serving
50g – 100g of Ramen fresh noodles per person or soba noodles (cooking instruction on packet)
In a slow cooker or pot on low heat throw in all ingredients starting with sesame oil, pork and chicken bones then vegetables etc on top. Cover with 2 x litres of water or enough water to cover the ingredients. Note: There is no need to sautee anything in this recipe as it is primarily a stock.
*Cook on low heat for 3-4 hours with a lid so the moisture does not evaporate. Add water if you see the pot drying out! Nb: You will not have this problem if you use a slow cooker.
Straining the broth
Once cooked, take out pork ribs, chicken legs and shitake mushrooms before straining the soup. Separate the chicken from the legs but keep the pork on the bones and set aside with the shitake mushrooms which will be added back into the broth in the final heating stage.
Strain the broth using a fine sieve or strainer. Let the broth cool down completely to scoop out any remaining fat that comes to the surface.
To serve – Yields approx 6 medium bowls
Reheat the cooled down broth including the now boneless chicken pieces, pork ribs and shitake mushrooms. Before transferring to a bowl make sure you are happy with the salt content of the broth. You may want to add a bit more to enhance the broth flavour.
To serve place some chicken and 2 x pork ribs into each bowl with shitake mushroom. Add noodles then fill the bowl up with broth. Add bamboo shoots, seaweed or nori sheets, half an egg and spring onion on the surface of the broth.
Please always make sure you are not allergic to any foods in the ingredients provided before ingesting.