Saturday, December 14, 2019

Japan 2019 - 12 Kyoto's Nishiki Market

I love Kyoto and one of my favorite things to do there is to visit the Nishiki market, a large covered street market that is open every day. Some food snobs have told me that it does not have the best of everything, but since I am mostly just looking, the huge array of every kind of Japanese food item is perfect.

As at any great market, the vendors are very specialized. Here a bean seller, a dried-fish seller who makes gorgeous fish chips, a squid seller and, of course (!) a sparrow yakitori place.

Bean purveyor
Dried fish seller who makes fish chips
Sparrow yakitori anyone?
This year I had a nice experience returning to a sembei (Japanese rice cracker) dealer whom I had visited in 2017. When I told her that, she expressed really touching gratitude and delight, as can be seen in this photo.

My friend the sembei seller
One of my favorite stops is the dried bonito maker. They sell dried bonito cakes, which you can shave at home to make dashi, the all-purpose broth used in Japanese cooking, or they shave it themselves and sell it in packages, the way you've seen it in stores.

Dried bonito, whole and shaved
And, of course, the seller of ingredients for oden, a broth served with all kinds of (mostly rubbery) seafood based products, like fish cakes, as well as weird vegetable things, including konnyaku (kind of a superhard potato-basdd jello).

Oden ingredients
This year I saw a new display: Snoopy's tea shop, which included teas and also cookies and cakes to eat with tea. Part of Japan's kawai (cuteness) culture.

Snoopy's tea shop
I love takoyaki, grilled dumplings stuffed with bits of octopus and served with a sauce and, typically, pickled ginger. Here you can see the process: batter poured over octopus in takoyaki pan (center), dumplings coming together (left) and nearly complete takoyaki, moments away from sale (right). Once I made this with my friend Kondo Hiromi, a wonderful Kyoto art jewelry dealer who happens to be a great cook.

Takoyaki in various stages of preparation
Other favorites include freshly made mochi with matcha powder and some mysterious cream cookies, which I foolishly didn't try.

Freshly made mochi and cookies
Oops, I almost left out this seller of squid in a different form than shown above, grilled on skewers and ready to eat.

Grilled squid on skewers
I have already gone on and on, and could do more, but you get the idea. The Nishiki market is a must for any visitor to Kyoto who loves food.

Bobby Jay

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