Eat Local: Vigan Empanadas, City of Vigan, Philippines

As we were touring the City of Vigan in the Philippines [see our previous blog post of the same name) enjoying colonial architecture, we passed by Irene’s Vigan Empanadas, a small hole in the wall café just beyond a well-preserved two-story house

As we were touring the City of Vigan in the Philippines [see our previous blog post of the same name) enjoying colonial architecture, we passed by Irene’s Vigan Empanadas, a small hole in the wall café just beyond a well-preserved two-story house

While exploring the City of Vigan by foot, we passed by Irene’s Vigan Empanada café.  For an afternoon snack, we headed back there to sample the Vigan empanadas.  They were prepared on a custom basis – we chose the pork empanadas [see the photo, below].  We thoroughly enjoyed them, noting a huge difference in having a crispy rice-flour shell, compared with the traditional wheat-flour pastry shells of Spanish empanadas.  Like our guide book, we would also recommend Irene’s!

 

“In between exploring the UNESCO-designated city of Vigan, make time to try the local Vigan empanada, sold by vendors on Calle Crisologo and in the surrounding streets.  The town’s signature delicacy starts with a shell made from a rice flour mixture that is hand-kneaded thinly on a banana leaf.  The filling is made with shredded papaya, grated carrots, bean sprouts, egg, and seasoned pork longganisa.  The empanada is deep-fried and served with Ilocos vinegar.  While pork longganisa is the traditional filling, many cooks add their own creative spin and make them with beef, chicken, crab, and bagnet.  Vegetarian varieties are also available.  Locals eat empanadas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack.  A 40year tradition, Irene’s Vigan Empanada is one of the best places to enjoy one of these savory snacks.” – The World In Currimao, Philippines

 

The late afternoon shadows gave the entrance to Irene’s Vigan Empanadas a sinister appearance -- but when we came back to try some empanadas, we were pleasantly surprised by the café’s coziness and the friendliness of the staff

As we were touring the City of Vigan in the Philippines [see our previous blog post of the same name) enjoying colonial architecture, we passed by Irene’s Vigan Empanadas, a small hole in the wall café just beyond a well-preserved two-story house

Here the chef is preparing a Vigan Empanada from scratch on a banana leaf; once the rice-flour dough is filled, it is fried for a few minutes in the fryer, City of Vigan, Philippines

Here the chef is preparing a Vigan Empanada from scratch on a banana leaf; once the rice-flour dough is filled, it is fried for a few minutes in the fryer that is behind, and lower down than the selection of cooked empanadas, City of Vigan, Philippines

 

Although it was only mid-afternoon, a number of patrons were enjoying snacks of Vigan Empanadas at Irene’s in the City of Vigan, Philippines

Although it was only mid-afternoon, a number of patrons were enjoying snacks of Vigan Empanadas at Irene’s in the City of Vigan, Philippines

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2020 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Shop local: Yangshuo market, Guangxi, China

The city of Yangshuo is the teriminus of the Li River scenic boat journeys through the Guilin karst mountains – here the mountains are visible behind a new shopping district; Guangxhi, China

The city of Yangshuo is the terminus of the Li River scenic boat journeys through the Guilin karst mountains – here the mountains are visible behind a new shopping district; Guangxhi, China

 

Our river boat ride down the Li River from Guilin, through the spectacular karst mountains, took us to the city of Yangshuo (population 300,000) where we had an afternoon of exploration, the opportunity to cook our own dinners at a Chinese restaurant and cooking school, and then attend the Liu San Jie Impression Light Show on the Li River bank in town.  Our cooking school chef and instructor – from Cloud 9 Restaurant and Cooking School — took us through the local market on Xi Jie Street (West Street), pointing out many of the ingredients for our multi-course dinner that we then prepared.  Our four courses, individually cooked by each of us in our small group, included: Gong Bao Chicken, Egg Dumplings with Pork and Vegetables, Fry Noodles with Vegetables, and Cucumber in Vinegar & Chili Sauce.

 

The Guilin karst mountains are very visible behind the city’s main shopping street, Xi Jie Street (West Street), Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

The Guilin karst mountains are very visible behind the city’s main shopping street, Xi Jie Street (West Street), Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

 

We passed this outdoor restaurant that was setting up for dinner, as we walked to the local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

We passed this outdoor restaurant that was setting up for dinner, as we walked to the local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

 

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #1

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #1

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #2

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #2

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #3

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #3

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #4

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #4

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #5

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #5

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #6

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #6 – rambutan fruit

 

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #7

The local fresh food market; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China #7 — bamboo shoots

 

Shopping and dining options in the small city of Yangshuo included both local and international options, Guangxhi, China

Shopping and dining options in the small city of Yangshuo included both local and international options, Guangxhi, China

 

This area contained a lot of street food vendors, offering snacks and light suppers to passersby, Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

This area contained a lot of street food vendors, offering snacks and light suppers to passersby, Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

 

One street vendor’s selection of street food, Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

One street vendor’s selection of street food, Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

 

We passed by a huge local festival as we headed over to the main street to catch a van to the theater on the Li River for the performance of the renowned light show, Impression Sanjie Liu; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

We passed by a huge local festival as we headed over to the main street to catch a van to the theater on the Li River for the performance of the renowned light show, Impression Sanjie Liu; Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

 

The first chapter of the story and performance was “Red Impression- Folk Songs” -- on the water, many fishermen are rowing their bamboo rafts in a column; either standing or squatting, they hang the large red silk in the sky and or upon the water

The first chapter of the story and performance was “Red Impression: Folk Songs” — on the water, many fishermen are rowing their bamboo rafts in a column; either standing or squatting, they hang the large red silk in the sky and or upon the water. This red picture symbolizes the enthusiasm and praises the labors of the local people”; Impression Sanjie Liu performance on the Li River, Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China

 

“Impression Sanjie Liu was premiered on March 20th, 2004 at the Sanjie Liu Sing Fair, one mile from West Street (Xi Jie).  This is the world largest natural theater which utilizes the waters of the Li River as its stage, with twelve mist shrouded hills and the heavens as its backdrop.  Mist, rain, moonlight, the hills and their inverted reflections in the river all become the ever-changing natural background.  Its auditorium is housed on the natural islands of the river with the audience standing on the designed terraces, surrounded by green plants.  The sound equipment here cannot be seen because it is in harmony with the natural environment.

 

“The valleys, the hills, the cool breeze and the gurgling streams are all elements contributing to the three-dimensional sound effect.  Day by day, different weather offers different sceneries with the four seasons refreshing the performance of Impression Sanjie Liu as well, so you will have unique experience every time you watch it. This is really a new concept opera using nature as an integral part of its performers; hence its name – ‘Human’s Masterpiece Cooperated with the God’.

 

“Maybe you have heard of the film ‘Sanjie Liu’ produced in 1961, which made the Li River famous worldwide.  Sanjie Liu is a fairy singer in the myths and legends of the Zhuang ethnic minority.  She is incomparably beautiful, and has voice to match her beauty.  In the ‘Impression Sanjie Liu’, what you can see are the impressions derived from the daily life of the people living around the Li River, rather than the specific details of the stories.” — www.travelchinaguide.com

 

As we watched the incredible light show with a total of nearly 600 actors (mostly locals, supplemented by students at the local universities), we were struck by the scale and beauty of the show – reminding us of the opening night spectacle of the opening of the Summer Olympic Games in Beijing on August 8, 2008 (08-08-08).  Afterwards, on the way to our hotel, we learned from our local guide that indeed, the producer (and owner) of the Impression Sanjie Liu show and theater was Yimou Zhang, the chief director of the opening and closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games.  In 2008, Zhang was nominated as 2008 Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.

 

The last chapter of the story-performance is the “Silvery Impression- Performance Grand Ceremony” -- as the 'Wonder of Lijiang Culture', this scenery reflects the traditional ceremony in Sanjie's hometown according to the legend
The last chapter of the story/performance is the “Silvery Impression: Performance Grand Ceremony” — as the ‘Wonder of Lijiang Culture’, this scenery reflects the traditional ceremony in Sanjie’s hometown according to the legend. Over 200 Zhuang girls form a long column across the bridge over the Li River; their silver dresses make the river shimmer in a mysterious manner”; Impression Sanjie Liu performance on the Li River, Yangshuo, Guangxhi, China
Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat local: Yuan Yuan Restaurant, Shanghai, China

Yuan Yuan Restaurant in the French Concession, Shanghai, China, is one of the premier, authentic Shanghainese restaurants in the city, where our Context Travel food tour guide knew the owner and staff

Yuan Yuan Restaurant in the French Concession, Shanghai, China, is one of the premier, authentic Shanghainese restaurants in the city, where our Context Travel food tour guide knew the owner and staff and ordered what she considered some of the highlight typical dishes of Shanghai

 

Following our walking tour of the Guangyuan Lu Market (a so-called “wet market” — 菜市场, cài shìchǎng) in the French Concession [see our previous blog post, “Shop local: Guangyuan Lu [‘wet’] Market, French Concession, Shanghai, China (2019)”, our guide from Context Travel tours walked us through the neighborhood, ending up at one of the premier, authentic Shanghainese restaurants in the city, Yuan Yuan Restaurant, where she knew the owner and staff.   With some input from our small group, she ordered what she considered some of the highlight typical dishes of Shanghai.  It was an excellent meal and opened out eyes to the diversity of ingredients and flavors in the local cuisine.

 

Crystal Shrimp (a local specialty), Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Crystal Shrimp (a local specialty), Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Tea-Smoked Duck, Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Tea-Smoked Duck, Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Red Braised Pork (a real signature dish of the city, alternatively available for locals as red braised eel), Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Red Braised Pork (a real signature dish of the city, alternatively available for locals as red braised eel), Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Local Dumplings, Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Local Dumplings, Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Eggplant with Pork, Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Eggplant with Pork, Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Rice Cakes (noodles) with Greens and Pork, Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Rice Cakes (noodles) with Greens and Pork, Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Braised Chicken (another local specialty), Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Braised Chicken (another local specialty), Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

 

Amerinth greens (generally purple in color, not green – a local specialty), Yuan Yuan Resuarant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Amerinth greens (generally purple in color, not green – a local specialty), Yuan Yuan Restaurant, French Concession, Shanghai, China

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

The Peace Hotel (Sassoon House), Shanghai, China (2019)

In Shanghai, China, at the center of the Bund (at the end of Nanjing Road), today’s remodeled and restored Fairmont Peace Hotel was originally the Cathay Hotel in the Sassoon House, built by Sir Victor Sassoon in 1929

In Shanghai, China, at the center of the Bund (at the end of Nanjing Road), today’s remodeled and restored Art Deco Fairmont Peace Hotel was originally the Cathay Hotel in the Sassoon House, built by Sir Victor Sassoon in 1929

 

“The Cathay Hotel was designed by the architectural firm Palmer and Turner and completed in 1929 and was the pride of its owner, Sir Victor Sassoon.  It has a triangular shaped piece of land at the intersection of Nanking Road and the Bund, with a green pyramidal tower with Tudor paneling, imitating the American Chicago School.  The Cathay Hotel was only one portion of the Sassoon House, which also contained offices and shopping arcades.  Nowadays it known as [the Fairmont] Peace Hotel.” — http://www.virtualshanghai.net

 

The lobby of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains a central atrium leading to the famed restaurant and world-famous Old Jazz Band venue (the Jazz Bar), Shanghai, China_

The lobby of the Art Deco Fairmont Peace Hotel contains a central atrium leading to the famed restaurant and world-famous Old Jazz Band venue (the Jazz Bar), Shanghai, China – this was one of the preeminent dining and entertainment venues in the 1920s and 1930s when Shanghai was famed as the Paris of the Orient

 

The atrium of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains several 1929 metal “frescoes” of scenes of Shanghai of the era; this one depicts buildings along the Bund (looking south) with boats approaching the quay

The atrium of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains several 1929 metal “murals” of scenes of Shanghai of the era; this one depicts buildings along the Bund (looking south) with boats approaching the quay

 

The atrium of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains several 1929 metal “frescoes” of scenes of Shanghai of the era; this one also depicts buildings along the Bund, but a street scene (looking north) with automobiles from the 1920s

The atrium of the Fairmont Peace Hotel contains several 1929 metal “murals” of scenes of Shanghai of the era; this one also depicts buildings along the Bund, but a street scene (looking north) with automobiles from the 1920s in the foreground and the quay to the far right

 

We had an outstanding dim sum and Chinese cuisine luncheon at the beautifully restored Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

We had an outstanding dim sum and Chinese cuisine luncheon at the beautifully restored Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

 

The eponymous Dragon and Phoenix in the ceiling panels at the at the beautifully restored Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

The eponymous Dragon and Phoenix in the ceiling panels at the at the beautifully restored Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

 

The view of the high-rise buildings in Pudong, across the Huangpu River, from the windows in the Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

The view of the high-rise buildings in Pudong, across the Huangpu River, from the windows in the Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

 

The Fairmont Peace Hotel is the best spot we’ve discovered in Shanghai (on the west side of the Huangpu River) for a view of the curved section of Pudong and its concentration of high-rise buildings; China

The Fairmont Peace Hotel is the best spot we’ve discovered in Shanghai (on the west side of the Huangpu River) for a view of the curved section of Pudong and its concentration of high-rise buildings; China

 

A panorama of the Huangpu River with our ship docked at the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal (on the left) and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Pudong, Shanghai, China

A panorama of the Huangpu River with our ship docked at the Shanghai Port International Cruise Terminal (on the left) and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower in Pudong, Shanghai, China — taken from the Dragon and Phoenix restaurant at the Fairmont Peace Hotel, Shanghai, China

 

The living green vertical wall along the quay of the Huangpu River on the Bund side, overlooking the tops of the high-rise buildings in Pudong, Shanghai, China

The living green vertical wall along the quay of the Huangpu River on the Bund side, overlooking the tops of the high-rise buildings in Pudong, Shanghai, China

 

The promenade along the quay on the Bund (looking north) along the Huangpu River, with our docked ship visible on the right; Shanghai, China

The promenade along the quay on the Bund (looking north) along the Huangpu River, with our docked ship visible on the right; Shanghai, China

 

 

“The Man Who Changed the Face of Shanghai” by Taras Grescoe, The New York Times, October 2, 2014

 

“Until recently, the name Sassoon — or, more exactly, Sir Ellice Victor Sassoon, the third baronet of Bombay — had been all but effaced from the streets of Shanghai.  The scion of a Baghdadi Jewish family, educated at Harrow and Cambridge, Sassoon shifted the headquarters of a family empire built on opium and cotton from Bombay to Shanghai, initiating the real estate boom that would make it into the Paris of the Far East.

“The 1929 opening of the Cathay Hotel (its name was changed to the Peace in the mid-50s), heralded as the most luxurious hostelry east of the Suez Canal, proclaimed his commitment to China.  (He even made the 11th-floor penthouse, just below the hotel’s sharply pitched pyramidal roof, his downtown pied-à-terre.)  Within a decade, Sassoon had utterly transformed the skyline of Shanghai, working with architects and developers to build the first true skyscrapers in the Eastern Hemisphere, in the process creating a real estate empire that would regularly see him counted among the world’s half-dozen richest men.  Within two decades, the red flag of the People’s Republic was hoisted over the Cathay, which would for many years serve as a guesthouse for visiting Soviet bloc dignitaries.

“Yet, over the course of the years, Sassoon’s buildings, apparently too solid to demolish, continued to stand, so many mysterious Art Deco and Streamline Moderne megaliths in a cityscape growing ever grimier with coal dust.  As Shanghai once again takes its place as one of Asia’s fastest-growing metropolises, and supertall, 100-plus-story towers define its new skyline, there are signs that the city is beginning to value, and even treasure, its prewar architectural heritage.  Sir Victor would have appreciated the irony: The landmarks of Shanghai’s semi-colonial past, vestiges of a once-reviled foreign occupation, have lately become some of its most coveted addresses.

“The last time I was in Shanghai, in 2007, the Peace Hotel was in a sorry state.  In the Jazz Bar, whose faux Tudor walls seemed to be stained yellow with the nicotine of decades, I watched a sextet of septuagenarian Chinese jazzmen lurching their way through “Begin the Beguine.”  (The musicians, who rehearsed clandestinely through the Cultural Revolution, are still sometimes joined by their oldest member, a 96-year-old drummer.)

“I was given a tour of the property by Peter Hibbard, an author whose books ‘Peace at the Cathay’and ‘The Bund’ document Shanghai’s European architectural history.  He showed me tantalizing glimpses of marble and stained glass, partly hidden by poorly dropped ceilings, and explained that the lavish décor of the eighth-floor restaurant — inspired by the Temple of Heaven in Beijing’s Forbidden City — had to be papered over during the Cultural Revolution to spare it the wrath of the Red Guards.  Hidden away in storerooms, he assured me, were the original Arts and Crafts furniture and Deco glasswork that had been a feature of every guest room.  Mr. Hibbard informed me the hotel was about to close its doors for a complete makeover; he feared the worst.

“After a three-year restoration overseen by the lead architect Tang Yu En (and a makeover supervised by the Singapore-based designer Ian Carr, completed in 2010), much of the cachet of the old Cathay has been restored to the Peace.

“On the ceiling of the Dragon Phoenix Restaurant, gilded chinoiserie bats once again soar; Lalique sconces have been returned to the corridor that leads to the eighth-floor ballroom. In nine themed suites, the décor has been recreated from old photos:  The Indian Room is newly resplendent with filigreed plasterwork and peacock-hued cupolas, while a semicircular moon gate separates the sitting and dining rooms of the Chinese Room.  A spectacular rotunda has once again become the centerpiece of the ground floor, its soaring ceiling of leaded glass undergirded by marble reliefs of stylized greyhounds that remain the hotel’s insignia.

“Some changes would surely have caused Sassoon to arch an eyebrow.  To avoid spooking visitors from the south, elevators now skip directly from the third to the fifth floor. (The number 4 sounds like the Cantonese word for “death.”)  The revolving door on the riverfront Bund, once the privileged entrance for such celebrity visitors as Douglas Fairbanks and Cornelius Vanderbilt, is now chained shut with a rusty padlock.  (It is bad feng shui for a building’s main door to face water.)

“In spite of such adjustments, Mr. Hibbard is delighted to see Sassoon’s flagship property reclaiming pride of place on the Bund.  “Sir Victor changed the face, and the manners, of Shanghai,” he said.  ‘The Cathay exemplified this.  Outside, it’s so simple, clean and streamlined. Inside, it’s fanciful and buoyant.  It gave society a venue to play in. It still gives people from around the globe an opportunity to have a fantastic time in one of the world’s most exciting cities.’

“The building has something else going for it: location.  Sassoon built his headquarters where bustling Nanjing Road, Shanghai’s main commercial street, intersected with the banks, clubs and head offices of foreign firms that lined the Huangpu riverfront.  The hotel, in other words, sits at the exact point where China meets the world — which means that, to this day (and well into most nights), it is buffeted by concentrated streams of humanity.

“I was not surprised that Noël Coward found the serenity to write the first draft of ‘Private Lives’ during a four-day sojourn at the Cathay in 1929, or that Sassoon, a nomadic tycoon who could live anywhere in the world, chose it as the site for his aerie.  The sensation of being swaddled in luxury at the calm center of a bewitching maelstrom is unique.  After building the Cathay, all Sassoon had to do was sit and wait for the world to come to him.” – www.nytimes.com/2014/10/05/travel/the-man-who-changed-the-face-of-shanghai-.html

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat local: Okonomiyaki (a savory pancake), Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

From the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, we walked through the covered Hondori shopping arcade to Okonomimura where we had okonomiyaki (a savory pancake) for lunch, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

From the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, we walked through the covered Hondori shopping arcade to Okonomimura where we had okonomiyaki (a savory pancake) for lunch, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Hiroshima, Japan’s culinary profile attracts foodies from around the globe.  Birthplace of Japan’s famous okonomiyaki (a savory pancake), the city’s version of the dish is a must-try for gastronomes.  Piled inside a thin crepe are layers of shredded cabbage, meat or seafood, fried noodles, and an egg; all topped with sauce, seaweed flakes and, optionally cheese or sliced green onions (scallions).  From the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, we walked through the covered Hondori shopping arcade to Okonomimura, an 8-story building with a collection of okonomiyaki restaurants on the second, third and fourth floors, all little mom-and-pop, hole-in-the-wall “restaurants” specializing in the city’s signature meal.  We read brief English language descriptions of the various restaurants and liked the descriptions of those on the second floor, where we headed.  Only about half were open, so we chose one in the front corner of the building filled with Japanese customers.  Luckily, they had an English-language menu so we were able to order two different okonomiyaki for lunch with a draft beer.  We sat at the counter, watching with great interest the construction and cooking of our made-to-order okonomiyaki on a hot griddle.  They were quite delicious and very filling.  No desert needed!

 

Okonomimura (on the right), an 8-story building with a collection of okonomiyaki restaurants on the second, third and fourth floors, all little mom-and-pop, hole-in-the-wall “restaurants” specializing in the city’s signature meal, okonomiyaki

Okonomimura (on the right), an 8-story building with a collection of okonomiyaki restaurants on the second, third and fourth floors, all little mom-and-pop, hole-in-the-wall “restaurants” specializing in the city’s signature meal, okonomiyaki (a savory pancake), Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

There was a staff of 5 or 6 to prepare the okonomiyaki (a savory pancake) on the hot griddles for a total of only about 14 seats (customers) at the L-shaped counters in front of the griddles, Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

There was a staff of 5 or 6 to prepare the okonomiyaki (a savory pancake) on the hot griddles for a total of only about 14 seats (customers) at the L-shaped counters in front of the griddles, Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

After making the pancakes on the griddle, the okonomiyaki were piled high with shredded cabbage, proteins (pork in one, pork and shrimp in a second), with oil for cooking poured on; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

After making the pancakes on the griddle, the okonomiyaki were piled high with shredded cabbage, proteins (pork in one, pork and shrimp in a second), with oil for cooking poured on; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

After cracking an egg and spreading it on the griddle to a circle the size of the pancake, the okonomiyaki was flipped over on top of the cooking egg; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

After cracking an egg and spreading it on the griddle to a circle the size of the pancake, the okonomiyaki was flipped over on top of the cooking egg; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The finished shrimp and pork okonomiyaki topped with shredded dried seaweed; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

The finished shrimp and pork okonomiyaki topped with shredded dried seaweed; Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The finished pork okonomiyaki with udon noodles and topped with sliced green onions (scallions); Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

The finished pork okonomiyaki with udon noodles and topped with sliced green onions (scallions); Okonomimura, Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The road north from Okonomimura, where we had lunch, to the Shukkeien Garden [see our upcoming blog post], through downtown Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

The road north from Okonomimura, where we had lunch, to the Shukkeien Garden [see our upcoming blog post], through downtown Hiroshima, Honshu Island, Japan

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat local: Ōmi-chō Market and Morimori Sushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

One of the 170 vendors in the famed Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan, that has been supporting Kanazawa’s gastronomic culture since the middle of the 18th century

One of the 170 vendors in the famed Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan, that has been supporting Kanazawa’s gastronomic culture since the middle of the 18th century

 

From our ship in the port, one day in Kanazawa we headed downtown mid-day and went to the famed Ōmi-chō Market where there is a dizzying array of local produce and fresh seafood.  We planned our time there so we could get a number at Morimori Sushi (restaurant) and shop while we waited for our turn to be seated (see below).  The market has directly supported Kanazawa’s gastronomic culture since the middle of the 18th century.  It has more than 170 vendors selling local delicacies, clothing, fruits, Kaga vegetables, seafood and meats.  Additionally, there are several restaurants and ramen shops within the market building.  We splurged at the market and bought some beautiful sliced wagy-like beef for a home cooked dinner in our apartment, with special local mushrooms and fresh vegetables.

 

An array of beautiful (and colorful) fresh produce at a vendor’s stall in Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

An array of beautiful (and colorful) fresh produce at a vendor’s stall in Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Notice the packaging of these melons – quite special, with prices to match (US$18 to US$30, EACH!) -- Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Notice the packaging of these melons – quite special, with prices to match (US$18 to US$30, EACH!) — Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

While you’re splurging, how about one crab for US$80? -- Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

While you’re splurging, how about one crab for US$80? — Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Then there’s the wagyu-like beef slices, which are about US$40 per pound (it’s actually priced in Japanese Yen per kilogram (2.2 pounds)), Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Then there’s the wagyu-like beef slices, which are about US$40 per pound (it’s actually priced in Japanese Yen per kilogram (2.2 pounds)), Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

We ended up paying about US7.50 for one of these special local mushrooms to accompany our lightly pan seared (in lard in a cast iron skillet) wagyu-like beef

We ended up paying about US7.50 for one of these special local mushrooms to accompany our lightly pan seared (in lard in a cast iron skillet) wagyu-like beef slices – it was quite different from button mushrooms and porcini and king mushrooms, and had a nice spiciness; Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Morimori Sushi is Kanazawa’s most recommended conveyer-belt sushi restaurant, offering sushi of outstanding freshness; Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Morimori Sushi is Kanazawa’s most recommended conveyer-belt sushi restaurant, offering sushi of outstanding freshness; Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan – here the intrepid traveler is receiving a platter of specially ordered tuna (maguro and toro) for lunch

 

Morimori Sushi is Kanazawa’s most recommended conveyer-belt sushi restaurant, offering sushi of outstanding freshness.  We were forewarned that there is always a line to get in, so we arrived earlier than our desired luncheon time, put in our names, got a ticket with a number, and then shopped in Ōmi-chō market for a half hour before our turn came up to be seated at the counter.  In addition to selecting items from the conveyer belt, diners can (and we mostly did) order from an online iPad menu.

 

Tuna (five kinds, including toro (fatty tuna belly)) on a platter at Morimori Sushi, Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Tuna (five kinds, including toro (fatty tuna belly)) on a platter at Morimori Sushi, Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Delicious, sweet shrimp (ebi) sushi at Morimori Sushi, Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Delicious, sweet shrimp (ebi) sushi at Morimori Sushi, Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

It has to be special when you pay US$23 for five nicely boxed apple pears at the Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

It has to be special when you pay US$23 for five nicely boxed apple pears at the Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Local seafood delicacies and other prepared foods, including tofu; Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

Local seafood delicacies and other prepared foods, including tofu; Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

We saw only one sake store in all of Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

We saw only one sake store in all of Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

We returned to our favorite food vendor from our previous visit, selling yellowtail tataki and salmon tataki, which we had thoroughly enjoyed – this time we bought several (frozen and vacuum packed, so it travels well!); Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa

We returned to our favorite food vendor from our previous visit, selling yellowtail tataki and salmon tataki, which we had thoroughly enjoyed – this time we bought several (frozen and vacuum packed, so it travels well!); Ōmi-chō Market, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan [Tataki is a Japanese food preparation method where the meat or fish is very briefly seared over a hot flame (or in a pan) and then thinly sliced and seasoned with ginger (ground or pounded) and served with soy sauce and garnishes, like sashimi.]

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.

 

Eat local: Otomezushi , Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The charming wooden exterior of the excellent (but hidden from street view) sushi restaurant, Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan, where we enjoyed an outstanding luncheon

The charming wooden exterior of the excellent (but hidden from street view) sushi restaurant, Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan, where we enjoyed an outstanding luncheon

 

After our self-guided walking tour of Kenrokuen Garden, we walked over to the Naga-machi (old samurai) neighborhood, where, with the guidance of Google maps, we were able to walk behind a fence along a hidden path by a hostel to find a jewel of a sushi restaurant, Otomezushi.  Luckily, we had made a reservation considerably in advance of our arrival in Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan, as the sushi counter has only eight coveted seats and the restaurant has just a few small tables in the adjacent small dining room.  We were greeted by a very friendly sushi chef behind the counter who spoke some English and made us feel right at home, leaving the menu selection (8 pieces of sushi for lunch, plus soup and beverages) up to him – omakase.  Our hour-plus luncheon turned out to be some of the best sushi we have ever eaten.  Back on the ship a little reading online brought us several critical reviews noting that Otomezushi is not only the best sushi restaurant in Kanazawa (a city of nearly 500,000), but is considered one of the best sushi restaurants in Japan.

 

We were mesmerized by the skills of the master sushi chef (we were seated at the center of the counter, giving us bulls-eye dead center seats for watching the preparation of all sushi for the restaurant over lunch), and, being surrounded by all Japanese diners, felt it would be inappropriate to photograph the individual servings of sushi.  The chef did agree to let me take a couple of photographs at the end of the meal.  Unfortunately, the photographs can’t fully convey how fresh the seafood was and the expertise of the chef in cutting and preparing the fish and seafood, rolling the rice, and then adding wasabi, sauces and garnishes to each individual piece of sushi.  Definitely the best uni we have ever eaten, and the toro (super fatty tuna) was right up there, too.  A fabulous experience (both the theater of watching all the preparations and the enjoyment of the superb sushi) – and we were very pleasantly surprised at how reasonable the total bill was.  Otomezushi gets our highest recommendation.

 

The master sushi chef preparing individual pieces of sushi – our seats were at the counter, right in front of the chef; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The master sushi chef preparing individual pieces of sushi – our seats were at the counter, right in front of the chef; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The chef’s sushi knife and a selection of fresh fish and prawns in the cooler at the preparation counter, viewed from our seats; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The chef’s sushi knife and a selection of fresh fish and prawns in the cooler at the preparation counter, viewed from our seats; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

The master sushi chef preparing calamari by scoring the surface in several directions – it was amazingly tender; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

The master sushi chef preparing calamari by scoring the surface in several directions – it was amazingly tender; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

A broader view of the selection of fresh fish and seafood in the coolers at the preparation counter; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

A broader view of the selection of fresh fish and seafood in the coolers at the preparation counter; Otomezushi, Kanazawa, Honshu Island, Japan

 

Legal Notices: All photographs copyright © 2019 by Richard C. Edwards. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.  Permission to link to this blog post is granted for educational and non-commercial purposes only.