Showing posts with label kyo yasai. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kyo yasai. Show all posts

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Introducing the Kamo nasu

Not too long after I finished my lunch in the classroom, my teacher for the afternoon class stepped in to set up the classroom for the lesson. I greeted her and then went about keeping my lunch box. She walked around the class to count the number of chairs and tables and stopped where I was seated.
"Have you had your lunch? Oh, I see you have a lunch box! Did you prepare your own lunch?"
"Yes, I did. I had fried Kamo nasu too!"
"Kamo nasu!"
"Yes, I like nasu very much. I got it at Fresco."
"Wow! Kamo nasu is expensive!"
"It was 98 Yen only because there was a sale."
That's so cheap! Kamo nasu is usually pretty expensive, probably about 250 Yen."
"It is usually around 200 Yen at the supermarkets near my place."
"I think it is cheap because it is autumn."
"I think so too!"
As another teacher walked into the classroom to speak to my teacher, the conversation ended.
While I don't want my blog to become full of tributes to Kyoto vegetables, I really felt that the Kamo nasu deserves a spot in a blog about Kyoto. If you google it, you will find a list of tempting words associated with this famous eggplant of Kyoto.  Tight meat, highly prized, rich taste, creamier, delicate texture, beautifully round. The Representative of Kyo Yasai.
The official Kyoto City page has a page dedicated to the Kamo nasu while soysauce maker, Kikkoman, has a section extolling the cancer-fighting properties of Kamo nasu in its page detailing the "Virtues of Kyoto Vegetables".
I didn't think much about my cooking method when I fried the nasu. I recall frying it with minced meat and soy sauce but read later (a bit too late) that it is most tasty when cooked with miso. How regrettable. 
Here is a picture of the Kamo nasu I bought.  The taste of the vegetable is going to be something I shall miss very much when I leave Kyoto.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

The food on the table

After the first month in Kyoto, a miscalculated budget forced me to cut back on my meal expenses and I found myself having to give up the luxury of school meals and supermarket bentos for cheaper home-cooked meals.  
This turning point in my life opened my eyes to a perspective of food which I have often overlooked and taught me to truly appreciate the circumstances I am in.  If I had not started cooking for myself, I would not have fully experienced the goodness of living in a city where I can get the ingredients for my meals fresh from the farms every day.  
One of the joys of cooking in Kyoto is being able to get fresh ingredients for my meals.
In particular, Kyoto's traditional vegetables, or Kyo Yasai (京野菜) as they are known in Japanese, have a reputation for their rich colours and taste.  Just as the masters of traditional arts strived to perfect their craft, the  farmers of the old capital too worked hard to ensure the highest quality in their vegetables. Whether it was to delight the palate of the nobility or a response to the spread of Buddhism and vegetarian dishes in those days, the tradition of cultivating Kyo Yasai  seemed to be as important a tradition to the farmers of the old capital as any other Kyoto tradition then.  Today, even as Kyoto modernises along with the world, the tradition continues and Kyoto's vegetables and vegetarian cuisines are considered a must-try for visitors.  Those with a discerning palate often found the vegetables refreshingly sweet.
Vegetables from different parts of Japan are available in supermarkets in Kyoto but some supermarkets 
have a special section to promote Kyo Yasai of the season.
While Kyo Yasai could be slightly more expensive than vegetables from other parts of Japan, there are occasions when the supermarkets give discounts for seasonal vegetables. There is a variety of Kyo Yasai in season at different times of the year. In summer, eggplants cultivated in Kyoto are widely sold in the supermarkets.  I have never had a craving for eggplants in my entire life but since I saw them in every supermarket I went to, I decided to try some. They were really sweet and delicious! I have to admit that I have become somewhat of a fan of this vegetable.

In summer, eggplants from Kyoto can be bought at about 100 Yen for three.

Apart from Kyo Yasai, Kyoto also has its own rice fields in  some parts of the prefecture. When I took the local trains out from the city for my summer excursions, I passed many of these rice farms. The view of rolling green fields from the train windows was a picturesque sight. I couldn't possibly miss an opportunity to stroll through the fields. And that I did one summer day.  When I eat my rice today, the image of that lone, elderly farmer toiling under the hot sun tending to his fields always comes to mind.

Main picture shows rice fields in Yosano, a town in the Tango region, north of Kyoto prefecture. Top right picture shows a pack of  rice produced in the central Tamba region of Kyoto prefecture, which I recently bought. 
Before coming to Kyoto, I hardly stepped into the kitchen to prepare my own meals. I ate whatever was conveniently available and finished my meals without as much as a thought as to the origin of the food on the table.  But now, when I eat my meals, I taste the sweetness of the vegetables and the texture of the rice. And I feel grateful to the people who work closely with Nature to provide the food on my table.