My French Heaven

LIFESTYLE PHOTOGRAPHY AND CULINARY ADVENTURES

My Japanese Heaven – Part 4 of 4 – How sushi actually made me cry

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OK, I’ll make this short (kind of):

The Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo is the largest one in the world. I was lucky enough to visit it in November before it is moved to a new location (this year or the next I think). I’m saying this because I think that the old warehouse it’s in very much contributes to its incredible atmosphere. And although, as you’ll see in the pictures, it looks really old and dirty and dark, I have never visited a fish market before that didn’t even smell like fish. I mean, it does, but it smells like really fresh fish… The best time to visit it is at 9am when it opens to the public. By ten thirty everything is kind of over. You can make reservations in advance to be there at 5 or 6 in the morning for the tuna auction, but I really didn’t see the point of that. My niece who lives in Tokyo and always has foreign guests staying with her had told me that friends of theirs who visited before had been treated very poorly at the market. They were shouted at, even had dirty fish water thrown at their feet. So I was quite worried about the experience I would have, especially since I wanted to take so many pictures… The experience of it was quite the opposite of what I had been told. I showed up at 9 sharp and had the most incredible experience. I was even offered tea and had a long talk about France and wine with one of the merchants… The secret? Be polite, smile and stay out of the bloody way!!

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Next stop that day was Kidoguchi (tel 03 54673992), my nephew’s favorite sushi restaurant in town. Let’s just say that the experience was so amazing that it made me tear up. I am not joking when I tell you it was the most refined dining experience I have ever had! You guys know how much I appreciate, admire and love craftsmen and women; people who are passionate about what they do. Well, even though I have had my share of fine dinning experiences in my life, this one was just that much more special. The textures, the freshness of each ingredient, the perfectly crafted sequence in which each piece was served… Truly amazing. Comparable to a religious experience. In addition to that, the Sous Chef is the son of a diplomat and speaks the most perfect English. This made the experience even more special as he was able to explain each part of the traditional sushi meal: what he was serving, when and why, etc… The problem is that I am a sushi nut, and because of this experience, I will never be able to appreciate a sushi meal again outside of Japan…

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On my last day, Alice (my adorable niece) had booked a private cooking class for the two of us. We had asked for a tempura theme. We met our host Yuka (Yuka’s Japanese Kitchen) at the metro station and she took us shopping for the ingredients first. That was the most interesting part for me as she was able to describe each and every ingredient in the shop (OK, almost each ingredient). You see, I am a fan of Japanese food, but the cooking culture is so different from mine that I needed to understand the basics first… We learned how to make the tempura sauce and miso soup from scratch… Truly fun and inspirational!! Thanks Alice!!

Alright. Now that we are done with the Japanese interlude, I will be back very soon with some good traditional French dishes for you guys to try… Bonne soirée mes amis!

My Japanese Heaven – Part 3 of 4 – Kyoto in the fall

No bla bla today. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. I’ll just say that Kyoto is a very very special place indeed and its people a delight to be around:

My Legendary French Onion Soup

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Here is a dish that is a true pillar of the French culinary tradition! One would even say an icon of traditional French cuisine. I had posted about this years ago, but I thought we were due for a refresher post. Plus it’s so darn cold outside :0)

Try the recipe and tell me how it was. For the anecdote, the onion soup was called the soup of the drunks, because it hides very well the smell of red wine: 0) My recipe seems so simple that you could be tempted to add beer, wine or beef/chicken broth. DO NOT DO IT! I myself was tempted the first time and I did well to resist!

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For 3 bowls:

- Cut 9 small yellow onions into thin strips (small onions have more flavor and less water) and sauté them in butter. This is the most important step and it took me about 30 minutes over medium heat. The goal is to sauté the onions until you get a uniform caramel color. If you burn them, you will have to start all over again as it will make your soup bitter. YOU WILL REMAIN BY YOUR STOVE AT ALL TIMES. The taste of your soup will depend on this step (The photos here will show you the exact color you need to get).

- Sprinkle a small tablespoon of flour and mix well

- Add 1.5 liters of water and let simmer for about 15mn. Salt, pepper and voila! Taste and add water or salt as necessary.

- Put the soup into ovenproof bowls up to half a centimeter from the top (the pictures show that I was about a quarter of an inch too low)

- Place a slice of toasted baguette on top and then a layer of grated Comté 

- Place under the grill for a few minutes. Take it out and sprinkle chopped parsley for color. Serve very hot.

A great thing about this dish is that everything can be done the day before, except for the last 3 steps which you’ll have to follow on the day. It is less stressful if you have guests: 0)

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