Coming towards the end of my 2 week trip in Osaka, Sachiko invited BK and I to her home and she was going to cook us a home-cook dinner. It was her off day from work, and also BK’s last day at the conference, so we were looking forward to spend some time together at her place.
Takoyaki or Sukiyaki? Sachiko asked. Sukiyaki, I said, as Sachiko just told me of a good takoyaki stall in America-mura in Namba area. Is raw egg ok? She asked. Yes, I love the eggs in Japan ~ gleaming golden yolk. The raw egg is used as a dipping sauce for Sukiyaki. Sachiko confirmed that cooking sukiyaki will be very simple.
From Umeda station, we took a 10 min Hankyu train to the station near her home, followed by a 20 min walk. Shall I come to the station to pick you? … No, we will come on our own, but we will call you when we get lost. I was ready to challenge myself to recall the route to her home. I had been to her home 3 times in the last 9 years, the last time being Dec 2003/Jan 2004. I stayed at her home twice when I was in Osaka the first 2 times. Anyhow, we mananged to find our way halfway to her home, and she accompanied us the rest of the way.
Sukiyaki is a delicious beef (known as niku in nihon-go) dish cooked in a broth consisting of cabbage, leek, straw mushrooms, tofu and itokonnnyaku (konnyaku like thread). Sachiko started cooking when we settled comfortably at her home. In a pot, she stir fried the selected beef slices. When the colour changed from raw to medium rare, she added soy sauce and heaps of light brown sugar. Then she added the rest of the ingredients. Don’t you need to add some water for the broth? I asked. She explained that the water will come from the vegetable, even though she appeared to have added a lot of soy sauce and heaps of sugar, the water from the vegetable and sweetness from the meat and the fragrance from remaining ingredients will turn the dish into a delicious broth. Usually sukiyaki is cooked at the table, but she decided to cook at the stove instead to minimise oiliness in the dining area.
Hmm… oishii… meaning “delicious“. The simplicity of the dish and the exuding flavour amazed us. We had sukiyaki with Japanese sticky rice. The dish went well with a beer or a light cocktail, I preferred to have it with Ooloong tea. The sizzling dish made us hungry and we finished it in no time, slurpping the beef slices dipped in beaten raw eggs.
I also bought rolled cake with strawberry for all of us, Sachiko said. Sachiko knew I tasted a lot of sweets during my trip, and was always amazed at the moist and fine cake sponge produced in Japanese cake products. We spent time analyzing each sweet together during her last off day. Japanese swiss rolls are popular and they make a huge business out of a simple sweet, many adapted with local ingredients … and the Japanese are creative, they win hands down in innovation, delicate presentation and superior service. Each roll costs about 1000 yen or US$10.
BK ate 1/3 while Sachiko, and Hideko – her sister, and I shared the rest. The cake was really se-go-i (meaning great), with light fresh cream and whole sweet strawberries. Strawberries are in season right now. She made us English tea to go with the cake.
What is your favourite Japanese dish? Hideko asked. It was a difficult question, as I love each trip to Japan and I couldn’t exactly pin-point a favourite though I may have favourite dishes associated with each region. Osaka ramen, okonomiyaki, tonkatsu, negi-yaki … We chatted into midnight and left only to catch the last trains. The warmth in the stomach gave comfort to a cool and at times chilly spring night. Sachiko and us decided to meet again for dinner the following evening ~ my fav Negi-yaki (negi = leek, ~yaki = ~bbq), she decided on a place to introduce us good negi-yaki in Umeda.
The underground path around Umeda station was closing when we arrived into Umeda. From Umeda station, we took a half hour stroll back to our hotel at Nakanoshima area. Contented.