Ask Intrepid’s Chotie Moloney to recall her most favourite traditional feast and it’s sure to be this amazing banquet in Japan…
“We were in the Alps township of Takayama for the summer fireworks festival when our local ryokan chef prepared an evening banquet for us. What a treat! After dressing in yukatas and indoor slippers, we entered the private dining room with a great sense of excitement. A long low table was already laid out with 8 place settings for our Intrepid group. It took a little time to settle in a comfortable position with satin cushions on the tatami floor, but I managed to cross my legs without pointing my feet at anyone and was ready to feast.
The meal featured traditional Japanese dishes with locally grown produce including Hida beef and forest vegetables. We started with miso soup – a distinctive Japanese broth made from stock called dashi which has dissolved softened miso. It was served in small black lacquered bowls with lids and I drank with relish. Upon closer inspection of the dish, I discovered wakame seaweed, tofu and shiitake mushrooms. Delicious. Next came tempura – seafood and vegetables covered in a light cornstarch batter and deep-fried. So tasty and brought to Japan by the Portuguese in the 15th century.
Plates of sashimi and sushi magically appeared. Wasabi and soy sauce were blended together to make a salty hot dipping sauce and along with slices of pickled ginger that were a perfect companion to the huge slices of Maguro sushi. These were without doubt the largest slices of raw tuna I had ever seen!
Large thin slices of Hida beef had been placed in bowls ready for some light cooking at the table. Miniature ceramic cookers with small candles lit below delivered a steady heat. I watched as some of my companions turned the meat over until medium rare. By all accounts, mouth watering. I was too interested in the seafood. We finished off with forest vegetables and leaves that had been lightly steamed then seasoned with sesame oil and spices. I was fascinated with the tiny pieces of fern.
The background noise was audible; a mix of chopsticks clicking, more Sake being poured into tiny vessels and the frequent murmurs of delight. Afterwards, we rolled off our cushions and up on our feet; it was time to head into town for the fireworks display. What an evening!”
* photo by Alison Agnew – Intrepid Photography Competition