Ryokan meals

A highlight of our December trip to Japan was a sojourn to the mountain resort town Hakone. We stayed in a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. One of the best things about staying in a ryokan is that your food comes to you. Thus, we spent our time between trips down to the hot springs lounging in our room in our yukata waiting for tasty meals.

When we arrived at the ryokan, we were given slippers and escorted to our room, where the table was already set with green tea and wagashi (sweets).

Tea at the ryokan

Tea at the ryokan

Later in the evening, after a hot spring bath, the hostess arrived with our dinner. Wow. I quite like having small portions of many different dishes to try, although it was a bit overwhelming. I don’t think I could eat like this every day; it was almost too refined. But it fabulously wonderful, and a meal that I’ll never forget. Our appetizers are pictured below…can’t remember exactly what they were. I think this is Yusuke’s meal; mine didn’t include any meat (just fish).

Assorted appetizers

Assorted appetizers

Below is one of my dishes: a mound of sticky black rice with snapper, a white fish. It had a light, vaguely salty sauce. On the very top is fu, shaped like a momiji (maple) leaf and dyed with bright colours for decoration (see here and here for more about fu). The final garnish is wasabi: much smoother and purer than the kind that comes in a tube.

Black rice and snapper

Black rice and snapper

This dish is a hollowed-out baked potato stuffed with seafood (shrimp, crab, etc.) and potatoes mixed with a delicately cheesy sauce.

Seafood-potato gratin

Seafood-potato gratin

This was my absolute favourite, and no, it’s not a desert. The dish is puréed daikon (a type of radish) with crab meat. It was so smooth and melty in my mouth. Again, it’s topped with coloured fu.

Beautiful daikon

Beautiful daikon

And of course, we had miso soup with rich mountain vegetables: bamboo shoots, green onions, seaweed, and nameko mushrooms.

Miso soup

Miso soup

Finally, the dessert featured a small, sweet mochi ball with fruit: strawberry, tangerine, mango, and passion fruit, plus a chestnut and anko. Perfect.

Dessert

Dessert

In the morning, after another hot springs dip, our breakfast arrived. I eat oatmeal and a banana religiously for breakfast, or in case of need, something else that involves processed carbs and/or fruit. So I wasn’t sure how I would handle a non-sweet breakfast. I managed much better than I expected! (Although I did eat rather more than my fair share of the rice.) I was particularly surprised at my ability to eat fish for breakfast. It was simply grilled and served with soy sauce, so the flavour was mild. Less appealing was the carrot and daikon kinpira (normally I love it; just too spicy for the morning), the dish with squid, and the salty seaweed salad. However, I quite enjoyed the miso soup and the potato salad with green vegetables. I’m still sticking to oatmeal, though…doesn’t really go well with mackerel…

Breakfast: what a spread!

Breakfast: what a spread!

UPDATE: I had forgotten to add that the “squid dish” served for breakfast was shiokara, a term which I verified by googling “squid guts.” From Yusuke’s explanation, basically it’s the entire squid minced up and cooked in a salty spicy sauce. It wasn’t bad, but for breakfast? I’ll pass. Not exactly the breakfast of champions.

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