The food tour didn’t start until 10:30am, so we made a pre-tour breakfast stop at an Italian coffee shop in the train station.
|Hot chocolate and croissant|
We arrived punctually at 10:30 and met our guide, Jason (a gregarious blond guy from Milwaukee who has been living in Japan for the past 11 years) and waited for the rest of the group to show up. We waited, and waited . . . and waited. An hour later, a harried looking mother and teenage daughter emerged from the train apologizing profusely for the delay — apparently a third member of their party had taken ill that morning. (Interestingly, given our own history of delays to food tours, Amanda and I were both remarkably charitable to these women — hooray for lessons in patience!)
Jason gave us a quick introductory spiel and then marched us into the street and around the corner to a small shop where a little old lady sold fish cakes with various types of filling. He taught us how to order in Japanese, and the proprietress kindly pretended to understand as she filled our orders based on what she’d heard Jason instructing us to say.
|I tried two of these: one filled with bits of pink ginger,
another with some type of crunch root in the middle
Leaving the fish cake shop behind, Jason directed us to a vast covered gallery lined with shops and crowded with shoppers and trucks alike (vehicles were permitted until noon).
Inside, we headed first to a shop that sold little pastries filled with
goodness custard or bean paste (of the red or white variety).
|Think of making two muffin-halves separately, then putting the filling on one when it’s
half-way cooked, and then plopping the other half on top to finish cooking.
|I tried a custard-filled pastry and a white-bean-filled pastry. Delicious!|
We started with a flowers-and-pickles shop that had been run by the same family for 14 generations (they started with flowers; pickles were added by the grandfather of the current shopkeeper). The colors on both sides of the shop were gorgeous.
|That’s Jason, our guide.|
|Our first assortment of pickles included beans, watermelon, something cucumbery,
and something else (maybe cabbage?). They were all pretty good.
|After we’d eaten the pickles and were about to leave, the family started bringing out more things
for us to try. I don’t remember what this was, I just remember it was like a gelatinous broth.
|Pickled Asian plums — at once the saltiest and sourest things I’ve probably ever eaten|
|Apparently you’re supposed to eat the plums with rice.
Only they didn’t bring out the rice until after I’d eaten the plum.
|Washing away the plum trauma with a cup of barley tea.|
Leaving the flowers and pickles behind, we moved on to the freshwater fish shop. Because Kyoto is land-locked, it relied on freshwater fish and eel instead of seafood. Freshwater eel is a particular delicacy, so we had a bit of eel wrapped in eggs that were not cooked quite enough for my taste.
|Freshwater eel wrapped in egg. Didn’t love it.|
Thinking we had left the odd fishes behind, we entered this little delicatessen and were seated at a table in the back room on which sat trays with bowls full of delicacies.
|You can’t read it in the photo, but the sign says the shop was established in the mid-1800s.|