Experience Japanese-Homestyle Cooking in Mayuko’s Little Kitchen

Japanese-Homestyle Cooking Class in Mayuko’s Little Kitchen

Japanese-Homestyle Cooking Class in Mayuko’s Little Kitchen

Whenever I travel, I try to immerse myself in the culture and experience local cuisine. I enjoy dining out, visiting markets and cafés, and tasting different regional specialties and styles of cooking. But I also like to see how the locals cook, as restaurant cooking usually differs significantly from what’s prepared in the home. That led me to Mayuko’s Little Kitchen.

Mayuko is a young Japanese woman, who quit her job as a cosmetics manager to follow in her mother’s footsteps as a cooking teacher. She teaches out of her small Tokyo apartment located on the border of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden in a quiet residential area just off the main bustle. Her classes give an intimate glimpse into Japanese cooking.

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Eating Tonkatsu at Katsukura Shinjuku Restaurant

Tonkatsu Pork Filet and Prawn at Katsukura Shinjuku

Tonkatsu Pork Filet and Prawn at Katsukura Shinjuku

Katsukura Restaurant is located on the 14th floor of the Takashimaya Mall in Shinjuku, a short walk from Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens.  Katsukura specializes in tonkatsu—a Japanese dish consisting of pork that has been coated in flour, egg, and panko breadcrumbs, and then deep fried. This preparation produces delicately airy pork with a crispy exterior. If you visit Japan, you must try tonkatsu at least once!

Katsukura is a tourist-friendly restaurant. Upon arrival, they brought us cold barley tea (commonly served in the summertime in Japan) and offered us English menus. Fans of Japanese whiskey will be happy to see that you can order a high-ball of Yamazaki or Hakushu for around ¥650 (~$5-$6 USD). This is not bad at all given the price of Japanese whiskey in the States!

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How to Make Chashu (Marinated Braised Pork Belly)

Thinly Sliced Chashu (Marinated Braised Pork Belly)

Thinly Sliced Chashu (Marinated Braised Pork Belly)

Chashu—slow-braised marinated pork belly—is a much-loved ramen topping. The glistening pork is used in many styles of ramen and is often served thinly sliced, floating near the top of bowl. Today I’m going to show you how to make chashu.

Ramen is a slow art. Making a bowl of ramen can be a multi-day affair—the stock alone can take days. It takes time to develop the flavors from each of the ingredients. If you’re in Japan, you can let the experts do the work and grab a quick meal at a ramen shop; however, if you’re in America and aren’t lucky enough to have a quality ramen restaurant near you, then you might want to invest the time and energy to make it yourself. Plus, it’s fun learning how dishes are made and cooking them at home (at least, I think so)!

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Eating Tsukemen (Dipping Ramen) at Fuunji in Tokyo

special-tsukemen-with-extra-chashu-pork-at-fuunji-restaurant-in-shinjuku-tokyo

Special Tsukemen with Extra Chashu Pork at Fuunji Restaurant in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Despite howling winds and lashing rain from an approaching typhoon, Corey and I braved the streets of Shinjuku in search of a delicious meal. It was our second night in Japan and we couldn’t let two days go by without having any noodles!

Originally, we’d planned to eat soba in memory lane our first night in Tokyo at Kameya Shinjuku, but that had been thwarted by the Obon holiday. So we weren’t going to let the weather stop us from eating at Fuunji!

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Crane Ramen Restaurant Gainesville, FL

Interior of Crane Ramen Restaurant in Gainesville, FL

Interior of Crane Ramen Restaurant in Gainesville, FL

When my mother called and told me that Crane Ramen—the first ramen restaurant in Gainesville, Florida—had opened, I decided to check it out. It’s hard to find a ramen restaurant outside the big cities, though with the increasing popularity of ramen, that may change. I’ve been spoiled by all the ramen joints in Chicago (Santouka being my favorite) and Atlanta, so it was exciting to see one open in my little hometown.

Crane Ramen’s Atmosphere and Setting

Crane Ramen features a vibrant, modern interior with an open kitchen, illustrated placemats showing how to eat ramen (the secret is to slurp and slurp quickly!), and ceiling banners featuring the restaurant’s logo—a crane stretched proudly over an empty stack of bowls. This may be a reference to longevity, as cranes are fabled to live 1,000 years in Japan, and noodles symbolize longevity in some Asian countries.

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