Japan Eats

Japan Eats Podcast: Episode 5, “Roadtrip”

This week we talk about shochu, Kagoshima and Marcus’s problem with nature

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In this week’s Japan Eats Podcast, Garrett DeOrio, Marcus Lovitt, and Christopher Pellegrini talk about researching shochu in Kyushu.

Here are some links to what we discussed this week:

Intro/outro: “Aguamala” by Carne Cruda

You can e-mail us at lovitt@japaneats.tv

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Japan Booze Blind: Kyushu (Part III)

In the third and final episode of JBB’s Kyushu series, Christopher Pellegrini tries Kirishima and Kuro Denen shochu

Convenience stores in southern Kyushu usually carry a wide selection of shochu. Unlike in Tokyo, much of what can be found in Miyazaki, Kagoshima and Kumamoto prefectures comes in small cans or bottles, similar to the so-called ‘one cup’ nihonshu found elsewhere in the country.

We stopped by a combini and picked up a couple that caught our eye. According to its label, Kirishima is from Miyazaki prefecture and is an imo jochu (potato shochu). It’s easily recognized by its very own gold-colored tasting cup. Kuro Denen, meanwhile, comes from Kagoshima prefecture and (we read with interest) is only 12 per cent by volume.

Once again, we sat beneath Kagoshima City’s cherry blossoms and familiarized ourselves with Kyushu’s favorite spirit.

Watch Part I.

Watch Part II.

Japan Booze Blind: Kyushu (Part II)

Christopher Pellegrini samples an Alt and a Kölsch from Miyazaki’s Aya Brewery

Back in Kagoshima City after a wonderful trip to Miyazaki Prefecture to visit the good people at Kuroki Honten Distillery, we found ourselves a nice place under the cherry blossoms and cracked open a couple of souvenirs that we brought back with us.

Watch Part I.

Watch Part III.

Japan Booze Blind: Kyushu (Part I)

Japan Booze Blind visits southern Kyushu and road tests Kuro Kirishima shochu

On our way from Kagoshima Prefecture to Miyazaki Prefecture, we decided to see what might be available for our mid-trip perusal from the concession cart that rolls by every half hour or so.

The standard fare, as far as the alcohol menu in central/northeastern Japan is concerned, is canned beer, chu-hai and ‘one cup’ (nihonshu in a glass jar). Because we were traveling through Kyushu, however, we were pleasantly surprised to find one additional inhabitant on the menu.

Cup shochu. Kuro Kirishima to be exact.

And we decided to give it a whirl because we know that you’d be disappointed if we hadn’t. This is JBB after all. For the record, Kuro Kirishima was an easy-drinking preamble to our distillery tour later that day.

Watch Part II.

Watch Part III.

Cafe Review: Artisan Coffee, Fukuoka

Kupa Hokianga reviews Artisan Coffee in Fukuoka

Recently, a friend of mine took one of his colleagues to a cafe I recommended for its excellent macchiato.
The coffee arrived at their table, the ham-handed colleague managed to spill his before tasting it. My friend offered to order another, but the guest responded, “Ah, doesn’t matter; I’m more a Starbucks kind of guy.”

My heart sunk when told. I’m not sure what the moral is here, something about a horse and water.

Artisan's Rocket espresso machine in action (Photo: Neil Witkin)

My wife’s friend recommended I try Artisan Coffee, a 12-seat, slightly bohemian cafe in Hirao (Fukuoka). It’s off my normal route, but the sample of their beans I received suggested it was worth a visit.

Takamiya-dori is a busy road in a prosperous residential part of town. When we arrived, the small cafe, which could be described in a 1980 Vogue magazine as “shabby chic”, was empty of customers. I ordered an espresso and my wife selected a caramel latte.

While making polite conversation with friends, I watched the barista out of the corner of my eye as he calibrated the grinder setting one notch to the right before a quick test into the palm of his hand, then fresh ground a dose of dark roasted beans before effortlessly swiping the port-a-filler level; a gentle tamp and tap and a few seconds later the extraction had started. My demitasse arrived with a perfectly proportioned warmed spoon on the side.

The espresso was near faultless – the crema maintained structure, the temperature was perfect, and the caramel sweetness from the bean came through with just a hint of bitterness. The macchiato I ordered next was excellent and is now my coffee of choice.

I cannot comment on my wife’s afternoon caramel latte as that drink at that time of day goes against everything I believe in. I took her word for it when she said it tasted fantastic and the rabbit face latte art was kawaii.

Artisan Coffee is a must-do, mainly because they consistently get the coffee basics right and to a high standard and the starchy Japanese cafe culture is tossed out the window.

The barista critique and my coffee snobbery aside, if you just want nice coffee and don’t mind mismatched decor, grab your favorite magazine, turn off your phone and enjoy this small indulgence. You will not be disappointed. The cappuccinos are creamy, the macchiato is full-bodied and the barista is working on his flat white.

Food selection is limited, so don’t arrive hungry, but there’s a relaxed, informal ambiance and outdoor smoking tables. Coffee prices start at 380 yen, which is exceptional value. Surprisingly seating always seems to be available. Their primary bean is Fidalgo Bay (organic shade grown), the espresso machine is a single-head Rocket.

This article has been edited. The original version misspelled Fidalgo. This has now been corrected.

Artisan Coffee is located on Takamiya dori. If accessing from Hirao station, it’s about 5 minutes’ walk on the right as you head towards Yakuin station. Open 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., six days a week. No website.

Recipe: Buta no kakuni

Buta no kakuni (braised pork belly) is most often associated with the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, and in particular, the city of Nagasaki. It’s famously soft texture and sweet soy flavor has endeared it to people across Japan, and it can now be found on izakaya menus throughout the country.

This Chinese-influenced dish takes some time to prepare, but results in pork so delicate it breaks apart easily with chopsticks.

Buta no kakuni

Buta no kakuni

Ingredients (for 4 people)

  • 800g of pork belly
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 pieces of ginger
  • 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups of sake
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons of sugar
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 green onion

Method

Cut the pork into 5 to 6 cm cubes.

Peel the garlic and the ginger, then slice both into pieces 5 mm wide.

Place the pork, garlic, ginger and sake into a pot, then pour in enough water to just cover them. Bring to the boil on a high heat.

Once boiling, turn the gas down and carefully skim off any scum which has formed on the surface of the mixture. Cook on a low heat for a further hour to hour and a half, then allow the mixture to sit overnight.

The next day, remove the solid fat (lard) from the pan. Naturally it ‘s worth keeping to flavor other Chinese-style dishes.

Add sugar to the dish and place it on a medium heat for 20 minutes. Add soy sauce and cook for a further 30 minutes. At this point it’s worth checking the taste in case you want add a little more sugar or soy.

Slice the green onions diagonally into 5 mm pieces and cook these for about 5 minutes. If you prefer the texture of fresh green onions, simply add them to the pot and turn the gas off immediately – they will cook with the remaining heat.

Serve with a small bowl of Japanese mustard.