Saturday, October 23, 2010

good grub

Recently I joined some Japanese friends for lunch at Kochi Fukaba. House specialty: shabu shabu, slices of raw pork or beef that you boil yourself at the table and dip into tasty sauces like ponzu and sesame.

Here on the 8th floor of the Seibu in Shibuya -- the big department store next to Tsutaya and Starbucks, northwest side of the Scramble across from Hachiko -- it's shabu shabu with a twist. You get the same pot of water spiked with dashi (a fish-based consomme), but with a generous glob of cream-colored collagen, which dissolves as the broth comes to a boil, enriching its flavor and helping us gals maintain younger-looking skin. (That last part may be wishful thinking. One article I found on the subject quotes scientists saying that collagen, the high-protein connective tissue found between animal bones, is digested into amino acids just like other proteins, so eating meat and other protein-rich foods has the same effect. And Kuniko Takahashi, a nutrition scientist at Gunma University and author of Tabemono Joho Uso Honto (Truth and Falsehood of Food Information), wrote that collagen, as a protein, is "no better than average.")

It was a delicious meal in any case. The restaurant had this great green condiment of concentrated yuzu (citrus) and spicy pepper, which I added to my dipping sauce.

The plastic display outside the entrance to the restaurant takes the fake-food-as-art to a whole new level.

That long clump in the lower right-hand corner represents one of the side dishes we ordered: raw chopped meat mixed with bits of veg and spices, a sort of mini (raw) meatloaf. You drop spoonfuls of the stuff into the broth to cook.

Here's what the collagen looks like when it is first added to the pot:

Four of my lunch buddies (right outside the entrance to the building):

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