Monday, January 16, 2006

Takaoka Gets Nabe Fever!!!

The literal Japanese-English translation of nabe is "pot" or "saucepan." The English translation of the Japanese phrase for Nabe Festival is therefore the pot festival. I think I'll continue calling it the Nabe Festival.

Nabe also refers to a type of japanese dish prepared in a hot pot, some of the more popular varieties being oden, sukiyaki, shabu shabu, and chanko nabe. You basically just take a whole bunch of ingredients and throw them into a pot of boiling water. Delicious!

The Nabe Festival in Takaoka is sort of a celebration of all the things that Takaoka is famous for: bronze casting and being close to the ocean...they're not really famous for much else. Sorry.

They set up the festival so that it was spread out all over downtown. Nabe was 300 Yen per bowl, but if you bought meal tickets ahead of time, they were 250 Yen each. Instead of making the nabe in a small pot, like, say, one that could fit on a table, they make the nabe in HUGE bronze pots the size of small swimming pools. There was one big pot near the station, one near the department store Daiwa, and one inside the gates of Sekino Shrine. There were also roasted sweet potatoes next to the Daibutsu, which is Japanese for Big Buddha (we should start calling Alex Daibutsu, what do you think?)

Here's the lowdown on the nabe, ranked in order of palatability for the unadventurous Westerner:

The best nabe was the one in front of Daiwa. It was a seafood chowder (DID YOU KNOW that any soup made with potatoes is classified as a chowder?) It was just like a New England chowder, but with some shell-on shrimp, scallops, and clams thrown in for good measure.

Second best was the kani (crab leg) nabe, not neccesarily because it tasted good, but because each bowl of nabe had a huge frickin' half a crab stickin' out of it! The crab was a little messy and required a lot of work, but like I said, THERE WAS A HUGE FRICKIN' HALF A CRAB STICKIN' OUT OF IT!

I did not like the gottsu nabe, which was made from chunks of skin-on salmon, shrimp with their heads still on, and an assortment of mystery dumplings. Once I peeled it, the shrimp tasted very good, but the whole dish itself was a little too fishy for my tastes.

I almost forgot about the sweet potatoes. They rocked! 200 Yen bought you a brown lunch bag sized portion of steaming hot sweet potatoes. The volunteers had a really interesting way of cooking them: They filled wooden boxes with potatoes, dumped in a bunch of salt, and cooked them by stacking the boxes three high high on top of a pot (nabe?) containing some boiling water.

There were also other vendors selling other types of nabe (we didn't try any) and a wide assortment of Japanese sweets and pastries. Click HERE and HERE to see some of those sweets.

How would you like to see some pictures from the festival?

People lining up for kani nabe:People lining up for gottsu nabe:That's a mighty big pot:These are just some of the ingredients in the gottsu nabe:Emily tries to get around the shrimp heads in order to get to the oh-so-fishy gottsu nabe:This guy was selling grilled fish on a stick:If I had the 3rd largest Bronze Buddha in the whole of Japan, I would use it to sell roasted sweet potatoes, too:That there is some hot potatuhs (please read that statement as if you were from the Deep South):Mmmmmmm.....kani nabe:Crab in a pot:

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