My first breakfast in Japan was at 7:30am at a Nomiu at the huge Roppongi dori in Tokyo. I had woken up at 4am because of jetlag, and killed 3 hours just walking around the neighborhood.
When I walked into Nomiu, there were a bunch of middle-aged men in suits getting their breakfast before they had to start their day at the office.
I sat down at an empty seat at the horse-shoe shaped booth table. Many people stared at me, wondering what a student was doing with make-up on at 7am at a Nomiu.
The server came and pointed me in the direction of a machine. He said a bunch of stuff in Japanese, but of course, I couldn’t understand any of it. When I approached the machine, I realised that I had to get a ticket from the machine to order my meal.
Thank goodness for the pictures. Most of these machines have an English option; this particular machine did not.
I picked the weirdest looking one, and paid with my yen coins. It spit out a ticket, which I gave the server. He immediately brought a cup of cold matcha tea, and brought my tray in just a few minutes.
I recognized rice, miso soup, sliced-up okra, some cooked beef thing, raw egg, and katsuobushi flakes in a plastic bag.
I had no clue how to eat this. Why had the provided me two yellow bowls for the egg and fish flakes? I knew Japanese people liked to eat raw eggs in the morning, but what was I supposed to do do with it? Thank goodness an old Japanese man sitting two seats to the left of me had ordered something similar, and got his meal at the same time as I did. I creepily watched this man prepare his meal, and repeated exactly as he did.
He broke his egg into one of the small bowls, discarded the egg shells in the second bowl, then poured soy sauce into the bowl of egg.
He mixed it with his chopsticks, and poured it over the rice, then topped it off with the fish flakes.
He grabbed some benishoga from the self-serve condiments caddies situated conveniently between every few seats, and proceeded to eat.
The benishoga was sweet, salty and sour and I could understand why people ate this with every chopstick-ful of rice. Some people piled up a mountain of benishoga into their bowl, and seemed to enjoy it more than any other of the other things on the tray. The tiny beef dish provided some fat, which was missing from every other item on the tray. The hot miso soup loosened me up from the harsh February winds, and the rice was cooked to perfection. The thawed-from-frozen slices of okra seemed out place, and it felt out of place as I ate it, but I welcomed the addition of this healthy vegetable in my breakfast.
This meal cost only 350 yen, but it was really filling. I had walked in with an empty stomach and left bloated. It tasted great and all, but what really struck out was how slimy it was.
The trifecta of slime; okra, raw egg and these mushrooms in the miso soup that had a slimy texture. These mushrooms are supposed to be slimy (not because they were rotten), and are often found in miso soups.
I didn’t mind the slime, because it’s all natural slime. If your never had okra, trust me, it’s slimy. Raw egg, as you know, is slimy, and these mushrooms, they’re definitely slimy. AND I LOVE THEM. If you’re not a fan of slippery stuff in your mouth, avoid these breakfast items in Japan. Oh, and mountain yam, the king of slime.
I had mountain yam for my breakfast at Matsuya, a very common don restaurant chain.
Matsuya. You’ll see Matsuyas everywhere. It’s the most grimy and low-quality of all the places I’ve been in Japan. Maybe the location I went to was just badly managed.
Paying for my breakfast meal at a vending machine.
The machine had English! I got the grilled salmon set, which is more expensive than the other options.
Never a lack of condiments at Japanese food places. The cheaper the place, the more condiments they provide. Usually, it’s to mask the crappiness of the food, but I found this unnecessary in Japan. The general quality of food was much higher than what I’m used to in Toronto.
The bowl of grated mountain yam is topped with slices of nori (dried seasweed). More seaweed provided in a plastic bag, some pickled napa cabbage, bowl of miso soup (no slimy mushrooms, boooo) and a super salty piece of grilled salmon.
I put some soy sauce in the bowl of mountain yam, and mixed rapidly with my chopsticks to get the sliminess up to max levels, as I have seen locals do. Also copied their practice of dipping seaweed sheets in a bit of soy sauce, and wrapping some rice with it and then eating the blanketed rice.
I did not enjoy the salmon, as it was heavily brined and I used up all my sodium allowance for the day with that thin piece of fish. Food in Japan is generally saltier, but that piece of fish was almost painful to eat.