If you are anything like me, you’ve been watching Netflix's The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House and enjoying the journey and the food. Episode 1 offers a few choice eats while providing some unique knowledge.
As the show opens, we are greeted with the scene of Kiyo and her grandmother eating a red-bean soup. This soup, nabekko dango, is actually a specialty of Aomori prefecture, where the story begins. An interesting fact about this dish is that the dumplings made of mochi (dango) have an indentation in the center, giving them a bowl-like shape. This dish is similar to oshiruko, a soup made of sweet red bean paste with mochi dumplings often enjoyed in the winter months.
Another winter favorite is shown as they depart on the overnight bus to Kyoto, the yaki-imo, or baked sweet potato. Often found in supermarkets, roadside stands, or trucks featuring the tell-tale steam whistle and a loudspeaker calling out “Yaki-imo!”, you can usually buy them whole, in half, or by weight. But be careful because it will be as hot as it is delicious.
Winter cooking aside, on the day where the characters are changing out the screens at the beginning of summer, they enjoy somen which are delicate rice noodles served cold with a tsuyu sauce. Somen is one of the quintessential summer dishes in Japan, so eating it on the first day of summer is very fitting.
The scene where the girls are cleaning the courtyard offers insight into the food of Kyoto. For example, Kiyo mentions manganji pepper, kujo spring onion, and horikawa gobo. Later, during the scene where she is cooking the tomato curry, she is preparing manganji peppers, and the eggplant she uses for the curry is also a special kyoto vegetable (known as kamo nasu). The show weaves together knowledge and information about Kyoto while later showing the viewer directly the richness of Kyoto’s culinary culture.
About the author:
Michael is originally from Chicago, IL in the United States, but has lived in Japan for seven years in Niigata and Hokkaido. He is an avid home chef, baker, and coffee enthusiast, but his one true love is ramen. Ever in pursuit of the perfect bowl of noodles, you can always find him by listening for the tell-tale slurp of ramen being enjoyed!