Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Japan birthday: Aomori Nabe Party

Aomori-style nabe

Following the success of our memorable sushi-making party, my lovely Shimokitazawa friends decided to throw me a very special (belated) birthday celebration: a nabe party. Nabe is a popular Japanese food mostly eaten in winter, and it consists of a hot pot in which you can throw a variety of ingredients, such as vegetables, meat, fish, and noodles in a flavoured broth.

My friend Mayumi hails from the northern prefecture of Aomori, so she introduced us to the Aomori-style nabe, which includes a rice cracker called senbei.  She had thoughtfully brought back the necessary ingredients from a recent visit there, and we stocked up on vegetables and meat at the supermarket.

Green onions, cabbage, tofu, konnyaku, carrots, mushrooms and chicken were all thrown into a hot soy broth and left simmering while we got started on a delicious tomato and mozzarella salad. When the nabe was almost fully cooked, we broke pieces of the Aomori senbei cracker on it, and the result was an amazing, tasty, full-flavoured dish. The cracker bits did not get soggy at all, in fact were still a bit crunchy, which was interesting. Rice and garlic prawns were eaten as a side dish.

We accompanied the meal with chilled green tea and apple juice, and a few sips of Aomori sake, before polishing off our plates and feeling sleepy from such a warm, delicious meal. The best part about eating nabe is gathering everyone around a table and having a slow meal, while chatting away and adding more vegetables to the broth, as needed. For dessert, my friend Yumiko treated us to annin pudding, an almond jelly dessert originating from China.

I also got a lovely surprise: my friends offered me a gorgeous, gorgeous present, a Marc by Marc Jacobs evening clutch, carefully selected by my ├╝ber-fashionable and attentive friend Takahiro. I felt very shy and very spoiled by all this attention.

To be honest, this was probably the most thoughtful, special birthday party I have ever had. I am lucky to have such wonderful Japanese friends who are willing to share their traditions with me and introduce me to such fascinating bits of Japanese culture each time. I hope to return the gesture one day and introduce them to my own Canadian customs and culture.

Before the party...

I met Philip Lim-clad Takahiro at the station, stylish as ever

We managed to sneak in a vintage store and try on colorful items...

... and oversized sunglasses.

At the party...

Chilled green tea, yum!

A senbei cracker from Aomori prefecture

Nabe + Salad, let's eat!

Mayumi-chan and the Aomori senbei crackers added

Chopstick skills + shrimp

Aomori sake
Almond jelly pudding, with homemade syrup

Gorgeous Marc by Marc Jacobs evening clutch

Thank you, thank you Mayumi, Takahiro and Yumiko for that wonderful, unforgettable birthday celebration!!


Michelle {lovely little things} said...

Happy Birthday Vivian!

Grace said...

Happy birth anniversary!

Love Grace.

Anonymous said...

Happy birthday Viv! Looks like you had an amazing one, too. What wonderful, thoughtful friends you have :-)

Ring of Fire said...

mmmm, sounds so yummy! I've been wanting to buy a nabe pot and heater for myself.