With a tip of the hat to Jimmy Buffet:
"I took off for a weekend last month
Just to try and recall the whole year.
All of the faces and all of the places,
wonderin' where they all disappeared......."
Changes in Latitude, Changes in Atittude (1977).
The Missus told me that I needed a short respite, and if anyone would know, She would. This past weekend, the Missus had events planned with Her friends, so I thought I'd take a drive up to LA, and eat a bit, meet a good friend of mine, then meet even more friends of mine, and just basically wander around aimlessly..... I thought I'd start driving early and hit the Torrance Farmers Market, which I've written about several times before. But this time around, I left San Diego extra early, like 530 am early. I decided to grab breakfast.... a kind of special breakfast, at a restaurant called Fukagawa.
Fukagawa is located in the same plaza as Marukai Pacific Market, but is kind of hidden away in a corner. You'll first have to see the Fukagawa sign.
Then look down the hallway to find Fukagawa......
You may ask why a Soba & Udon (& Shabu Shabu) restaurant would be opening at 7am from Mondays to Saturdays?
I mean, the place doesn't look much different from a hundred, or even a thousand other Japanese restaurants.....
What makes Fukagawa rather unique in my mind is that they serve a "Japanese Breakfast". A simple, yet soulful combination of dishes and flavors that may seem a bit strange to many Westerners, but is very familiar to me, as something similar was my Mom's special breakfast that she made on occasion for us.
Something resembling "Combo B" was what we ate for those meals.... so of course it's what I ordered.
Just the smells brought back memories.......
The miso soup presented me with a bit of nostalgia as it had sliced onions in it. My grandparents and mother used to put onions in their miso soup..... but I don't recall having miso soup this way outside of home.
That's Natto (fermented soybeans) on the left, and Hiyakko Tofu (cold tofu) on the right.
Of course growing up, we didn't make things quite as fancy....no katsuobushi(shaved dried bonito) for our tofu, and no quail egg or even mustard (I don't think Mom would have enjoyed that) adorning the natto.
As for the natto..... my grandparents were from Fukushima-ken, and as long as I remember, whenever someone asked where my family was from in Japan and I answered "Fukushima", among the first things mentioned was, "oh, so you must eat a lot of natto, huh?" Actually, I really don't love natto, in fact, the Missus enjoys it much more than I do. But over time, I have eaten my share......
And is it just me, or does today's natto not smell quite as bad?
But for me, the most important item was this:
Lest you wonder why the heck I think a boiled egg is so important to me..... well, it's not a boiled egg.
And in spite of the recent Salmonella Egg recall and warnings, the dish would not be the same without this.
You add a little shoyu.....
Pour over hot rice (in all honesty, the rice should have been hotter) steal some green onions from my tofu, and mix.......
Creating a dish known as "tamago-meshi". One of the earliest (and few) memories I have of my grandparents, is my "Ji-chan" (grandfather) waking before dawn. Even though the plantation days were behind them; the plantation ways were still strong. Neither Grandparent spoke much English, and always had problems with my name. Ironically, they ended up calling me "Keiki" (which means "child" in Hawaiian). To this day I'm not sure if they actually knew what keiki meant, or of they just chose that word because it kinda sounded like my name, and was something they'd heard before. Anyway, my job was to climb the ricketty ladder up to papaya tree and pick two of the ripes papaya. My reward? My Grandmother would have a steaming bowl of rice, mix the raw egg with shoyu, pour the egg over the rice, top with green onions and mix....... tamago meshi. This in turn was topped with natto. I was also given half a papaya (to help me digest), and a cup of coffee (!!! I was maybe 7-8 years old) with tons of cream and sugar. A perfect breakfast for getting out there and working the fields.......
I really haven't had this in years, perhaps a decade (or two!), but it just seemed like the perfect thing to get this road trip started.
My friend, Akira, who I had dinner with later that evening, cracked up when I told him about my breakfast. Even though he lives in Torrance, he'd never heard of Fukagawa. And no, coming from Osaka, he's not much of a natto, or tamago-meshi fan. Still, he appreciated the fact that there was at least one place serving this in LA.
I don't think younger people eat this much anymore. In fact, much like the next morning's breakfast (an upcoming post of course), everyone here was at least a decade older then me. And no one got the egg raw.......they all requested the egg over-easy......
The Japanese breakfast is available for lunch and dinner, though there's an upcharge of $1 for lunch, and $2 for dinner.
Fukagawa Soba & Udon
1630 W Redondo Beach Blvd.
Gardena, CA 90247