29 (Sat) January 2011
at Aso Bay Camp
-Tsushima, Nagasaki, Japan-
with Backcountry Camping
Camping Trip in Japan, Day 1.
In Tsushima. With members of the Backcountry Camping group, we are camping out on the island for two nights. Flew in at the crack of dawn Saturday, flying back Monday evening. GMTD is excited to present this first series of posts from overseas.
It was the smallest plane that I’ve ever taken. To make it scarier, each of us was weighed at checkin, the heavier passengers seated up front to facilitate takeoff.
Upon arrival, while waiting for the restaurant to open, we took a walk around town. We did not see a single person on the streets – seriously.
Lunch was part of the package.
I forgot to get the name of the restaurant, small place that looked like it was converted from a private residence.
Bento is a type of Japanese meal. Consists of a partitioned box – the bento itself – filled with rice or noodles and a variety of side dishes, usually grilled and deep-fried meats, salads and vegetables.
GMTD’s first ever overseas meal, the food was pretty good. Everyone else seemed to agree, as all of the boxes were wiped clean within 10 minutes.
Still, it didn’t stop people from complaining about how salty the food was. That’s another thing about Koreans and foreign foods: they think everything is salty. This seems strange, of course, since the Korean diet actually has one of the highest sodium contents in the world, what with all the kimchi and pickled side dishes. My theory is that the main dishes in a Korean spread, such as the meats or vegetables or stews, are kept somewhat bland, while the kimchi and sides serve as seasoning. In other food traditions, by comparison, which don’t have kimchi and sides, the main dishes are themselves seasoned.
After lunch, we were taken to a large supermarket, where we bought groceries to cook for dinner back at the campsite. For a supermarket in such a tiny town, I was overwhelmed by the variety and quality. Despite everything being written exclusively in Japanese, I found that I could identify almost all of the products, from the fresh vegetables to the meats and seafood and even most of the bottled condiments and packaged goods. Part of it had to do with the inherent similarities between Korean and Japanese food, maybe, though most of my companions shuffled around the store in a daze, grumbling that there was nothing to buy. Perhaps I retained something from all those years of shopping in Japanese stores during my sushi infatuation while living in California.
For the purpose of shopping for and paying for and preparing and sharing dinner, our group of 17 was divided into teams of 4-5 members. My team consisted included YYH, a legend in the camping community for her cooking skills, so we had a huge advantage come dinnertime, both in terms of drive and know-how. Our grocery bill just for dinner that night came out to about 2,400 yen per person–ouch.
For the next two nights, we will be staying at Aso Bay Camp. The grounds are immaculate. Being winter, we have the whole place to ourselves. It is awesome.
We were the only team that went to the trouble of making a full-course meal. For starters, I made barbecued shrimp marinated in a sambal-soy-soju sauce, along with a salad in a roast-sesame dressing. The night air was so chilly that shelling the shrimps was painful. Alas, the shrimp was somewhat of a failure, to me at least, mostly due to insufficient time for the marinade to set in, but we were cold and hungry and rushed. The same marinade was used to near perfection for strips of pork and beef, which were cooked about an hour later. Unfortunately, I was in no condition or state of mind to take a photo by that point, so the shrimp will have to represent. YYH made rice and kimchi jjigae, which was a great idea, but the quality of the local kimchi rendered the final product a bit bland. Later, I made a passable yaki-udon. By that time, everyone was crowded around our setup.
So much fun.
Geotjeoli is a Korean dish. A kind of flash-pickled kimchi, usually with napa cabbage, seasoned with similar spices, less on the fish sauce, more on the sugar, often with some sesame oil. Meant to be consumed right away, like a fresh salad, before the cabbage ferments.