Sunday, 11 March 2007

Koreatown in Shinjuku

HoTok in Koreatown, Shinjuku

A few weeks ago I put an ad in Tokyo's weekly English magazine, Metropolis, looking for people who were interested in showing me how to cook their favourite Japanese dishes, in exchange for a few free English lessons.

I got a lot of responses but most of them went something like this: 'I don't like Japanese food....' "I don't know how to cook Japanese food..." "I know a few Italian recipes....." blahblahblahijustwantyourenglishlessons. Heh. A few cool people did reply though, and today I met one of them in Shinjuku for a meal and a chat.

After a hearty bowl of katsudon, Hatsue showed me something awesome that's been under my nose for the last year and a half. If only, on one of our post-conference rambles through the seedy Kabukicho district east of Shinjuku station, we had wandered that little bit farther. A few more blocks away, around Shin Okubo station, are Korean restaurants and shops of every description, signs written in hangul, street stalls selling snacks and the spicy scent of kimchi in the air.

Woe that we had already stuffed ourselves full of katsudon! We poked around a little, guessing at the strange creations in sweet shop windows and marvelling over shops selling nothing but merchandise plastered with the smiling, well-groomed heads of Korean pop idols and actors. After a leisurely coffee to escape the short hail storm, we'd cleared enough stomach real estate to buy a few Hotok(aka hodduk) from a stall. I had the hachimitsu (honey) flavour and it was amazing. The gooey filling tastes exactly like baklava, honey spiced with cinnamon and ground nuts. Further internet research suggests the pancake-like outsides are made with "a yeast leavened flour-based dough that has rice flour (from the type of sticky rice that is used to make mochi) mixed in to improve its chewiness". So good.

Directions: 'Koreatown' is a ten minute walk from the East/Kabukicho exit of JR Shinjuku station, cutting straight through Kabukicho. The Hotok stall is right outside discount chain Don Quixote (ドンキホーテ), so you can follow their map, and sells anko, honey and cheese hotok as well as 'toppiki' - Korean-style mochi in in spicy red sauce.

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