Every year, fans of Japanese culture are delighted by the JPOP Summit, which is a festival of all things Japanese. Events can last all week (film screenings) but the bulk of activities is on one weekend. Last month, I attended one day of the event to sample the foods offered there.
The tasting started with an introduction of the 5 ramen vendors.
Iza Ramen: Started as a pop-up in Lower Haight. They specialize in tsukemen (dipping ramen).
Naruto Ramen: This brand from NY sticks to the classic tonkotsu broth cooked for 24 hours.
Hinodeya Ramen Bar: Specializes in the bonito broth which is popular in Japan.
Orenchi Beyond - This restaurant is located in San Francisco and is from the same owners at Orenchi in Santa Clara.
Ramen Taka: This brand from Santa Clara has a menu that covers various regions of Japan.
My tsukemen ramen from Iza Ramen came in this very convenient tray. The broth was rich and thicker than the noodle soup form. It coated the chewy noodles well and I got a mouthful of flavor with each bite.
Our next step was to Shige Sushi for their triangular shaped sushi-wich. Shige has a brick and mortar store but they also sell at events like this. There were four flavors: Alaskan, spicy tuna, California, and natto with kimchi.
The flavor of the natto wasn't so bad but the texture is slimy. I couldn't finish it. Natto is definitely an acquired taste.
The California tastes just like a California roll.
Here's the spicy tuna wich that I didn't get to try. Looks yummy.
Next up was takoyaki from Hirotako, a catering company specializing in Japanese cuisine. Their fried takoyaki balls were crispy and flavorful with some pieces having pickled red ginger inside.
Sapporo samples were also being handed out. I helped myself to some. ;)
Inside the pavilion, we did a quick tasting of Iichiko shochu in ume (plum) and yuzu citrus flavors. It was very light and fruity and doesn't need mixing although you can mix it with other fruit juices. Shochu is different than Korean soju. It can be distilled only once while soju is distilled multiple times. Korean soju is also lower in alcohol content. The Iichiko was much easier to sip than Korean soju though.
Coming up next, a recap of my interview with Chef Tsuo Saito of popular Japanese NHK broadcasting network cooking show, Dining with the Chef. His beautiful cohost was Japanese celebrity Yu Hayami.