Tonkatsu & Apple Gyoza

Summer in Aomori
By Sol March in Travelogue

We’ve traveled 400 miles without a single bite to eat.

But when you’re traveling at over 100mph on Japan’s Shinkansen (aka the bullet train), that just means it’s noon and we haven’t eaten since breakfast.

Time for lunch.

Finding Food in a Foreign Land

When traveling abroad in a foreign country it’s natural to wonder how difficult it will be to get a good meal. Different language, different culture, different foods– any one of these things could put a wrench in your plans for a satisfying meal.

Thankfully, Japan simplifies a traveler’s search for sustenance since virtually all restaurants prominently advertise what they have to offer.

Tonkatsu Restaurant

Sign for a Tonkatsu restaurant

That is, if you can read Japanese…

If your Japanese is a bit rusty, Japan still has you covered– most restaurants display plastic replicas of every dish on their menu, so even if the menu is unintelligible, you can at least point at the dish you want to order.

Model Food

Thankfully, the two semesters of Japanese I took years ago finally pay off because I can read the signs and I make a beeline for the tonkatsu shop.

Amenity Street

Heading down Amenity Street toward the Tonkatsu shop

An Awkward Entrance

We step inside the restaurant and are cheerfully greeted with an enthusiastic “Irasshaimase!” by the employees. Even the cooks in the back join in, though we can’t see them.

Compared to our time in Tokyo, this greeting is delayed momentarily by expressions of confusion and wonderment (i.e. the restaurant staff are staring at me with mouths agape) as I step through the door. Hailing from Hawaii, I am tall, tan-skinned, and definitely not Japanese. I’m an anomaly in Japan in almost every way and by the looks I’m currently getting, it appears that Aomori doesn’t get as many foreign visitors as Tokyo does.

The awkward moment quickly passes and the lone waitress shows us to a table in the empty restaurant. The server points out the menu on the wall before stepping away to give us a moment to decide on our order.

Table Menu on the Wall

Ringo Gyoza

On the table is a poster for a dish that looks a lot like gyoza (Japanese pan-fried dumplings). But there’s something different about it.

Apple Gyoza

With the help of our kanji dictionary, we learn that the dish is Ringo Gyoza (apple dumplings).

Looking up some kanji

Gyoza is a common dish at Japanese restaurants in Hawaii, but we’ve never seen it with apples. Aomori is famous for its large juicy apples, but it’s still surprising to see that they even put apples in their gyoza.

The ringo gyoza sounds interesting, but we decide to pass on the appetizer and order our main dish straightaway.

Tonkatsu Curry

A few minutes later, a piping hot bowl of tonkatsu curry— a breaded pork cutlet straddling a pool of Japanese curry– is placed before me.

Golden Tonkatsu Curry Crunchy Tonkatsu Curry

The tonkatsu is deep-fried to a golden brown. It not only looks great, it is also cooked perfectly– the outer layout of panko breading is light and crunchy, while the meat within is moist and tender. The deep chestnut-colored curry is rich and flavorful, nicely complementing the toothsome tonkatsu.

There’s a lot of food here; it’s hard to believe it only costs about $7.50 and even includes a small salad and a bowl of miso soup.

Our first meal in Aomori is warm and hearty, exactly what we needed to reinvigorate us for our first day at Japan’s northern tip.

Well-Fed & Ready for Adventure

After lunch, we’re so filled with tasty food, we practically roll out of the restaurant. Now that we’ve had our first meal in Aomori, we head off in search of our next adventure!

Summer in Aomori

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