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Day of Fun at the Annual Sakura Matsuri- Japanese Street Festival in Washington DC

April 10, 2011

Kimono

I grew up in the Washington DC area and every year my mom will take my yi-po po and I to the Cherry Blossom Festival. I always look forward to the day because we watch the parade on tv, then head out into the city to the Japanese street festival where I stuff myself full of Japanese food then we end the day at a Japanese tea house. Since I moved away for college I have missed the festival for the past few years, and finally this year I’m in D.C during the height of the Cherry Blossom season.

This past weekend was the Annual Sakura Matsuri- Japanese Street Festival hosted by The Japan-America Society of Washington D.C. It’s a street festival that stretches for six blocks through downtown DC. Over 150,000 tourists attend from all over the world and this year a large portion of the proceeds will be donated to the earthquake and tsunami relief effort in Japan. The festival showcases anything and everything Japanese. There are live performances such as music, dance and martial arts. A variety of demonstrations of Japanese arts and culture, tons of Japanese vendors selling kimonos, paintings, and anime collectables. And best of all, there are over 15 Japanese restaurants and vendors cooking and selling their best dishes.

This is a fun filled event for me because I get to do two of my favorite things, people watch and eat. The streets were crowded with kids and adults dressed up as their favorite anime characters. The best part of my day was witnessing a fight almost break out between a life size Pikachu and Hello Kitty as they were while standing in line waiting for my fried tofu. Hello Kitty was clearly NOT happy when Pikachu and his buddy Ash tried to cut in line, so her solution was to slap him in the face with her red purse. Classic.

Now onto the food, there were so many dishes offered at every stand that I didn’t even know where to start, so I just dove right in and worked my way down the street vendor after vendor. (Just in case you’re concerned about my health and possible over consumption in one day, I was with family and they were more than happy to eat anything I couldn’t finish.) I started with two appetizers, the deep fried tofu with shaved bonito flakes, dressed with a mayonnaise aioli and some sort of thickened sauce. The tofu was piping hot when I got it and super crispy,  the mayo aioli added a unexpected creaminess to the crispy texture.

Deep Fried Tofu

Then I worked my way through the grilled squid with a Teriyaki glaze, it was perfectly tender. I’ll be honest, the tentacles were the best part; it had an burst of “sea” flavor, what the chinese refer to as “xian wei.” I watched the chef as he worked the grill, the squid was grilled on one side for a few minutes, flipped once, brushed with the glaze and taken off the grill. The chef beside him was making scallion pancakes that also looked really tempting, but I was done with round 1 of appetizers at that point.

Grilled Squid

Grilled Squid

Grill Cooks

Onto the main course, I got a bowl of broiled eel (unagi) over white rice topped with a sweet sauce. This is one of my favorite Japanese dishes, the eel is marinated in a sweet sauce of dashi, miring, sake and soy sauce then broiled. The fish itself is full of flavor that it needs nothing but bed of white rice, but it’s even better with a fried egg on top… (must not get too greedy)

Broiled Unagi Rice Bowl

Speaking of being greedy, anytime I see a slow braised beef dish I just can’t help myself. Even though my stomach was about to explode, I got the Gyu Don, a bowl of rice topped with beef and onion simmered in a sauce flavored with dashi, mirin and sake served with a small side of pickled ginger, beni shoga. The beef melted in my mouth and the rice soaked in the broth was soft and chewy.

Gyu Don

There were a few other dishes that caught my eye. The Yakisoba, which is a kind of Japanese fried noodle sautéed with veggies and yakisoba sauce. And a scallion pancake wrap with teriyaki chicken and vegetable filling. The teriyaki chicken grill was seriously calling my name… but I quickly moved on.

Teryiaki Chicken

I ended my festivities with a Taiyaki, a fish-shaped cake with a red bean paste filling. The cook was more than happy to pose for the photo with the Taiyaki and even offered one to me. Perfect end to my day.

Taiyaki Cook

All in all a successful day, I left the Sakura Matsuri Street Festival with a full belly and craving for more of the broiled eel with rice so stay tuned… I’m 99.99% sure I’m going to make it for brunch this week.

Cheers and until next time happy Cheery Blossom!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Bunny Eats Design permalink
    April 14, 2011 12:18 am

    Looks like a fun day! I would be like you: eating til I burst. I adore eating at street stalls and festivals. There’s no strict schedule of what you eat and when. You just get to eat what you like in whatever order you happen upon a stall. Best of all, it’s usually much cheaper than at a restaurant.

    • April 14, 2011 9:27 am

      That’s the best part of a street festival, there is always a wide variety of different foods to pick and choose from so you are not limited to anything in particular. The portions are small so you can have a lot too!

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