Wednesday, May 9, 2012

 Cooking With The Steam From Hell.

Cooking with steam goes back many thousands of years ago. So called "primitive" peoples who lived near hot springs were lucky to have had steamers provided by nature in their neighborhood. Nowadays, we steam with rice cookers, automatic steamers, pots made from metal placed over electronic or gas burners, and the idea of naturally steaming food seems quaint or adventurous.

The most commonly enjoyed hot spring dish in Japan is "onsen tomago," the boiled egg. Just leave it in the water, wait, scoop it out, and eat. However, in some places of the world, in particular the Kannawa Onsen area in Beppu, Oita, steam cooking is relished and is much more complicated. Jigoku-mushi Cuisine, (Hell-steamed Cuisine) is what the people of Beppu call it, and the "Beppuans" are proud of hell-steamed cuisine, which should be enjoyed while you are still alive, not in the other hell. Many Beppu hotels serve it to guests. The city of Beppu rents public steaming pits for a  low rate, and some hot spring resorts with steaming pits allow visitors to cook and eat on the premises.

Check out this amusing BBC video about steaming eggs in hot springs and bathing with swans. Yes, swans!

Three Small Steam Ovens at a Local Beppu Hot Spring

Ready to Eat
Steaming Smiles

A Finished Plate of Seafood and Eggs

Choices of Seafood

Thick gloves are a necessity.