Traditional Japanese breakfast definitely strays from the Western tradition of bacon and eggs, pancakes and waffles and in fact, is more like a meal you'd have for lunch or even dinner. In doing research to find out what restaurant serves a Japanese breakfast in the LA area, one place came up over and over and that was Fukagawa in the city of Gardena. So one early morning, a few members from my dining group made the trek out with me to this South Bay restaurant.
Fukagawa is in a large shopping plaza and was a little difficult to find because it couldn't be viewed from the parking lot. It was literally tucked away in the corner at the end of the walkway, which started at the super market. Once you walk in and are seated, the entire breakfast menu can be seen in a small plastic holder.
Basically, you have A through D choices. If you choose A, you get a bowl of rice, miso soup, Japanese pickles, a seaweed sheet and a raw egg. What wasn't mentioned was a small bowl of cold tofu as well as tamagoyaki, a sweetened rolled omelet that was also included. Choice B was everything you got with choice A, but with Natto. Choice C was A + broiled fish or beef steak. Choice D was A + B + C. I opted for Choice D with the grilled fish, which turned out to be a salmon.
One thing that I wish I did beforehand was to get some more information about how to enjoy some of the various components that were on my tray like which I found here and here. First, let me mention something about Japanese etiquette. Apparently, it's custom to have the bowl of miso your right and the rice to your left. I don' t know why, so if any of you know the reason, please leave a comment. When it came to the dried seaweed, I knew that it was to be eaten with the rice. What I didn't know was that if you swirled the seaweed in your miso soup or dip it in soy sauce, it'll soften; hence, it'll be easier to wrap around the rice and eat it that way. That makes perfect sense now.
When it came to the natto, I was actually dreading it. I've tried it 3 different times at 3 other restaurants, but just can't seem to get over the "slimy" texture, but I thought I'd give it one more try. One spoonful and it still turned me off; however, one of my dining partners tried eating it with rice and she said it was better that way. I gave it a go and while it was a bit better, I can still say without a doubt that natto is just not for me. However, my dining buddy was on the right track. I later read that one way to enjoy the natto is to season it with soy sauce and karashi mustard and yes, place some on your steamed rice and eat them both together.
One thing I did know about ahead of the time was what to do with the raw egg and I actually read that as part of a Yelp review. Someone else in our group decided to go the raw egg route and here's how it works. Simply, break the egg in a bowl, add soy sauce, mix and then pour over your rice. Be sure your rice is really hot because it's that heat that help to cook that egg so that it's not completely raw and then enjoy.
If you happen to order the fish, it can be eaten on its own or it can be cut in pieces and added to your rice bowl or even mixed in the rice before you wrap it with the seaweed wrapper. Last, the tamagoyaki can be eaten with or without soy sauce or grated daikon. Of course, these are all just suggestions, but if you're going to eat a meal traditional to a certain country, you might as well go all out.
The breakfast at Fukagawa was a definite departure from what I normally have in the AM, but other than the natto, I could see myself enjoying this type of meal on a more regular basis. Although there are a lot of components, the food seems lighter and not as heavy as standard eggs and bacon fare nor is it as mundane as cereal and milk. Given that Fukagawa is way across town from me, it's doubtful that I'll be having a traditional Japanese breakfast as much as I would like. However, armed with the knowledge I have now, I think the meal will be even better, if I ever make a trip back.
1630 Redondo Beach Blvd.
Gardena, CA 90247
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