I was in Kyoto today with my father and sister at the Nishiki Ichiba (market), which is a really fun strip of vegetable stands, butchers, pickle shops, tea shops, and sweet shops. I hadn’t been here since I came with my in-laws a few years ago (Note to DPK — the tofu donuts are still good).
After awhile, we went to look for a sweet potato stand my father used to go to 20 years ago. After about five minutes or so we found a little stand with 4 or 5 people waiting. The store was about the size of a small home office, and looked like it had been there for 100 years. As it turned out, it had been there for 120 years and the current owner told us he was the fourth generation. (When my dad went there 20 years ago, it was manned by an old man, presumably his dad.)
I wish I could put up a picture of this place but a large bamboo bucket of huge potatoes called Naruto Kintoki were being cooked from the bottom by some thing that produces steam right up the bucket.
Any self-respecting Japanese establishment, where owners are serious about their food, has rules or at least a spiele they give to customers, and this one was no different. While we were waiting to make our purchases, the owner told us that he only sells potatoes to take home, and that we weren’t to eat it there, on the street or at a park (obviously, this was a problem at some point because this rule wasn’t there 20 years ago). He then told us that these steamed potatoes were good for a week, and they get sweeter every day. He said the potato would taste best after three or four days. While we should refrigerate them, under no circumstance were we to heat it up before eating it.
Aside from these rules, he was quite nice. And to our surprise the potatoes were cheap. My father bought three large potatoes for about 2,000 yen. The owner told us that the price — 100 yen for 100 grams — hasn’t changed in 28 years. Wild. (Though my father was quick to point out that the potatoes seem cheap now, but they had been expensive 28 years ago)
PMK, who is in Canada right now, would have loved this place. Unfortunately, he’s going to have to wait til March because this guy was going to close up shop for the next several months until the potatoes come back in season. We were pretty lucky this time too because the line was short. My dad told us that he has been there sometimes when the line is so long and people buy so many that you could wait an hour without any luck.
I had a slice today and it was okay. But I have great hopes for my potatoe in a few days time.