Skip to main content

Kappa: A Little Zip in Your Summer Step via the Cucumber

Kappa from above.
Cucumbers (kyuuri) are just coming into season. Most gardeners and farmers train them along on trellises to make harvesting easy and a wee bit shady. It also saves arms and legs from the sharp-edged leaves that I recall drew painful red lines on me as I hunted for ripe ones in my Michigan gardens. Invariably, I would miss one only to discover something more akin to an oversized zucchini lolling about in the patch later. Decadence in dark green, I always thought as I chucked it to the chickens or into the compost bin, which was essentially the same thing.

Cucumbers are here, as they are elsewhere in the world, a summer delight. They crunch their way into salads, get slathered with spicy oil and munched with beer, dipped in miso, or turned into a quick pickle perfect any time. Refreshing, cool, delicious.

But the one thing I never imagined they would do, they have done. They have gone out on the town and reappeared swimming in a tall clear glass of vodka. Shocking. Shockingly delicious, that is.

I first met the Kappa in Kichijoji at a little standing bar in their Harmonica-cho, a dense weave of narrow lanes, shops, bars, restaurants, and cafes on the north side of the station. I don't remember why we stopped there, but I do know we were waiting to meet some friends. I also remember seeing the tall clear glass emerge from behind the bar. The thin slices of cucumber veritably shimmered as the ice cubes jostled them, tiny bubbles from the sparkling water tickling up their sides. (Yes, I had already had a couple drinks by the time I saw this.)

Perfectly thin, perfectly delicious.
"What is that?" I asked the patron brilliant enough to order it, a stunningly beautiful woman with straight black hair that hung to her waist and just a tinge of her beard visible under her make-up. She explained that this was a Kappa, and offered me a sip. It was sharp and crisp and utterly perfect. She and the bartender laughed when I immediately ordered one. We were all soon friends.

The name, of course, is something of a mystery. Kappa is a mythical water creature that lurks in ponds and rivers, although some legends say they winter in the mountains. (Wouldn't you?) Their appearance is green and rather frog-like, although that varies from region to region. Mischievous in nature, the kappa can cause a bit of trouble now and again. A perfect name for a deceptively strong drink, if you ask me. By the time our friends arrived, the Kappa had done its work on me, and I encouraged (some might say drunkenly bullied) them into buying their own. Regardless, we had a lovely walk home afterwards, and the Kappa has been a favorite ever since.

Four or five thin slices of cucumber or enough to go wall around the glass
Ice, cubes are best
Sparkling water

Wall the glass with the cucumber slices and fill the center with ice. Then mix vodka and sparkling water to taste. If you're like me and something of a lightweight, I'd recommend more sparkling water and a dash of lemon juice. I also think a sprig of mint would be nice, but you'll have to see for yourself.


Popular posts from this blog

Finding Heirloom Seeds in Japan

Drying pods of heirloom Hutterite Soup Beans. Since moving to Japan eight years ago, one of my greatest challenges as a farmer-gardener has been to find heirloom or open-pollinated seeds. The majority of seeds available are not GMO (genetically modified organisms) as Japan, at this point, doesn't accept this material. Most seeds, though, are nearly all F1 varieties. Heirloom and F1 Varieties In plant breeding, F1 is the name given to the first generation of a cross between two true breeding parents. For example, if I decide to cross an Amish Paste Tomato with another heirloom variety tomato such as Emmy, in hopes of getting a gold paste tomato, the resulting generation of fruit is F1. In order to get that tomato of my culinary dreams, I'll need to choose members of that first generation that are headed in a direction I like - early ripening, medium-sized fruit, good taste - and save their seeds. I'll plant them and repeat the process again and again over time unti

Satoimo: One of Japan's Favorite Slimy Things

Satoimo in all their hairy glory. This post first appeared in slightly different form on Garden to Table as part of the 2012  Blogathon . The website has since moved on to the ether, but the post is still a good one. After all, people here are still eating satoimo on a daily basis, and many others are just seeing these little potato-like objects for the first time. Enjoy! Satoimo is one of Japan's odder vegetables. Under it's rough, slightly furry skin is white flesh that is a little bit slimy even raw, and with a gentle nutty flavor.* Baked, grilled, steamed with dashi, or deep-fried satoimo stands well on its own or paired up with other vegetables and meats in a wide variety of soups and stews . (The leaves are also edible.) Satoimo stores well, and like any root crop worth the effort, stocks are just running low on this household favorite as the farmers in my area of Tokyo get ready to put a new crop in the ground in May. I cannot say I was a fan of this l

Goma Ai Shingiku - Sesame and Chrysanthemum Greens

Last week I had the pleasure of helping some friends work in their parents garden not too far away. Tucked behind the house, the garden sits on a former house lot. When it came up for sale about five years ago, my friend's father jumped at the chance. Open land in Tokyo can be hard to find and expensive, but for a retired professional looking for a little spot to till in the city it was an opportunity to good to pass up. Now, it is a garden to envy. As we came through the gate rose, lily, and peony blooms greeted us with great shouts of color while rows of vegetables stood tidily at attention on the sunny center stage. Small fruit trees along with one of the biggest sansho trees I've seen yet stood quietly here and there. Near waist-high sweet corn, bushy young potato plants, cherry tomatoes, eggplants, and beans were preparing their summer fruits, while a handful of still quite luscious looking winter vegetables like komatsuna, mizuna, and kabu held one last ro