Japanese Food

I figured I would post some photos of various foods which I have gathered over my years here. A lot of these are things that my wife eats. Some of them I won’t touch, some of them I will.

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We’ll start with something simple. Sushi. Sushi literally just means “vinegared rice”, no matter what anyone else tells you. The word is a contraction of the words vinegar (suu) and rice (meshi). However what most people (including the Japanese themselves) commonly refer to as sushi is these rolls (temaki, or hand rolls) which more often than not contain raw fish (which is technically called “sashimi”, there are all kinds of something or other “sashi” foods which are mostly raw fish, meats or poultry, see “basashi” further down this post). These particular rolls contain raw fish, raw fish eggs and avocado wrapped in rice and seaweed. I like rice, I even like seaweed, but I can’t stand raw fish, fish eggs or avocado.

I would put a link to the wikipedia article on sushi, but it looks like it’s one of their “contentious topics” and the information isn’t so accurate due to people fighting over definitions, people without knowledge changing things and supposed “experts” on Japan (none of whom, oddly enough, are actually Japanese).

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Some more sushi. Raw uni (sea urchin) this time. Looks like snot, tastes like snot, and it’s expensive as all hell. My wife’s family occasionally sends here some really expensive crap ($100 for less than a 1/4 pound) but it’s still awful.

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This is kind of a Korean spin on the sushi. It’s grilled meat inside minus the fishiness and avocado and wrapped in lettuce. Hmm good. Not technically Japanese, but hey, I had pictures. See Bulgogi

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A “traditional” Japanese enkai (dinner party) meal at a ryokan (Japanese-style inn). Lots and lots of dead things which look exactly like lots and lots of dead things. Nothing like a corpse on your plate to work up an appetite! MMM MMM!

The fish is also full of tiny tiny little bones which bother me more than the whole “corpse” thing. My wife tells me to just eat them, but I am deathly afraid being stabbed internally by little toothpick-like bones. It doesn’t matter that my wife and all the other Japanese have been eating them for hundreds of years (not my wife in particular who’s been eating it for hundreds of years mind you), I just know that it would happen to me.

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The above mentioned sashimi. Raw fish slices and a boiled shrimp

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Shrimp coated in mayonnaise sauce and shoved inside an orange peel…? Yeah… For some reason the Japanese love mayonnaise. I hate mayonnaise, but in Japan it’s put on just about anything even remotely western. Pizza even. Any kind of sandwich here is more than likely coated in mayonnaise.

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A school lunch. Gyoza (dumplings), wakame soup, cha-han (fried rice) and daikon (Japanese radish) and cucumber salad. All good…

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And speaking of Japanese cucumbers. This bad boy is from my wife’s garden, and it’s not really terribly misshapen or anything, this is what Japanese cucumbers look like. And they are covered in these little spikey bastards like cacti and hurt when you touch them in bare hands. I had never been injured by a cucumber before coming to Japan.

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Biwa from our biwa tree. It’s a fruit. Sort of. It’s more like a big ass seed with a sort of fruit skin. They don’t taste bad… well normal ones don’t taste bad, the ones from our tree here in the heart of Tokyo are sour as hell. But there’s hardly anything edible to them. According to my dictionary a biwa is a “loquat” or a Japanese “medlar”. I don’t know what either of those are either.

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Doraemon and totoro bread from the local bakery. The doraemon (the cat thing) was filled with custard creme, I can’t remember what the hell was in the totoro.

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This I didn’t actually eat, because it is apparently sauce for putting on restaurants and I didn’t have an edible one handy. I’ve also seen “table sauce” which looked remarkably similar.

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Deep fried renkon (lotus root, also called “hasu” in some areas.) My wife makes this for me every once in awhile and it’s quite good. It’s also supposedly good for asthma (which is why my wife makes it for me). It’s got a sort of weird, semi-crispy potatoey type texture to it.

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Mochi. Rice cakes. These are spongy and sticky. Ones pictured here are flavored orange. Mochi is hard to chew and a number of elderly and children die every year eating it. All that aside I like it.

And now we start with the weird stuff.

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Corn and flour on a stick. Not bad, but not really a culinary breakthrough either.

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Some stuff from my Okinawa trip. Sea-grapes which are a sea weed plant. They’re basically little salty juicy grape-like things. I rather like them.

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Pigs ears, goya and mayonnaise. Pig’s ears are an Okinawan speciality and they are probably pretty much like what you can imagine them to be. Cartilage. Goya is a vegetable found here which is bitter. When I say bitter here, I mean bitter like nothing you’ve ever tasted before. The only flavor this thing has is bitterness. It’s horrible. I don’t understand the attraction at all.

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Sausages with some weird seasoning I can’t recall. They tasted okay and probably contained some pig ears too.

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Little, one bite deep fried hermit crab snacks. Crunchy! Not my favorite.

And now for some of my wife’s favorites.

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Mekabu, a type of wakame seaweed. Slimey and snotlike. With little dead fishies which my wife likes. I can actually eat the mekabu in soup. Like all other seaweed it is kind of salty, but not too bad in soup. Otherwise it’s too slimey for me. Can’t stand the fishies though.

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Pitan, pidan, century egg, thousand year egg, hundred year old egg. This again is actually Chinese but my wife eats them whenever she has the chance. This is a duck’s egg which is preserved in clay, ash, salt, lime, and rice straw. It stinks like you wouldn’t believe. A really strong ammonia-like odor. I’ve actually eaten this mixed with white rice and it’s not too bad. Without the rice I can eat what used to be the white (the now cola-like transparent brown bit) but I don’t like the I-can’t-see-this-as-anything-but-rotten-egg-yolk green bit.

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Squid! Bloody expensive squid. Stuffed with rice and crap. It’s squid. More or less flavorless rubber. No thanks.

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Fugu. Blowfish. Extraordinarily expensive and poisonous. Not sure what it tastes like because honestly I’ve never tasted anything good enough to make me want to eat possible poison. My wife likes though, so I might be widower one day.

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And the grand finale, the final kick in the pants, inago. Locusts, grasshoppers.. crickets. This tends to be restricted to the country but my wife’s father is from the country and so she likes them. They are fried and candied. Can’t speak to the taste because I refuse to eat them, I don’t even like having them in my fridge.

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