offbeat

100 Japanese foods to try

IMG: Rice with umeboshi

What 100 Japanese foods would I recommend people try at least once?

I tried to keep away from foods that are only available in certain regions, or even certain restaurants or homes (e.g. my aunt's homemade udon) and stuck to foods that are widely available in Japan. I've also tried to include foods from all categories and all price ranges, from wildly expensive matsutake mushrooms to cheap and sometimes not so good for you snacks. I also did not limit the list to 'genuine Japanese' foods (純和風), but include Western-style yohshoku dishes and a sprinkling of chuuka (imported Chinese) foods that are so ingrained in Japanese food culture that most people barely think of them as Chinese any more. And of course, I have eaten all of the foods listed at least once - in most cases many, many times. I like them all!

Type:  feature Filed under:  japanese ingredients offbeat lists

I know that a lot of readers come to Just Hungry because they are interested in Japanese culture. You may have even taken a look at my language blog. At the moment I don't have the time to maintain the language blog, so I've just started a Japanese language Twitter account, @mainichinihongo (which means 'Japanese every day'. My plan is to introduce one or more words per day-ish, around a theme. If you are on Twitter, and interested in Japanese, give it a try! (I still have my other Twitter account, @bentotips, where I tend to blather on about everything and anything.)

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If you follow me on Twitter you may know that today was not a good day (nor was it a particularly good week). So, this little distraction via @nandita comes at a great time. It is a meme, but is a good one! It is called...

The Omnivore's Hundred

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions. 2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten. 3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating. 4) Optional extra: Post a comment at Very Good Taste linking to your results.

So, here I present...

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Here are a bunch of unrelated-to-each-other links and thoughts that have accumulated recently.

Product linkage, edible

For UK and Europe readers: Japan Centre has a sale on this week for Yamamotoyama Soy Rappu, colorful soy based wrappers that are an interesting substitute for nori seaweed when making sushi rolls. I haven't really tried them myself yet, so I placed and order and will see how they work.

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tv

Recently, a reader asked in the comments about what I have for breakfast. It is definitely not as elaborate as this one.

rement-wabkfst1.jpg

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Oh no, two YouTube posts in a row! Well on Saturday we went to an Indian restaurant in town, and invariably our favorite restaurant related video was brought up. Goodness Gracious Me (Wikipedia entry) was a half hour comedy sketch show that ran on BBC One and Two from 1998 to 2001. In case you have never heard of it and you're in the U.S., it was a little bit like the '90s comedy show In Living Color, except that the cast in GGM was almost all Asian (as in South Asian, or Indian), who also wrote all the sketches. It poked fun at many British and British-Asian things. One of the best routines was one that made fun of a typical outing to an Indian restaurant. This sketch is called Going Out for an English. I don't think you have to be Asian (as in South Asian) or British to find it funny...it's how a lot of people still behave, at any 'ethnic' restaurant!

"What is the Blandest Thing you have on the menu?"

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tv
bbc

Browsing around YouTube instead of working, as you do, today I found this little gem. It's a commercial for Ajinomoto Mayonnaise, by Juzo Itami, the late, great director of the best food movie ever, Tampopo:

The actor (not sure if it's Itami himself) is talking on the phone to a friend, when he gets hungry. Still remaining on the phone (and inexplicably on his back), he scoots over to the kitchen to get white bread, mayo and chirimenjako, little semi-dried fish. He tops it off with a fresh shiso leaf, and is in heaven. The dialogue is just like the dense, obsessive dialogue in Tampopo. I'll have to give that sandwich a try one day...it is odd enough that it has to appeal only to a really curious food person.

(The second commercial is cute yet odd, like many of the best Japanese commercials.)

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tv

Today, you will be encountering many lame (and perhaps a handful of not-lame) April Fools' Day jokes. But there really is none better, than the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest.

I know I keep bringing it up every year on this day, but it really is that good.

Here's a fairly acceptable YouTube version:

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bbc

I was just opening a new pack of umeboshi (pickled plums) today, when I noticed this warning on the lid in Japanese:

WARNING: Umeboshi have seeds, and sometimes the seeds can be pointed.
So please be careful.

Here's the label, with two pointy seeds.

umeboshi_label.jpg

(Edit: I could understand the umeboshi warning if it was in English (or language of the country in which the pack was being sold), since people may be unfamiliar with umeboshi. But this was a pack imported from Japan, with Japanese writing, so they are warning Japanese people, who are, or should be, familiar with umeboshi and their pointy seeds. Ume are related to apricots, so maybe apricots should have pointy-seed labels too.)

WTF? So...has it come to this now? We have to have warning labels on natural foods?

I can understand warning labels on manufactured products, say a pesto sauce, to warn about the existence of finely ground nuts. A small percentage of the population is very allergic to nuts.

But, surely the nut-allergic shopper knows to stay away from whole peanuts for example. Or will we have to have labels on those too? "Warning: This bag contains peanuts." ....

What about warning labels on bags of beans? "Warning: This bag contains beans, which may cause flatulence and socially awkward situations." Meat? "Warning: This pack contains meat, which comes from an animal. Vegetarians are known to have an aversion to meat." A bunch of bananas? "Warning: Bananas have slippery skins. If dropped on the ground, they may cause an accident, or a horde of circus clowns to show up."

Is this labelling gone too far? (Japan is not as litigious as the U.S. for example, but it's slowly getting there.) Are there any other nanny-state labels you've seen?

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marmite-champagne1.jpg

Look what came in the mail today!

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uk

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