Should there be more restaurant authenticity verifiers?

Yes, I want to know if the food I'm eating is authentic.
43% (80 votes)
No, it's a bad idea
49% (91 votes)
Other (tell us in the comments!)
6% (12 votes)
Don't know
2% (3 votes)
Total votes: 186
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Futile Snobbery

If the Japanese foodies want to get their snobbery on, let them pay for it; I’m sure there’ll be a market for it because there’s quite a lot of ‘wanna be food snobs’. But to ask taxpayers to pay for their petty snobbery is retarded.

Although I might try some other cuisines that were authenticated, I doubt I’d try authenticated Japanese, because raw fish is beyond disgusting (at least the Mexicans acidify their raw fish in lime), and I don’t like being told what order I should eat food in, what bite size, and other petty and pretentious rules I should abide by.

The above is why I try to learn to make Japanese ‘style’ foods at home. Other than the raw fish, most Japanese dishes taste pretty darn good, as long as I don’t have to take a few courses to learn their ‘eating rules’, I’ll enjoy it.

anon.LOL | 4 February, 2008 - 14:41

Authentic does not render others un-delicious

I have no problem, per se, with something being judged “authentic.” I do think there is a place for upholding the standards. But the quest for labeling authenticity should not come at the cost of others’ interpretations, variations, and riffs on classic dishes, which can be as or more delicious than the original. Change is how things evolve, after all, sometimes into something even better.

BipolarLawyerCook | 4 February, 2008 - 15:59

Waste of resources, elitist

It seems to me that the amount of manpower that would go into verifying the “authenticity” of Japanese cuisine around the world would be far better suited to a host of more pressing problems, certainly.

How does a country in which regional variations on recipes are so prevalent have any real say on what constitutes national cuisine?

Furthermore, there are simply places in the world that do not have access to the variety of items to be found in a typical Japanese supermarket: does this mean that these places are incapable of serving Japanese food?

ghanima | 4 February, 2008 - 20:43

authentic cuisine

Ethnic foods can be authentic by region, not just by country. So for instance, Chicken Paprikash, there are so many ways to make this dish, depending on region, and every region will tell you theirs is the authentic one.

So I think any government attempt to verify authenticity would be futile.

redforever | 4 February, 2008 - 21:43

Authentic is a hard idea to

Authentic is a hard idea to define, whether you’re talking about food, yarn, carpentry…

I think it would be a very good thing if the Japanese government’s efforts focused on identifying historical resources on Japanese food that are of cultural value. If they went a step further and identified training that should be common ground for Japanese cooking and food production, that would also be useful. Making this more available, both to Japanese people and to people from other cultures, would be a good way to preserve the traditions of Japanese food and keep them alive… even the hard ones that take a lot of manual labor.

If the main goal is to produce something like the French language purity organization, it’s much less useful.

Emily | 5 February, 2008 - 02:24

They already have italian authenticity checks

Here in Australia the Italians have been doing authenticity inspections for about 5 years. You don’t see the stickers in many Aussie windows, and it doesn’t deter me from eating in an Italian joint if they don’t have one, but the places that do are always the tastiest. The hole in the wall Italian place in the suburbs near our old house was certified and was some of the cheapest and tastiest Italian food outside (or inside) Italy.

Michelle | 5 February, 2008 - 14:18

authenticity of Japanese food

This strikes me as funny, because having been to Japan and had their version of pizza with mayo and corn OR their pasta with nori and octopus, it seems that maybe we just have to realize this melting pot of cultures for what it is. I guess I do like to know something is authentic or not, but there are so many other ways to know a culture. It seems to picky this way.

anon. | 5 February, 2008 - 20:55

Seems like a waste of

Seems like a waste of effort. However, I can understand how people would not want their food to be characterized by food that barely resembles theirs. I would suggest that, instead of inspecting food around the world for authenticity, the data about regional food could be made more easily/widely available for those who want to learn about it.

prac | 6 February, 2008 - 03:37

I think it is a good idea.

I was reading some other food blogs and was reading that a large Japanese chain resturant was selling and advertising some of their food as Japanese when really it is Korean. So, the idea of anuthenticity works both ways. Making sure that their cuisene stays pure and the country and culture get the credit, but making sure that the right country gets the credit.

Kim | 6 February, 2008 - 04:40

Authenticities vary too much...

I understand the want to consider a food “authentic” to preserve it’s cultural signifigance, but I disagree with the notion that anyone/everyone who serves food of any ethnic descent should have it “certified authentic”.
It seems that quite a bit of people would have to be involved in the effort to come remotely close to deeming something authentic, seeing as how “authentic” is different from region to region anywhere in the world.
I think we should learn about, and try foods in all their different variances to appreciate that culinary history is not a rigid structure, but something that has evolved over time.
I, for one, would not shun one restaurant because they didn’t serve totally authentic food.

By no means am I saying that a culture should not be respected for all its aspects, but food styles/tastes/sources change so much over time that they cannot simply be confined to one description. In my humble opinion, it does not seem like you could consider one version of a food “authentic” without partially, if not totally, disrespecting other versions of that same food and the people who make them, regardless of worldly location.

FoodLovingJen | 7 February, 2008 - 02:07

What's "authentic" anyway?

The problem with this is that so many foods that can now be considered “authentic” aren’t original to the culture, anyway — especially in a culture like Japan’s, which is both very settled in its traditions and very adept at completely assimilating foreign concepts.

I also don’t see cuisine authenticity flying in the U.S., where every menu has a hidden “American stuff” menu with fries, chicken tenders, caesar salads and the like for picky eaters (like children, the elderly, and really boring people).

elaine | 8 February, 2008 - 02:49

No thank you!

Whilst it annoys the heck out of me to see things on menus which are supposed to be Japanese but which obviously have been cooked by someone who has no idea what they are doing (teriyaki chicken is by far the worst offender) this smacks of the work of Japanese control freaks.

It seems to be a common factor in a lot of Japanese cultural exports at the moment (believe me, I know - this is my job) that the Japanese have only just noticed that these things are popular abroad, but that foreigners don’t follow exactly the same rules (be it business, culinary, whatever) as they do to assimilate this stuff. Cue much freaking out and clamping down on what you can and cannot do with their products. In some quarters it’s easier than others to prevent things from being ‘misused’, but in the food world they’re biting off more than they can chew (hah).

It would be nice to know whether you’re eating something authentic or not, but the cynic inside me screams that if the consumers were that bothered they’d do a bit of research for themselves.

And, as people have already mentioned, for this to come from Japan is pretty rich. Part of what’s made Japanese food so exciting over the past fifty years is taking imported ideas and changing them to fit local tastes. The best crepe I ever had was in Tokyo, and it had a hunk of cheesecake, cream and caramel sauce in the middle. I’m sure the French government doesn’t give a monkeys.

I’d love to see this organisation have control of tempura restaurants be wrested from them by the Portuguese. And while we’re at it, the English will have to control the preparation of curry rice.

BB | 8 February, 2008 - 16:34

I think it’s not entirely

I think it’s not entirely a bad idea. I don’t think a government should go out labeling if something is authentic or not, but a program that a restaurant can request some form of authentication is a good idea. I’m all for making variations to dishes, such as many restaurants that make up their own sushi rolls, etc. But on the other hand, I ate at a Japanese restaurant that claimed it was authentic, and what came on my plate was a mockery of the same dish that I had eaten in Japan. That restaurant shouldn’t be able to call itself authentic.

anon. | 9 February, 2008 - 06:55

It's just informational ... what's the problem?

In the United States there are a bunch of “Japanese” chains that are take-offs of Benihana, but with major Americanization going on. Big blocks of butter in the rice — long-grained rice — for instance. Just as a point of reference, it would be nice for people to know what normal Japanese food is like. But they’re free to eat whatever “fusion” they like.

Japanese food in the United States is starting to get weird not just because Japanese chefs there are inventing California rolls and Dynomite rolls and putting mayonnaise and gratin on sushi, but also because Chinese and Korean immigrants have latched onto the trend and are bringing their years of experience operating “Chinese” buffets to the Japanese segment. There’s a market for what they’ve come up with, but I see no problem in giving some publicity to restaurants that are more authentic.

I never had real, decent Italian food until I came to … Japan. Italian food in Japan can be relatively authentic (but of course it depends on the restaurant, and the number of menu items tends to be limited). The reason for this is that many proprietors of Italian restaurants have lived and studied in Italy. (The same thing explains the wonderful French bakeries and pastry shops in Japan.)

Italian food in the United States is a meaty, cheesy disaster, because it went through generations of Italian-American immigrants “adapting” it to the readily available and cheaper ingredients in their adopted country — not to mention the packaged ingredients that have been developed.

Mark | 10 February, 2008 - 07:33

That’s kind of

That’s kind of ridiculous.
The Japanese people who thought of this should just roll over and get a life.
In that case, 3/4 of all Chinese food outside of China, SE-Asia and East Asia would be completely fake.

Food is food. Food is changed to suit the palate of the individual families, individual peoples and cultures.
Not everyone wants to eat crispy canned insects of Korea and Japan, or eat fried insects on a stick in China.
It’s adaptation, and many restaurant owners actually do these things to keep customers coming in wherever they are!

I just don’t like them to call it ‘authentic’ Chinese (or other) food because it obviously is an adapted dish. There’s nothing shameful about it.
I can somewhat understand westerners walking around saying they love “egg foo young” and “chop suey” and “general chow’s chicken” when these dishes don’t exist and to be honest any Chinese person would absolutely call it trash after tasting it, but then again, these are adapted to the taste of the locals, and there’s nothing shameful about it.

I think this ‘seal of approval’ or authenticity is a little bit rich, since they’ll actually be driving away business off business owners.

DY | 14 February, 2008 - 04:26

The Japanese do the exact

The Japanese do the exact same thing, don’t they?
For example, curry. Won’t the Indians just flip out and die if they see their fragrant, spicy curries turned into a sweet, vanilla aberration to be put on sticky rice?
Do we see some Indian movement on the ‘authenticity’ of Indian food in Japan?
An Indian friend of mine living in Japan once said he went into a posh “authentic” Indian restaurant with his Japanese colleague who was raving about how the Japanese have such wonderfully authentic international cuisines.
But when he ordered a chicken briyani, he got a massive shock. He said it was served as a pile of mushy briyani rice (briyani rice should have every grain separate) all stuck together in a horribly bland “sauce” which tasted like some cheap version of curry powder you buy in a 2 pound store in London.
Further more, they used frozen peas and carrots inside, and worse, they used minced chicken. He was shocked, and needless to say he had to be forced to adapt to the massive difference of taste there.

DY | 14 February, 2008 - 04:38

Japanese "Indian" food

That fake Indian food that DY is complaining about is at least made by Indians. I’ve never been to an Indian restaurant here that didn’t have Indian cooks.

There is an international version of “restaurant Indian,” and the stuff here in Tokyo is not that different from Indian in Los Angeles or London.

Mark | 22 February, 2008 - 20:03

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