Yohshoku in the New York Times (but it's not Hambagoo!!!!!)
The New York Times has an article today about yohshoku, Japanese-style western food. Long time readers of Just Hungry will know that I’ve been slowly introducing you all to yohshoku for some years now. Here’s the original article where I explained what it is back in 2004, which links to all the yohshoku style recipes on the site, such as omuraisu (omu rice or rice omelette) and hayashi rice. Unless I missed listing something, the number of recipes is pretty small yet. This is because most yohshoku dishes are pretty high in calories, especially from fat, and in recent times I’m a bit more into rather healthier eating. But I’ll try to increase the number, yes yes I will.
A couple of things about the New York Times article: first of all, it isn’t hambagoo (which I think most people would pronounce as ham-Ba-GOO….wtf), it would be correctly pronounced hambaagu - though I would dispute their assertion that hambaagaa is reserved for the Golden Arches meat-on-a-bun variety and hambaagu for the Japanese kind. Both terms are used for either kind really. As several readers over the years have pointed out, a Japanese style hamburger is very much like a “hamburger steak” or a Salisbury steak. Given that we do actually have hambaagu for dinner quite often, it shames me that I still haven’t put up a recipe. I’ll remedy that ASAP.
I’d also dispute the claim that spaghetti for napolitan is cooked and then left for a while. Restaurants may do that but home cooks don’t (and I would say good restaurants don’t either). The key difference between Japanese style spaghetti and Italian style spaghetti is simply that Japanese people prefer their noodles to be a tad softer than al dente. This is because traditional noodles like udon and soba are a tad on the soft side. Until fairly recently, even so-called Italian restaurants in Japan would cook their pasta a few more minutes beyond the al dente stage to suit their customers.
As I noted in my original article about yohshoku, the main reason why it’s become newly popular and hip in recent years is because of nostalgia. Japanese ‘gourmet’ magazines (food mags that focus on eating out more than cooking, aimed at a mainly male audience) like dancyu and Shokuraku frequently have features about ‘Showa retro’ yohshoku cooking. This nostalgia is a little like the one for ’50s diner food in the U.S., or ‘good plain British food’ in the UK. (I explained a bit about ‘Show retro’, a dewy eyed nostalgia for the good old times of the former emperor Hirohito’s reign,
on Just Bento recently.)
And for me, a Japanese person who’s lived so long outside of Japan, yohshoku still has a special place in my food life. Even if it is damn fattening.