Tenshinhan (not Tien Shinhan) in The Japan Times


My latest Japan Times Japanese Kitchen article delves into the subject of chuuka (中華) cuisine, or Chinese-style Japanese food. As I explain in the article, just like yoshoku or yohshoku is European style food that's been adapted and incorporated into everyday Japanese cuisine, chuuka is the same but with Chinese food. If anything the awareness of the Chinese-style dishes that only exist in Japan is lower than the same for yoshoku. Although to be honest, most people in Japan do not give much thought to either subject - it's only food obsessed people like me that do. ^_^;

Tenshinhan is a really easy dish to make. It's basically a flat omelette on a bed of rice - a don (丼) or donburi. This is why it's also called Tenshindon. (Actually I know it more as Tenshindon, which seems to be the prevalent way it's called in the Kanto (greater Tokyo) area.) But it's also quite easy to mess up royally, as seen in the picture below.


I usually make at least two versions of any dish I am photographing for an article or a book, and in this case it was a very good idea to do so! The messed up version tasted just as good though. Just remember, that the food you see online or in magazines and books has usually been styled to look like that, and more often than not there are a lot of also-rans behind it that still taste fine. Unless it's a real fake shoot where they use trickery like glycerine on fresh fruit to make it look dewy and that kind of thing - which I never do, because I don't know how.

Tenshinhan and Tien Shinhan

Something that got cut from the article is the fact that Tenshinhan is the inspiration for the name of the manga and anime Dragon Ball character Tien Shinhan.


Most Dragon Ball fans know that the author, Akira Toriyama, named his characters in themed sets - vegetables, refrigerator related words, musical instruments, even underwear and so on. I haven't really found a definitive answer as to why he did it, beyond that he just did it for fun and because he had some trouble coming up with so many unique names. Tien Shinhan is in the Chinese food inspired group along with Chiaozu (gyoza 餃子), Yamcha (yum cha 飲茶), the dogs Shu and Mai (shumai or siumai), and so on. I guess Toriyama didn't realize that Tenshinhan is a Japanese invention either! Dragon Ball was inspired by the classic Chinese novel 西遊記 (Xīyóu jì, Saiyuuki in Japanese), known as Journey to the West or (in its abridged form) Monkey, which is very well known in Japan, so perhaps the names were a homage to that novel.

Filed under:  japan times chuuka eggs dragon ball

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