Clockwise from top left: Tomie ramen, tuna don, tsukemen (dippy ramen noodles), fried tofu on a stick, sakana fry teishoku, okonomiyaki, omurice, and Rosso apple tart.
#1 - All Japanese food. The end.
Well that was a short post.
But actually, food is one of the most integral parts of my life in Japan and thinking about what I consume consumes at least 70% of my brain power at all times. And while I have brought up food here and there within posts, it has been brought to my attention that I don't have a dedicated food post and that is SIMPLY unacceptable. So without further ado, my top 5 Japanese foods.
Further ado: Before coming to Japan, I was a strict vegetarian and did not eat any fish or seafood. I made the decision to eat both in Japan as I thought that I would miss out on many opportunities if I didn't. And I'm really glad that I made that decision. Not only would it be very difficult to go out to eat anywhere in Goto (whose dominant industry is fishing...), but I think I would miss out on many group activities with friends or coworkers simply because I couldn't eat anything. It's not impossible to be a vegetarian or even vegan in Japan, but for ease and comfort I decided to loosen the reigns a bit. If I lived in Tokyo or even Nagasaki city I think it would be a different story, but on Goto this is what worked well for me. Okay NOW without further ado...
1) Sakana Fry Teishoku
Specifically sakana fry teishoku from the restaurant Umate, beside the ferry terminal in Goto. I could rank almost all the sakana fry in Goto and this is by far number one. A white fish coated in panko (the superior bread crumb) and lightly fried until perfectly crispy. Sakana just translates to fish so this is basically Japanese fish and chips. But instead of chips it's rice. This was also the first meal I ate upon arriving in Goto and I wonder if this has anything to do with my love for it. Did I imprint on this dish or something? As you can see in the photo above, as a set meal (teishoku) it comes with rice, salad, miso soup, and little pickly bits (tsukemono).
Okonomiyaki is Japanese food for people who don't like Japanese food. It is also very vegetarian friendly. A savoury pancake of batter, fillings, and cabbage smothered in a sweet sauce and Japanese mayo-- this is a dish anyone can get behind. I have previously talked about okonomiyaki in my Osaka and Hiroshima blog posts, as those regions are famous for it. Okonomiyaki has been a crowd pleaser with everyone who has visited me and the ability to customize toppings and fillings is fun. It's also a fun experience because there is usually a hot cooking surface built into the table or counter and so the okonomoyaki stays piping hot for you to enjoy. I'm sure it would be very easy to make at home too and is on my list of things to try making.
3) Soba - Soba is a type of noodle made from buckwheat and is served in many different ways. So me saying 'soba' is actually a bit of a cheat, because it encompasses a bunch of different dishes. I use soba a lot in cooking at home as a noodles substitute in spaghetti, cold salads, and even once a mac n cheese like dish that turned out better than expected. I find it has a bit more flavour than traditional pasta and apparently it is quite high in protein and fiber. At restaurants it is often served cold with a dipping sauce, with tempura, or in various soups.
4) Coffee Jelly
This makes the list mostly for the reason that I can't believe this isn't popular in other countries. Or maybe it is and I've just never had it?? I for sure thought it was strange when, at my very first meal on Goto, the other ALTs excitedly went to the fridge and pulled out these tiny teacups of black jelly. It is exactly what it sounds like it is: coffee mixed with gelatin and set in the fridge. Coffee jelly. It is ludicrously easy to make and so delicious. You can serve it with cream, whipped cream, and sugar syrup.
5) Curry Rice. This is one of the most popular dishes in Japan and is exceptionally easy to make. It might be surprising that a simple 'ol curry rice makes my top 5 list, but
a) it's super delicious and
b) maybe some people don't know the difference between Japanese style curry and the more familiar Indian curry.
The Japanese curry sauce is a thicker, brown sauce that is sweeter than Indian curry I would say. My mom used to make this dish all the time when I was growing up and this probably contributes to how much I like it now. It is often served with some sort of fried bit on top be that chicken, shrimp, or pork. There is a nationwide fast food chain called CoCo Curry that is cheap and delicious and I visit often when I'm in Nagasaki City.
But what about food you don't like Mireille? Shiso. Shiso is a green leaf often served as a garnish with sushi and I imagine how I feel about shiso is how people who think cilantro tastes like soap feel. Shiso tempura is almost edible to me which just further supports my theory that anything deep fried can be delicious.
No matter what food you are eating in Japan, you are sure to get a resounding 'jouzu' (じょうず) on your amazing chopstick skills. Jyouzu means to be good or skilled at something. Even if you use your chopsticks more like dull skewers, spill half of your food on yourself and the other half on the table-- the Japanese will always be there to make you feel better about it. On the flip side, even if you have lived in Japan for 10 years, eat Japanese food every day, and speak fluent Japanese-- you will still be met with an amazed 'jouzu' when you pick up those ohashi. As certain as the sun rises in the east and shiso is disgusting.