Tuesday, December 07, 2004

What's on the Menu in Japan

This evening I wanted something filling, but not too heavy. But I didn't want sushi since I had that for lunch. Obviously I decided to eat at a tonkatsu joint.

It's funny, but six years ago I knew next to nothing about Japanese food, except for sushi. Ten years ago the thought of eating raw fish made me shudder. Today I am familiar with most major types of Japanese food and consider sushi one of my favorite foods in the world.

For those of you who don't know a lot about Japanese cuisine here are the major types of establishments I like to eat at while I am over here:

Sushi and Sashimi - I don't need to explain this one - it's everywhere in the U.S. I even saw a sushi place when I was passing through Abilene a decade ago. One thing I will say is that Japanese sushi is typically much better than its American counterpart. I don't know why - maybe because the fish is fresher? The best sushi I had ever was in Osaka.

Tempura - This is deep fried vegetables and seafood (usually shrimp) and sometimes even meat. This was actually invented by 16th century Portuguese missionaries who didn't like eating all that raw stuff the Japanese ate. Many people in the U.S. are familiar with it since it is usually offered on the menu at sushi places.

Teppanyaki - This is "BeniHana" style cooking of meat, seafood and vegetables over a hot table-top grill. It's probably less popular here than in the U.S.

Tonkatsu - This is a breaded pork cutlet, usually served with a side of shredded cabbage. Contrary to what you might think, it is not very heavy at all.

Shabu-Shabu - This is a form of cooking where water is boiled and thinly sliced meat and vegetables (and usually some other stuff like tofu) are thrown in to cook for a while before taken out and eaten, at which point more stuff thrown into the pot for the next round. Sort of similar to fondue, except water is used instead of oil.

Udon, Soba, Raman - These are each a different type of noodle. They are usually served in a bowl with broth, vegetables, and sometimes other stuff like meat, seafood, or tempura (soba is sometimes served alone and eaten cold). This is the Japanese form of fast food.

Yakitori - This is where meat and vegetables are put onto little skewers and grilled. One of my favorites for a light meal, Yakitori houses are usually little holes in the wall and hard to find.

Yakiniku - This is the Japanese form of Korean BBQ where you grill your own marinated meat over a grill at your table. The best Yakiniku place EVER was a place called Santoku in Tokyo but, sadly, it is no longer around. The second best place is in Newport Beach and called Anjin, where my family and friends go frequently.

Biru - Beer. On the menu wherever I go.

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