Posts Tagged ‘Japanese cuisine’

NATTO

June 30, 2009

I’ve heard it’s disgusting. I’ve read that foreigners should avoid it. I’ve seen that strange smile on an elderly waitress’s  lips when my husband chose it over some other ingredient while ordering breakfast in an Osaka hotel.  I saw my husband eat it (inside something else) but for some reason I didn’t try it myself.

Rotting soya beans didn’t sound like fun.   

But there it is, in a bowl in front of me, and it looks like soya beans in a gluey brown sauce and it tastes like ordinary cooked soya beans.

What’s all that fuss about?!

And I thought I was in for a culinary challenge!

2008-08-natto-2

CULINARY SURPRISES

May 12, 2009

I’m not going to write here about tofu ice-cream or coffee pasta or bean jam or bee larvae or baguettes with soba and mayo because these belong to a different kind of surprises – the most straightforward kind – it had simply never crossed my mind that people eat such things and I was delighted to learn that they do (never shocked – oh, no – I’m not easily shocked). This post shall be about, let’s say, certain culinary misconceptions – things that surprised me because I’d already had a concept in my head.

First, two things from Chinese cuisine: 6-month eggs and bird nests. 6-month eggs look different but, surprisingly, taste the same – the idea behind them was not to achieve some stunning gastronomic effect but simply to have fresh eggs half a year later. As to nests, I thought they are just ordinary nests – disorderly looking little bowls made of twigs and stuff – served whole on a plate, boiled or maybe even raw – that was the image in my head. I forgot that, first of all, they are swallow nests (some Chinese counterpart of a swallow to be exact) and so they consist mainly of sticky saliva, which might sound pretty disgusting but is at least easier to chew and digest than a bunch of twigs. And anyway they are served in very thin slices and those slices are further basically dissolved to make a half-liquid jelly. You drink it when you feel under the weather.

Japanese cuisine is also less exotic than it seems to be, at least for people who come from countries where you eat pickles, steamed yeast dumplings, breaded pork loin cutlets and cabbage leaves with rice-based fillings. I have a feeling too that most of what we consider to be traditionally Japanese food is in fact a modern invention.  All Japanese meat dishes, for example, from yakitori to sukiyaki, cannot be traditional because it was not allowed to eat meat in Japan until the second half of the 19th century. Okonomiyaki is a result of second world war food shortages. The niku jaga recipe started to appear in cookery books as late as the 1970s and uramakizushi was created to hid nori when sushi was deliberately imported to the US in 1972.

Another funny thing is that in Europe a kaitenzushi place is where you take your boyfriend / business partner for a posh lunch (and where prices are ridiculously high), while in Japan it’s cheap fast food.

 Last but not least – sake. Sake is technically… beer, as it’s neither distilled nor fermented but brewed. But what is sake exactly? I mean, for a Japanese. Because my dictionary says it’s ‘an alcoholic drink’. So is any alcohol sake in Japanese? But alcohol is arukoru (in katakana, so it’s a borrowing). And rice wine is nihonshu. Where nihon is ‘Japan’ and shu is… ‘alcoholik drink’. And… ‘a person’. And I’m surprised again.

Moje nazwisko panu nic nie powie...

Moje nazwisko panu nic nie powie...