Sunday, August 12, 2007

Comprehensive list of all the bizarre foods I have encountered in Japan

I thought that this might interest some of you, or maybe make your stomach turn.

Sashimi: sliced raw fish. not really that weird, since you can get this in the states, but I'm starting small. This also includes octopus, squid and clams

Ikura: Raw salmon eggs. Yuk.

Hot Sake with Fish: Already mentioned in previous post.

Sea Lantern: Some sort of urchin like thing that tastes like ocean water

Jellyfish: Texture is what you would expect, chewy. Technically not Japanese food since I had it at a Taiwanese place. Pretty tasty actually.

Chicken cartilage: You know when you eat a drumstick, theres that chewy stuff around the joint. They put that on a skewer and serve it as yakitori here. I'm not wild about it.

Raw egg over Japanese sweet potato: Raw egg is slimy. The sweet potatoes here are slimy. What's not to love?

Fermented bonito flakes: Bonito is a type of fish. They ferment it with a fungus that dries it out and allows it to remain edible for a long time. Looks like the shavings you put in a hamster cage, tastes pretty good.

Natto: Fermented soybeans. Eaten for breakfast with mustard and onions. Taste depends on where it is from.

Grilled pregnant fish: I can't remember the name of these right now, but they look kinda like sardines, except they are full of eggs. When served you get the entire fish; head, tail and all.

Sea snake: not so great

Tripe stew: Also available in the states. However the weirdness was accentuated by having it for breakfast.

Onsen egg: An egg, cooked in hot water direct from the earth. In theory this is an appealing idea. In practice, it isn't that far away from a raw egg. I can't stand to have my omelette runny, so I am not impressed in the least.

Lichen wrapped sushi: Not sure of the species, I think that it's a Leptogium, but definately some sort of cyanolichen. This was also served by itself as a side dish with a sesame sauce. Good.

Dried seafoods of various kinds: Popular as snack foods here.

I had the next four things all at one sitting while at an izakaya (Japanese style bar) in Kyoto.

Extremely fresh shellfish of some sort: One of the pieces contracted when I touched it with my chopsticks. Kinda chewy.

Fried crocodile: Not sure what else it tastes like, or why they were serving it for that matter. I guess because they can.

Frog legs: It really does taste like chicken.

And the winner for weirdest Japanese food....

Raw horse meat: It's served frozen. You dip it in soysauce with ginger and garlic. Pretty good, although it feels a little weird to admit that. It's going to be hard to say "I'm a vegetarian" when I get back to the states, although I do plan to resume that practice. They put meat in just about everything here, and I am a little tired of it.

For the record, I was offered and turned down whale at this izakaya by my host in Kyoto. I have a line that I won't cross, and that is it. Primates are also on the same side, as well as anything else that could potentially be an endangered species. I asked to see where whale was on the menu, so that I would know the kanji for future reference. It wasn't on the menu. You have to be able to ask for it. This is a highly political issue, and I suspect that maybe they shouldn't have been serving that particular item.

So there you have it. My adventures in Japanese food. Somehow, non of this has given me any sort of upset stomache. Although after the izakaya experience, I thought that I might. Probably more a psychological thing than effect of any food that I ate.


Marieke said...

Indeed, fascinating. Good for you for having an adventuresome palate for this trip. It might make going back to veggie all that more satisfying! Any foods you're going to miss when you get back to the States?

Ry said...

It's not so much any one type of food that I am going to miss, so much as the way the meals get presented at some of the ryokan and hostels I've stayed at. They give you lots of little side dishes with everything, so each meal is it's own buffet. I love it.