Saturday, February 25, 2006

An Anniversary and Okinawan Delicacies

Well, yesterday marked one year since I first set foot in Japan. At this exact time, 365 days ago, I was exploring Tokyo on foot. Checking out the Imperial Palace and Ginza. Eating fish and chips. Generally being a good little tourist! The year that followed sure has gone by quickly. It sure has been pretty interesting too!

Last night I went out after work with my co-worker Asuka and her student Hiroaki. We went to an Okinawan restaurant that came highly reccomended. Asuka was talking up a dish called Taco Rice. Now I figured she meant Tako Rice, which would be octopus. But no, it really is Taco Rice. A big plate of rice covered with ground beef, salsa, lettuce, and cheese. How cool is that? I'm up for anything that even smells faintly of Jalapenos, so Taco Rice hit the spot.

But it doesn't stop there.. oh no. Like most Japanese restaurants, we got a little plate of appitizer for free. So I look at it, and its shiny little strips of semi transluscent pink-tan flesh. I just figured it was octopus, as that is often what is served. But suddenly both companions start bugging me to eat it, saying its not octopus, eat it eat it, its gooood. But I have found, in Japan if somebody won't tell you what something is, then that something is disgusting.

Grant: "No, I shall not put that in my mouth until I know what it is."

Asuka:"Its.. Pork!"

Grant:"Oh hell no that's not any pork I've ever seen!"

Hiroaki:"Eat it, it's good."


Asuka:"Pig's Ears!"


I mean really.. the DOG loves pigs ears, but its not something I ever thought was really fit for human consumption. But I ate some anyway.
It was actually quite good, flavor wise. Very concentrated pork tastyness. The texture and general cartilaginous crunchyness was a bit of stomach churner though. I ended up eating about three pieces. Of course it turns out that Hiroaki doesn't even like it! sheesh.

I also got to try the Okinawan stir-fry Champloo (Chanpuru), which had egg, tofu, ham, and Goya in it. As I started tucking into my portion, I noticed that BOTH Hiroaki and the Bartender were staring at me, just waiting for my reaction. Turns out that the Goya (a sort of cucomber crossed with a broccolli kind of thing ), is among the most bitter tasting plants that are still edible. I tell you it was bitter! Wow. But kinda tasty. I found the less chewing done the better. Just swallow it, and be done.

So another week, another adventure into strange food.

Japan: You have no idea what you just put in your mouth, do you?


羽之助 said...

Oh, you had some goya? I took a break from the mindless 'What do you like' practice in one of my classes and asked what they did NOT like, and almost all of them included goya in their list. Must be pretty strong stuff, although as usual we can endure it.

Yeah, I've noticed that! Stuff that our ancestors probably ate when they were starving has become some kind of haute cuisine - look at ME, I'm eating insect larvae! I fully agree with your 'you never know what you put in your mouth' thesis.

I also like when you relate that she didn't even LIKE the pig's ears. It's like being asked 'can you eat natto?' when in reality half the Japanese population hates the stuff. Not me. Great with kimchee.

Travelingrant said...

Totally! I've even had a few students who related how they didn't like sushi. And then there are those who have to make sure I know what they are talking about.

"You like sushi?"
"Raw fish, you like raw fish?!?"

And as far as Natto, its not that bad. I do know one woman who likens it to mac and cheese as a comfort food. Which is kinda whack!

羽之助 said...

Maybe it's like an American declaring that they hate hamburgers. Or a Canadian declaring that he hates macaroni and cheese. Oh god I want it so bad ...