Japanese Vegetarian

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Being a vegetarian in Japan can be slightly hard to do since a lot of the food is seafood based. However, there are quite a few delicious vegetarian friendly dishes that one can get. A hot spot for vegetarian friendly cuisine can be found in Kyoto. Many of the temples serve just vegetarian styled foods, but the downside of eating at a temple is the cost can run up to $40 per person.

Some traditional meals that are vegetarian friendly with lots of flavor are shown below.

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Vegetable Tempura, fried vegetables

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Yaki Onigiri, fried rice balls

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Kabocha Korroke, pumpkin croquettes

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Okonomiyaki, cabbage pancakes (usually has meat, but can be omitted)

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Zaru Soba, buckwheat noodles

http://www.neverendingvoyage.com/vegetarian-survival-guide-to-japan/

–Sky Thai

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2012 Food Trends

Some of the noticeable food trends of Japan 2012 are as follows:

  1. Eating out less at higher end restaurants.
  2. Expansion of more inexpensive yet quality food restaurants.
  3. Nutritional and healthy foods being more emphasized in restaurants.
  4. Tomato boom. An increase of tomato sales this year due to fad that would decrease metabolic syndrome. These risks include coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.
  5. Mets Cola. A healthy soda alternative endorsed by Japan’s Consumer Affair Agency that would reduce absorption of fat.
  6. Koji salt. Koji itself is a salty fungal substance that is used in miso, soy sauce, and sake. The expansion of this domesticated fungus is now being used in meats, fish, salads, chips, and even salty yogurt.
  7. Bento Dashi. Continuing growth from 2011, men have been bringing their own bentos more often compared to women.
  8. New food items. Soup on a stick, frozen beer suds, hot beer coffee.

These trends follow similarly of what I have seen here in America with health crazes and being more health conscious. I see this continuing more in 2013 and would guess that it would do the same in Japan.

Here are some videos of  the Gari Gari Kun Corn Soup on a Stick

http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/japan-pulse/2012-food-and-drink-trends-in-japan/

–Sky Thai

Alcohol! (Part Three: In Earlier Times)

Japan has a love affair with alcohol. Starting with their national liquor, sake, Japan has continued to expand its presence in the liquor market since, well, the advent of the liquor market. Scholars have found references to sake as far back as the Kojiki, Japan’s first written record. Since then, they’ve expanded their repertoire of alcohol manufacturing to include some of the world’s finest beers, whiskeys, and libations.  So, with all of these wonderful alcohols just sitting around, waiting to be consumed, who do you think does the consuming? The answer, as it turns out, is everybody. Seriously. Everybody. There’s even “Kid’s Beer.”

This is the third in a series of posts concerning alcohol in various aspects of Japan’s culture. In this one, we’re covering alcohol’s beginnings in Japan and social import throughout the ages.

Japan’s earliest records mention nihonshu, or, literally, “Japanese alcohol.” There are very strict guidelines about what can be used in nihonshu, such as it must be distilled, it must be made from rice, and it must be made in Japan. Basically, as Americans, whenever we think of sake, we’re thinking of nihonshu. Now, though the making of nihonshu is pretty much the same, saying that to a Japanese guy would be like telling a French person that all wine was the same. Just because the process is pretty codified doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for differentiation. Just like wine, depending on the location, certain acceptable brewing styles, and ingredients, nihonshu can have a vastly different taste and body. Nihonshu varies more widely than wine, in fact, since differences in the brewing can include filtering the final product or leaving it in a cloudy, unfiltered state, or even changes in the process for nihonshu that is to be served hot instead of cold.

Sake バイキング!

日本酒 バイキング!

Nihonshu has been used throughout Japan’s history to celebrate all sorts of occasions, large and small. From harvest festivals to birthdays, celebrations, for the most part, aren’t complete without a little nihonshu splashed about. At weddings, ceremony stands upon the Kagami Biraki, a tradition where a fresh nihonshu barrel is split open in order to commemorate the occasion.

That's my kind of wedding!

That’s my kind of wedding!

The problem, of course, is that the price for nihonshu is typically a little bit high since makers put so much time and effort into perfecting their recipes and brewing techniques. So what happens then? Do people just stop drinking because it got a little bit pricey? No! They made other alcohol! They threw out requirements that alcohol had to be derived from a certain kind of rice, and started using all kinds of other stuff like potatos, yams, buckwheat, and even OTHER KINDS OF RICE!  The (comparatively) new stuff was called shochu, and started showing up around the 14th century in places like Okinawa and Kyushu. It was originally considered just the “poor man’s” nihonshu due to its higher alcohol content and cheaper ingredients. In light of this distinction, sales of shochu have typically remained low over the course of Japanese history, and it’s only since the 1980’s or so that the drink has become more popular.

Here's a handy diagram of shochu.

Here’s a handy diagram of shochu.

Opening the door to new and different alcohols like shochu allowed the Japanese to become a little bit more open-minded by the time Westerners came to Japan with their own original and distinct alcohols. Of course, the Japanese are nothing if not innovative, and took it upon themselves to immediately put their own spin on the new alcohol they had available. However, that’s a post for next time.

Until then, keep eating/drinking the good stuff!

-Dustin

The Most Compact and Suggestive Bento Box Ever

Takara Tomy Arts, a popular toy manufacturer in Japan, has come out with a new bento box called the Smart-Han スマート飯. Like smart phone, but smart ‘han’ (rice or meal). You are suppose to fill the cylinder with rice and fillings, close it, and it twists up from the bottom like a push-pop. Lets see this in action shall we?

Normal:
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Wishing it was an onigiri at this point

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Hmm…

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Help yourself to this Youtube video. Has some fun 70’s style cartoon people too 🙂

 

 

 

http://justbento.com/takara-tomy-arts-smart-han-most-compact-bento-box-ever?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+justbento+%28Just+Bento+-+meal+in+a+box%29

Vikings- From Hairy Men to Delicious Smörgåsbord

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I recently discovered something rather interesting  on all-you-can-eat buffets in Japan with the help of my Japanese word-of-the-day. Although they can be called 食べ放題 tabehoudai, which is usually all you eat minus the buffet, バイキングbaikingu means smörgåsbord. This adaptation of the word “viking” seemed very strange to me, although I always assumed Vikings did eat a lot, and I set out to see if I could find the history of this word. Tofugu popped up the first result (I’m assuming this was how I got my word-of-the-day too).
In 1957, a restaurant manager from Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel traveled to Sweden and there he encountered his first smörgåsbord. (If he was anything like me, he dropped to his knees and thanked all of the food gods for this beautiful culinary invention). He took this idea back to his hotel, where post-war Japan was excited about anything that involved getting more bang for your buck. The problem being that smörgåsbord apparently isn’t very easy to say for the Japanese (sumougasuboudo スモーガスボード) and obviously would be difficult to yell in excitement if you ever found a smörgåsbord in Japan.

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This is where the story gets kind of unbelievable, but hey crazier things have been true. Apparently somebody from the restaurant went and saw 1958 film The Vikings (narrated by Orson Welles and starring Kirk Douglas), and that inspired them to call their buffet バイキング. The restaurant is now called “Imperial Viking” , which has validity since Google says it is true.

Of course this idea some popularity in Japan, and they even have dessert buffets! Oh still my beating heart…

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Alcohol! (Part Two: Young Adults)

Japan has a love affair with alcohol. Starting with their national liquor, sake, Japan has continued to expand its presence in the liquor market since, well, the advent of the liquor market. Scholars have found references to sake as far back as the Kojiki, Japan’s first written record. Since then, they’ve expanded their repertoire of alcohol manufacturing to include some of the world’s finest beers, whiskeys, and libations.  So, with all of these wonderful alcohols just sitting around, waiting to be consumed, who do you think does the consuming? The answer, as it turns out, is everybody. Seriously. Everybody. There’s even “Kid’s Beer.”

This is the second in a series of posts concerning alcohol in various aspects of Japan’s culture. In this one, we’re covering alcohol and young adults.

Japan’s businessmen may have a high-stress, tightly wound world, but what about Japanese college students? These young adults not only have all of the rules and responsibilities inherent in Japanese culture in general, but have the extra stress of dealing with constant exams, loads of homework, and one of the most competitive academic environments in the world. So how do they deal with it? How do they relax during all of their rigorous testing?

They drink!

This was not a trick question.

They drink! And they drink a lot, it turns out. I’m sure you think that in Western countries like the United States and the UK we tend to take the cake on the drinking scene, but it’s not so. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the National Hospital Organization in Japan, the amount of alcohol-dependent, college-aged people has doubled since 1984, with many of those affected drinking underage, before they even entered High School. It’s not a secret that one can walk down the street in Japan and find vending machines which will sell beer, and I, personally, have often wondered how these machines are monitored in terms of selling only to people who are of legal age. The answer seems to be, in spite of Japan’s clear laws regarding the legal drinking age, that these machines are indeed unmonitored, allowing underage people to obtain alcohol with ease. This ease of obtaining alcohol, coupled with a prevalent drinking culture among the adults of Japan, encourages young adults to begin drinking at an early age.

Just like soda. Only beer.

Just like soda. Only beer.

Not only do the young people of Japan begin drinking earlier, it seems that women tend to drink more than men. It makes sense, since the pressures on women in Western society are well-documented, from misogynistic tendencies in the workplace to constant bombardment by photoshopped images of perfect bodies. These same pressures exist in Japan, only an order of magnitude greater. Japan has a long, well-documented history of male chauvinism. Though it isn’t covered in the results of the survey I read, I would imagine that there are sharply higher number of young alcoholic women than young alcoholic men would have to do with the young women being faced with different, extensive pressures which the college-aged male simply doesn’t have to face. At least, not in the same way women have to. Gender also has an effect on what alcohol is preferred. As is the case here in America, among men, the leading choice of alcohol is beer, whereas among women, the drinks of choice are often sweet or fruity cocktails.

Cocktails for everybody!

Cocktails for everybody!

The thing gender doesn’t seem to have an effect on is preference of western liquors of traditionally Japanese ones. Sake and others are being pushed aside for beer, vodka, and cocktails at an increasing pace in Japan, as the culture starts to migrate away from its original roots and toward a more modern drink scene. The number one choice in Japan is still beer, holding strong over every other type of alcohol available. Of course, beer is pretty much the most popular alcoholic drink in the world, so it’s not exactly surprising.

Regardless, of drink of choice, however, it seems that younger drinking is on the rise in Japan, with over 70% of students having had experience with alcohol by the time they reached high school. Compared with the American statistic of about 33% of students responding as having had experience with alcohol by the time they were 16, the Japanese students are blowing us out of the water. Easy access, an intensely alcohol-focused adult culture, and a lack of supervision have contributed to a sharp rise in underage drinking in Japan, and leads to more and more problems later in life. At least the Japanese still check your ID if you’re purchasing alcohol in a bar or grocery store environment, but as long as access is as easy as finding the nearest beer vending machine, I can only imagine that the problem will get worse. Japan may have laws against underage drinking on the books, but it doesn’t have the police to enforce such laws. Here in America however, and particularly in Salt Lake City, the laws are very strict regarding alcohol. Though, as evidenced by the numbers, it isn’t a perfect system.

Good thing we’re (most of us, in this class) already over the legal age.

Yay us!

Yay us!

Keep eating/drinking the good stuff!

-Dustin

 

 

Studio Ghibli is for Foodies

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I’m sure all of the foodies out there are always struck by the mouthwatering images of food in Studio Ghibli’s movies. These delicious food items appear over and over again; they are remarkably true to real life food. Although this is especially evident in ‘Spirited Away’ (where gluttony leads to all the trouble to begin with), it is a common theme throughout every one of their movies. From savory to sweet, food is the highlight of Ghibli’s films. I know I enjoy watching food reappear again again in the films.

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This image from ‘Spirited Away’ showcase Japanese dishes such as green peas rice, New Year’s vegetable stew, pork cutlet, dumplings, grilled fish, and fruit (a hot commodity due to its expense).

If you want to learn how to make some of your favorite Ghibli show dishes, check out this website for step-by-step instructions:

http://www.annathered.com/2010/05/17/ghibli-feast-5-my-neighbor-totoro/