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food, travel, food culture

Of not liking Japanese food – and then liking it

I am guilty of some capital sins in the F- area, and not especially proud of them. But as blogging is (apparently) about sharing, I will confess at least one of them here. I believed Japanese food was just sushi. And I used to say I disliked it.

Reality was, sushi reminded me of skinny models starving themselves to death in the backstage of fashion shows and on the stairs of casting agencies (memories form a past life in Milan). And generally, of people on perennial diets, frigid and severe.

Then SATC came, and made it all worse with this (in) famous scene.

samantha sushi scene sex and the city

Somebody said it made sushi sexy. Somebody else said nyotaimori was demeaning to women (for an amusing read, you may want to check out this old article where a “modern feminist” reports on a naked sushi evening in London). Although Feminism is theoretically an F- word, I am no culture critic so won’t get into the debate. To me it was just beyond gross.

I remember a date when someone wanted to woo me with sushi at Nobu: we spent hours perched on uncomfortable stools, nibbling on minuscule multi-coloured rolls which looked glossy but felt rather limp, and warmed up inexorably under the neon light as the conversation dragged in spite of the many drinks, for which the guy kept flashing cash throughout. I swear at the end of the night I could smell something rather fishy (and before I get sued by Armani, I’m not hinting at the fact the sushi may not have been fresh). The guy disappeared from my life much before the dinner disappeared from my stomach.

Fast forward a few years, a few cities, a few dates and more than a few eateries. My first wagyu beef. A late night show of a film I love much Lost in Translation, its immaculate imagery made slightly blurred by too many glasses of fine sake. A feast of an eight- course banquet at the Grazing Asia Japanese Supperclub (a post on this in coming soon). All rich, unforgettable experiences, ecstasies for each of the five senses plus the secret one and miles ahead from any thought of deprivation and purity. In fact, for different reasons, none of them pure at all.

Bref, I am reconciled with Japanese food. It has finally become what all food should in my opinion be- comfort food, food you like to make and tuck in and feel better for it.

making japanese food at home

On a random Saturday night, cooking at home before diving into the Shoreditch nightlife, we chose to make okonomeyaki and zarusoba noodles- no fuss about it, just as any other homely meal between friends. We munch happily the cold noodles, soaked in savoury broth and wasabi, whilst some teriyaki beef marinates and the okonomeyaki sizzles in a heavy pan. We jiggle like children watching the bonito flakes move like butterflies on the sticky caramelised surface of the pancake. Our guest is amazed and says “I thought Japanese food was just sushi, and I didn’t know it could be soooooooooo good”.

Food is full of surprises. ‘cause so is life.

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2 Comments

  1. Well, I might just have to have a go at eating Japanese food after all then. I thought it was just sushi too! I’m hungry just reading your blog. *wanders off to cook tea* Looking forward to reading your blog! Kay :O)

    • Thanks Kay! If you want to have a go at Japanese cooking, start here- this channel is great (and it has a surprise but don’t want to spoil it ;) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PeUHy0A1GF0 …and remember, sometimes it looks like they put so many things in recipes (shrimp- meat- eggs etc.) but you can cut or add as much as you like and make them simpler and still really good. Hope you enjoy it!

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