Wow, it's actually been quite some time since I posted a Manzen Post. It's ironic, considering that they were invented to get me to post more frequently. Oh well, the best laid plans of mice and men, eh? In case you don't remember what a Manzen Post is (I would be surprised if you did), it's a post about a random subject of Japanese food or culture, that is too short for a full Nihon Day post. For more information, read the first Manzen.
A few days ago I was talking to a co-worker of mine about mochi. She was saying that she didn't like how squishy it was. The subject came up because I had shared a video about shāo máshū, a type of Taiwanese rice cake that is made of steamed sticky rice and coated in sweet peanut powder. Personally, I thought they looked delicious, but my co-worker thought the gelatinous slippery consistency looked like snot. This then led to her saying that she had recently tried mochi and didn't like the icky-stickiness of it. I conceded that the texture may be a little difficult for Americans, though I think it's a bit like a soft caramel or salt water taffy.
Then she asked me if I thought the Japanese had a higher tolerance for slimy things. I thought about it for a minute and realized that there are a number of Japanese foods that most Americans would consider far too, well, "snot-like". That is not to say that they shouldn't be eating them, or that they're weird for doing so, just that it's a difference in our food cultures.
In particular, natto jumped to my mind. If you're unfamiliar with this dish, it is fermented soybeans. They're a traditional breakfast food, though not necessarily universally loved. Many Japanese people don't like them either because of their strong smell and flavor. My main objection to them is the fact that they look like baked beans mixed with rubber cement. Or, if you prefer to be rude, they look like something an giant insect might sneeze out.
Another odd texture that is eaten by some people in Japan is the nagaimo yam, which I encountered when I tried making Osaka style okonomiyaki. I'll let myself explain it:
"I should clarify that it’s not really a yam in the way that you might be thinking. It looks more like a cross between a potato and a daikon radish and when grated it immediately turns to sticky, frothy liquid. If I’m making it sound unpleasant, that’s more or less what I was going for. In Japan they sometimes eat this substance raw, something that I don’t think I could have forced myself to do..."
Then, of course, there is the Japanese appreciation of the raw or partially raw egg. I imagine you might have seen videos of omu rice, a dish where they set a pouch of cooked egg on top of a mound of stir-fried rice, then they take a knife and slice across the top of the eggs. The pouch bursts open, sending semi-cooked goopy eggs over the rice, like an alien egg sack in a low budget movie. Of course, you can make omu rice with a fully cooked, crepe-like egg blanket that you lay over the stir-fry. I've made it, it's delicious. But, my point is, that there are lots of people out there who prefer their eggs slimy.
When I was in Japan I ate several dishes that were traditionally supposed to be eaten with a raw egg mixed into them. Call me an American-weenie, but I couldn't quite bring myself to do this. Though in my defense, my stomach was suffering from jet lag at the time, and I didn't really want to anger it.
And I can't write a blog post about odd textures without mentioning my nemesis, the sea urchin. In the last post I wrote I told you all about how much I hate these little abominations but in case you missed it, here's what I said:
I told her I was fine with everything, though, I really don't like sea urchin. This is perfectly true, I think it is the grossest thing on the planet, with the texture of cold butter blended with raw egg whites, and a flavor reminiscent of the fishiest fish you have ever eaten mixed with petroleum. Not to mention it looks like a slimy orange turd. So, yeah, not a fan. Needless to say, I was non-to-pleased to see this scourge of the ocean sitting on a plate next to me...
In conclusion, dear co-worker, yes I think that there is a cultural difference that makes slimy foods more appealing to some people.
If anybody has any foods they can't stand the texture of, please tell me about them in the comment section!
Until next time, remember, not everyone likes the same foods.