I order random things in restaurants…

… and it usually turns out great.

We have all seen pictures of the famous plastic food displays or photo menus in Japanese restaurants, right?

This one is for a famous Yakitori (put delicious things on a sitck and fire it up :D) restaurant chain

Those are tremendously helpful for the Japanese beginner’s level food experience. Well guess what, small restaurants in the outskirts of the city often won’t have them. Instead the menu looks something like this.

… apparently the local specialty here is hedgehog.
Actually, this menu is a comparatively simple one, because most stuff is written in Kana (syllable writing), compared to other places that use only Kanji (characters) to list their lovely selection of food.

Well, not knowing what you get is part of the fun, right? Comes in handy that I have no food allergies or strong dislikes, though.

Here are some of my most successful blind orders.

Ok, that’s cheating, I actually know the words for avocado tuna sushi 😉

Delicious, right?

So, has it ever gone wrong, you may ask. Oh yes, it has. But mostly because I have no clue how to eat the stuff that is put in front of me. Best example: I once ordered a huuuge block of plain boiled konnyaku. Now probably, like me, you don’t know what this is (I recommend a google picture search). So you just try to balance the slippery gelatinous blob with your chopsticks while carefully nibbling at the corner… only to find that it’s a chewy little thing with absolutely zero taste, and that the Japanese people around you are happily eating it with a knife and fork. (Sorry, no photographic evidence of the konnyaku incident is available.)

Good thing about table manners, though, it seems like pretty much everything is ok, if it gets the job done. So while most food is designed to be easily manageable with chopsticks, using European cutlery is actually quite normal also for the locals.

What I love most about these experiences in small restaurants, however, is the obvious pride that people feel in preparing their dishes, and the appreciation of good food in the Japanese culture. For example, it is considered completely normal to queue for one hour in front of a new ramen place during lunch break, if it has a good reputation.

And I have one more trick up my sleeve… which is the amazing people in Shirakawa laboratory. They have already taken me to so many amazing food places, it’s hard to keep track 🙂 And having some locals on your team food is what really gets the yummy stuff coming in!

Bottom line, you will see quite a bit more of me when I come back to Europe, quite literally, I mean several kilos more of me.

-ritschi

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