California Roll, not real sushi? WHAT?
My reaction exactly. That is, until I studied abroad for two months during the summer of 2011 at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan and experienced the real deal. There, my eyes and palette (literally!) were opened to a whole new world of Japanese cuisine. Whether it be something as delicious as fresh (and raw, of course!) seafood, as slimy as natto, or as elegant as the tiny cakes displayed behind the shop window… each dish is delicately arranged to tell a story, and I am here to tell it to you.
When we think about Japanese cuisine, sushi is almost immediately to come up, although curry rice is a close second. And let’s not forget about ramen. Japanese cuisine is truly special, quite unlike any of the other East Asian cuisine out there. Maybe that is why there is a certain exotic air that accompanies Japanese restaurants in America–from the traditional or Japanese pop music to the bamboo mats or hanging decoration to the unique sushi bars where patrons can speak with the sushi chefs as they prepare sushi for the evening.
But let’s face it, Japanese food, such as sushi, is just not the same in America as it is in Japan. Not only are the taste and palette different, but dishes and rolls are watered down, reinvented, and in some cases, let’s be honest, are bastardized (you know you are thinking it too! cream cheese and rice and fish? As a foreigner (外人), I absolutely love it, but nevertheless, it does not sound like the ideal combination).
What does this say about Japanese cuisine in Japan though? Nothing. Because we haven’t eaten what is across the Pacific Ocean. Out there, there is a whole ‘nother palette, bursts of flavor you wouldn’t expect, meats and vegetables you wouldn’t even dream of eating, years of culture and tradition hidden behind those delicately arranged dishes… And you are about to see.
That’s right. It’s about more than raw fish.