When you move to a new place (particularly one so far from home) there are lots of things you’ll need to get used to. Some things will be easy to adapt to, and others will take more time. One thing that ex-pats frequently have to get used to is new food types and changes to diet – some of which are changes that you just never get used to. However, some things you learn to love, and here are a few of the edible products about which Japan has changed my mind.
I’m not a fan of oranges – they are messy to peel and the taste is often too acidic. However, these little mandarin/satsuma/clementine things (not quite sure exactly what they are) are small and sweet, easy to peel and usually nice and juicy. Also, in the Autumn you can get a whole bag of them for 100 Yen because just about everybody grows them and so there is a surplus at harvest time.
In my previous life, Miso was only known to me as a fairly unimpressive little bowl of soup with little bits of tofu floating in it. However, since moving to Japan I have learnt that miso is so much more than this mere bowl of soup, and can be used to make all sorts of delicious things. Miso paste smeared over vegetables or fish and then put under the grill is one such recipe that is super delicious and also super easy. Miso is a diverse and flavoursome ingredient that no Japanophile foodie should be without.
I’m not completely sold on nori (seaweed) but we have an understanding and tolerate each other from time to time. My main problem with nori is that when it has been wrapped around a rice ball for a couple of hours, it gets soggy and chewy and gets stuck in your teeth really easily (oh-so attractive… not). However, the Japanese have combated the problem by producing inventive packages for wrapping onigiri in which the nori does not actually touch the rice at all until you open the package. While nori isn’t my favourite, I’m aware of the health benefits and do try to include more of it in my diet… particularly in the form of seaweed flavoured potato chips… that still counts as healthy, right?
I like Rice. Rice is Nice. But having rice three times a day for breakfast, lunch and dinner? That’s hardcore. However, you truly, really do get used to it. Don’t get me wrong, I will still choose a bowl of cereal over a bowl of rice for my breakfast, but in Japan I usually eat rice at least once a day. If things work out that I so happen to have a rice-based meal planned for both lunch and dinner, that’s fine too. Too much rice is certainly not something my stomach loves to live with, but a double-rice day is certainly doable, and with few complaints given how filling and delicious rice meals are in Japan.
So when I say that these are 4 foods I’ve learnt to love in Japan… what I really mean is 4 foods that I’ve just about learnt to live with… 4 foods that I didn’t expect I’d end up actually liking whilst living in Japan. It’s amazing what you can get used to with a bit of effort, and after a certain amount of time abroad, you’ll have probably forgotten that you even found those things weird in the first place.