Would you dare to eat those dishes?

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  • When it comes to food, Japan counts number of refined dishes, from the ancestral sushi to the popular ramen. But here, hidden in the dark, are waiting for you plenty other food, stranger than each other, that you will probably never experienced but in Japan.
    So let me guide you in this discovery of these controversial dishes which could, beyond the shadow of a doubt, be lived as a true personal challenge.

    Natto 納豆

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    Natto (fermented soybeans) is one of the food dividing people, even in Japan. Either you like it, or not. Some love natto saying it increases their appetite for the rest of the meal. Others dislike it and describe this dish as the stinkiest, foulest food they have ever experienced.
    In fact, for most of us, the strong smell of emanating ammonia would be perceived as expired food, therefore as dangerous.
    And when you pass this first “obstacle”, you will have to deal with its unusual soapy texture.
    But, despite of its aspect, natto remains a super healthy dish you could eat all day long.
    Moral of history: do not judge the book by its cover.

    Shirako 白子

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    Have you ever wondered what could seminal fluid of fish taste like? Say no more, you are at the right place. As you have properly read, shirako (“milt” in English, and literally “white children” in Japanese) refers to the male genitalia of fish when they contain sperm. Are usually used cod, anglerfish, salmon, squid or puffreish to elaborate this delicate dish you could either eat cooked or raw.
    Having tried that ONCE, I will watch out for this to be the only time…

    Fugu 河豚

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    This time, let me introduce you something you have probably already heard of: the fugu.
    Served as sashimi or chirinabe (hot pot with fish and vegetables), the fugu is a fish which is, contrary to the few dishes we have until then reviewed, known as being unanimously delicious.
    Its texture is gelatinous, doesn’t smell fishy, and would contain the most “umami” among fish.
    “How is it a challenge to eat this finest fish then?” you could wonder.
    And I would answer, first because of its quite expensive price (around 250$ for one person).
    But mostly for health security reasons. Indeed, if not correctly prepared, this fish could “just” kill you.
    The liver is said to be the best part but unfortunately you won’t officially (in restaurants) be able to savor it anymore in Japan. Serving this organ was banned in 1984.
    To reassure you, thanks to the strict Japanese regulation only the chefs who have qualified after three or more years of rigorous training are allowed to prepare this fish.

    Basashi 馬刺し

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    Let’s now dive in an other kind of challenge, which appears to be more ethical than gustative. In fact, the basashi aka horse sashimi in Japanese consists (if you are already familiar with sashimi) in slices of raw horse.
    I have had this dish couple of times in Fukuoka (main city of the Kyushu) which is known to propose it quite often in restaurants. But let’s be honest, the taste was not transcendent. I would not say it is bad, but its is not good either.
    I am aware it is inconceivable for many people, seeing horse like the man’s best friend. But it is just a cultural difference, like a lot of Japanese people could not understand why some people would eat rabbit.
    Anyways, if you are curious and not disturb by the idea, I would give it a try just to have my own opinion about it.

    Kujira

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    Finally, another controversial dish, the kujira. It literally means whale, so no need to explain you what is it about. If you are a lover of those big mammals, go your way because this dish is definitely not for you.
    However, The whale meat normally eaten in Japan is from the Minke whale (Minku kujira), which is one of the least threatened species of whales, and quite commonly found in Japanese supermarkets, thanks to Japan’s “scientific” whaling program.
    In matter of aspect, even if kujira could come in different shapes, it’s a very lean and red meat with fine marbling, slightly deeper in hue than other red meats. And because it is a mammal, it is in matters of taste, closer to a beefsteak than to a fish.

    Now you have discovered those unexpected dishes, one question remains: Would you dare?

    1. Johnnie says:

      Kujira is very good. I’ve had it as sashimi, cooked, and seared in a restaurant in Roppongi where they cook over burning rice straw. Mochi is just boring and tasteless.

    2. Johnnie says:

      Horse meat was disappointing, too chewy.

    3. Every time I arrive in Japan first thing I do is go to an Izakaya and order Takowasa (raw octopus with lots of wasabi and peppers) and basashi – delicious. I love nattou too, with traditional breakfast. Whale is a bit overrated I think, but not certainly bad.

    4. Ginny Le says:

      Ha ha I love what you wrote about natto. So funny. I haven’t tried the 3 other dishes. I couldn’t stand natto either. Lol. So you are the English teacher who cannot eat it. :D

    5. Ashwin Campbell says:

      The only one of the four I cannot eat is Kujira. I tried it ant the only way I can describe it is like eating a radial tire that’s been in the ocean for 50years. The taste was like the smell at low tide and the texture was steel-belted radial.

    6. Alex White says:

      I am a Christian, but I have decided to follow the Jewish diet as closely as possible. Right now, I am focusing on not eating unclean meats since I don’t know any Jews to ask about dietary restrictions. (If you didn’t know, Christianity is derived from Judaism.) What do I mean by “unclean meat”?

      The first rule is this: “Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is cloven-footed, and cheweth the cud, among the beasts, that shall ye eat.” Leviticus 11:3 Both conditions have to be met in order to be considered clean. A common example of an unclean meet from a mammal (of which this verse is talking about) is the Pig. In anime, I have seen them mention pork quite often, so I know the Japanese eat pig meat. Furthermore, it is stated that we shouldn’t even touch it: “Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcass shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.” Leviticus 11:8

      The second rule is this: “These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.” Leviticus 11:9 As with above, both conditions have to be met. This means no shrimp, lobster, squid, octopus, oysters, clams, crabs, whale, seal, porpoise, dolphins, otters, scallop, shark, etc.

      Birds are named specifically. Eagle, ossifrage, osprey, vulture, kite, raven, owl, nighthawk, cuckow, hawk, little owl, cormorant, the great owl, swan, pelican, gier eagle, stork, heron, lapwing, and the bat. These are unclean.

      Even insects have a rule: Leviticus 11:20-23 “All fowls that creep, going upon all four, shall be an abomination unto you. Yet these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon all four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth; Even these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind. But all other flying creeping things, which have four feet, shall be an abomination unto you.”

      Then there is this: Leviticus 11:27-30
      And whatsoever goeth upon his paws, among all manner of beasts that go on all four, those are unclean unto you: whoso toucheth their carcass shall be unclean until the even.
      And he that beareth the carcass of them shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: they are unclean unto you.
      These also shall be unclean unto you among the creeping things that creep upon the earth; the weasel, and the mouse, and the tortoise after his kind,
      And the ferret, and the chameleon, and the lizard, and the snail, and the mole.

      As long as I follow these rules, I don’t have to worry about it tasting bad.
      Oh, I can’t forget that anything alcoholic (aka, fermented, aka rotten) is also not allowed. And I do have personal preferences for vegetables. I am a selective eater, especially with vegetables. Fruits, I don’t really have a problem with. I would have to taste it first to know.

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