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 (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.
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…
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.
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.
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?