It's funny, growing up, I was always known as a the good kid who would eat anything. My family used to go just about any type of resturant imaginable, and I never had issues with any of the food.
I now know that most of the food in those resturants, while some most certainly probably are unchanged from whatever country they are originally from, definately takes things from those cuisines which are saleable to an American audience.
I now realize that I am somewhat of a fussy eater. But to my credit I have also found some wonderful foods here that I do like. A list of the bad and then the good.Mirin
: Sweet rice wine.I tend to like crisp, fresh flavors, mirin is like a local anesthetic, sweetening food that is to me not normally so, creating a very bizarre taste in your mouth, like everything you're eating has been dipped in fish and honey. Mirin is unfortunately in a lot of sauces and things (such as tsuyu, what you dip soba noodles in when you eat them). Ruins any meal for me.
Oroshi Daikon: Daikon is a big white radish. It definately has its place in simmered food (oden), I absolutely love shredded daikon salad with sesame dressing (a common offering at Izakaya here). But for some reasin Oroshi daikon (ground daikon) just doesn't sit with me. The dirt smell of the root comes out, permeating the taste of the root and everything else your eating too actually.
Mayonaise: I thought this was an American thing, but Japanese love them some Mayonaise. It all started, according to a history show I saw once, when they put tuna and mayonaise in a onigiri (rice ball). now they have mayonaise in EVERYTHING (the chicken balls they sell at the convenience store right now are Habanero Pepper Mayonnaise flavored. I'm serious) It sucks because they will have a flavor that will be good by itself (like wasabi) and then destroy it with mayonaise.
Now for the likes (yeay!)
Japan has amazing vegetables. Everyone knows about Japanese eggplants, those small much more delicious version of its western counterpart. It's so good. But Japan also has great green/red peppers. They are very small with very thing flesh, and I love cooking with them. Mushrooms, shiitake, matsutake, enoki, shimeji, they are all good. It's like living in a country of gourmands.Komatsuna
: Apparently called 'Japanese mustard spinach' in English, a more sturdy spinach. You can actaully stir fry this without it turning to mush. The stalks are the best part, as they are filled with water and release a very good taste when they're eaten. A simple butter/oil sautee with sliced garlic and maybe some crushed pepper is all you need make komatsuna taste great. We feed this to our birds.Mizuna
: Looking somewhat like dandelion greens, these are great on sandwiches because of their slight bitter tang. I use them for all kinds of things, although strangely (to me anyway) these are traditionally boiled, which seems like pure sacrilidge. They probably traditionaly douse this with a healthy blend of mirin and mayonaise too.Goya
: This is apparently 'Bitter Melon' in english. Look at the link, and you'll see this looks like a wrinkly plastic cucumber that has been melted a little bit. It's originally an okinawan food, but is now commonly found everywhere in Japan recently. It is very bitter, but is filled with stuff that is good for you. including vitamin C and protein. Careful how you use it, and it'll be a great addition to anything you make.
Citrus: Japan is abound with great citrus. There's the fairly well known Yuzu, which is like a mix of a lime and a lemon and is great sliced this in with honey in hot or cold water. Kyushu has a huge selection of citrus fruit, and more than just the mikan (mandarin orange). There's Kabozu, which is similar to a lime but with a very thin peel, a pokan, like a grapefruit with a really thick skin. The list goes on. Kumquats (kinkan) are also widely avaliable in Kyushu too. So good.At izakayas, they often have sours, which is freshly squeezed citrus (most often grapefuit) with shochu. It is not a strong drink, and the joy of squeezing a fresh citrus in your drink never disappoints me winter or summer.
Desert: wagashi, or japanese sweets are certainly different from American sweets. The biggest difference is really the materials: beans, tea, etc. One of my favorite sweets is kuromitsu, somewhat similar to molases. It's even appeared in a hagan dazs ice cream over here. A really good desert is shirotama (a somewhat flavorless whiteball made of rice flour) with maccha mousse, azuki beans and kuromitsu. It's really good!Read the whole post.