It’s true- Teriyaki, Benihana “Hibachi style,” stuffed sushi rolls- all of these traditional Japanese staples are non-existent in Japan. For the Clampett family, this emerges as a blessing since Teriyaki’s sweet, glutinous topping overpowers the flavor of any substance applied to both the edible and inedible rendering it most suitable for the palates of small children being forced to eat vegetables, tofu or chicken. In fact, the Japanese rarely use sugar which makes the use of American style Teriyaki sauce laughable. Most Japanese cooks half the amount of sugar used in cake recipes in order to suit the disposition of the Japanese consumer. The only Teriyaki encountered since our entry to Japan has been at “Freshness Burger” on the Teriyaki chickenburger and hamburgers. An American import.
There is Yakitori- translated means “grilled chicken on a stick.” Yakitori- as opposed to Teriyaki- is not swimming in sickly sweet sauce, however, one must be careful as there are several parts of the chicken served. I of course feel right at home eating skin, hearts, gizzards, and livers they’re just more recognizable to me when batter dipped and deep fried.
We’d been unable to find the real, Japanese version of the Benihana. What would that look like? The famed Kobe beef minus hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides accompanied by a perfectly chosen Sake and perhaps an overstuffed sushi roll with fresh crabmeat, avocado, and other assorted Japanese genre vegetables to further enhance the sushi experience could only be Nirvana in Japan. The Japanese chef would certainly not have the plastic fireman put out the burning onion volcano by urinating water- undignified. I started to ask around for this evasive cuisine.
Oiuser: Rider- you lived in the US- You know Benihana- I haven’t seen that style of cooking since I’ve been here and I’ve been craving it – what is that called?
Rider: Chinese. All that knife throwing- grilling the meat- must be Chinese.
What the HELL? Benihana- the traditional Japanese steak house is CHINESE? Turns out that Benihana is actually a Teppanyaki restaurant- food cooked on an iron grill. What we Americans call “Hibachi” is a small charcoal grill in Japan. No one has any idea what “Hibachi” grilling is unless it involves grilling chicken parts on a charcoal grill the size of a platter on your porch.
Sushi- Folks- the sushi we’ve been eating is rotten. Here- each tasty morsel has a texture that melts in the mouth. No chewing required. Each fish species has a unique flavor of its own. A “roll” only contains one ingredient. No such thing as a California roll, Spicy Tuna Roll, Spider Roll- all American inventions.
American Style Sushi Rolls- not to be had in Japan….
So how could this have happened? How could all of this fake Japanese food have made it in to the US? All Americans are required to have a passport but fewer than 20% have them stamped. The Japanese are similar. The Japanese and the Americans are among the world’s populations least likely to immigrate to another country. So many of the Asians running the Japanese restaurants in the US are either Korean or Chinese. Fact.
Next time you’re in a sushi restaurant, greet the staff with “Ohio ga zimus” -say it like one word. It means good morning. If the response is silence or a quizzical look- they’re Korean or Chinese. If they laugh, you should have said, “Konichiwa” Good afternoon, or “Konbawa” Good evening – and they are Japanese. Your sushi will be the best. “Ade getto gazi mas” Thank you.