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.
Food changes as it gets imported to other cultures. There’s no excuse for using bad fish, but I like American-style and Japanese-style sushi equally well. I miss spider rolls when I’m here and I miss buri torou (鰤とろ), or fatty yellowtail, when I’m back in the US. Italian food in the US isn’t like Italian food in Italy, after all. I think the Italians would weep at Chicago-style pizza, but if it tastes good and you’re aware that it’s American/Americanized, who cares?
That said, I have trouble with “Western food” in Japan, because most of it isn’t so great. Forget the corn and octopus toppings–the pizza doesn’t taste good. The sandwiches are all full of egg salad. The majority of the bread is like Wonderbread. The “peanut creme” is like peanut-butter frosting, which I would totally use on a cake, but never on a sandwich.
To add insult to injury, it’s reinforced in the government-produced English textbooks that Americans eat omu-raisu, white-bread egg-salad sandwiches, and hamburg steak, which is completely untrue. We eat omelets, a whole variety of sandwiches with interesting meats and breads and veggies, and hamburgers, not hamburg steaks. Japan can keep enjoying these things, but I wish they would stop trying to teach kids that this is what “Westerners” eat.
Also, not to be nick-picky, but
NIT-picky. Good job trying to correct spelling, me.
Haha- I’m sort of a phonetic speller- but you’re so right- I’ll have to spell correctly!
No worries! The nice thing about Japanese is that it’s phonetic in Roman letters. It has very similar sounds to Spanish vowels (a = ah, i= ee, u = oo, etc.). Just like any other language, once you learn the rules of pronunciation,* you’re set for spelling! (Unlike English spelling, which is crazy!)
*Flipped Rs, whispered syllables (the u in su at the end of gozaimasu), etc. Ganbatte kudsai!
I was in Japan for a month and discovered that my favorite sandwitch does not exist there. Turkey, pepperjack cheese, honey mustard, and sweet cucumber chips. Low and behold! No turkey, no pepperjack cheese, I couldnt find any honey mustard, nor and cucumber chips in a jar! It was devestation the first week I was there, I thought I would starve.
“What is turkey?” My fully English speaking Japanese Aunt, who lives there, had no idea what it was! Or what pepperjack cheese was. We looked everywhere but no one knew what I was looking for. Lesson learned, go online and order turkey and pepperjack cheese. This is an import only sandwitch treat.
lol your spelling of Japanese words made me laugh cuase they’re wrong but yea I loved you post and your blog I have been a fan of Japan and it’s culture for 7 years now and have even taken to studing the language so I can migrate there some time. Until the next time.
I know- my spelling is how I say them which makes it worse because then people know how off my pronunciation is! From here on out I will have to make sure my spelling is accurate!Yet another cultural faux pas- I just don’t get it apparently!!!Anyway- if you love it from there- you’ll love it all the more once you arrive- it’s wonderful place!