Recently, the folks at Eat Your Kimchi had an episode about Korean food they didn’t like at first, but then came to like:
Watching this was pretty funny to me because much of it describes Japanese food I’ve eaten too, and the same experience I’ve had.
You see, Japanese people (and Koreans apparently) like to eat fish. But Westerners sometimes assume that fish means “sushi”. Afterall, you can buy cheap, discount sushi at many American supermarkets, so it must be common to eat sushi right?
Well, that’s not exactly true. Sushi in Japan is a luxury. It’s something you do on special occasions with friends and family,1 and you can even have it delivered to your house on a very nice platter, which you then leave outside your door for them to pickup. Soba too, if you ever want to order that.
But in general, Japanese cuisine has a lot of baked fish, whole fish. My wife cooks this sometimes too. She’ll bake the fish in the oven, and then split it down the middle and put it on a plate. Plus she will eat the fish clean.
This really bothered me at first, because as Eat Your Kimchi said, Westerners normally assume the fish is supposed to be deboned (bones removed) and the skin, head and tail are removed like a fillet. Plus it’s usually deep-fried.2 So, eating the whole fish is bothered me a lot at first. I didn’t like to pick out the fish bones either, and the smell was terrible.
However, like Simon and Martina, I got used to it. I can’t eat it comfortably like them, but now when my wife cooks it, I don’t get nauseous like before, and can eat it.
But, like Simon and Martina, I do have limits. I have been to sushi restaurants and have seen sushi that was so raw, it was still twitching and moving. I just can’t eat that because it reminds me that the fish was alive recently, so I feel bad. With sushi, fresher is better of course, so I understand why, but it still feels a little extreme to me.
Still, if you live or visit Japan or Korea, it’s important to know these things and understand that a lot of people do eat this way, and enjoy it. You can keep avoiding and running away from it, but you do miss out on the experience.
Even if you don’t like it, the experience is still worth it.
P.S. Blog mis-fire: 2012, not 2013.
1 My wife’s family in Tochigi Prefecture like to order sushi for us when we visit. The gesture is certainly appreciated.
2 One of the many things I miss about living in Ireland are the chippers (fish and chips places). They would put the chips (fries) in a brown bag with the fish, pour in a lot of salt and vinegar and shake it to mix the ingredients. Very bad for your diet, but very tasty too. Fish and chips places in the US just don’t do this, so it tastes more bland.