There’s a certain mystery about what different countries have for breakfast. Most people’s contact with the eating habits of other nations comes from dining out, so as long as you’ve got a Japanese restaurant near where you live, you don’t necessarily need to fly to Tokyo to see what a typical lunch or dinner looks like.
Unless you grew up in a culture, though, you might not have had the chance to see what the locals eat for their first meal of the day though. We recently came across a video that aims to shed a little light on the subject, and while we’re intrigued by the premise, they sort of dropped the ball on what Japan eats at breakfast.
The video’s self-explanatory title is What Does the World Eat for Breakfast?. In it, we see an overhead shot of a table, with a pair of hands swapping foods representing each country in and out.
The video is just under two minutes long, and runs through about 20 different nations. Unfortunately, when you’re moving at such a breakneck pace, a few mistakes are bound to pop up, and we have to say the menu for Japan is a little off.
On the one hand, the items displayed, miso soup, white rice, and pickled vegetables, are all indeed traditional components of a Japanese morning meal. However, that’s an amazingly austere lineup even by Japanese standards. It’s a little like saying Americans have toast and coffee for breakfast, and that’s all.
Sure, if you search long enough, you might be able to find someone in Japan who starts his day off with this bare-minimum of a meal. He’s more likely to be a hermit living alone in the mountains than a regular member of modern society, though.
Aside from the healthy yet unfulfilling items shown, Japanese-style breakfasts generally include fish (usually salmon) and the sweetened style of fried egg called tamago-yaki. In east Japan, the pungent fermented soy beans called natto are also a regular fixture.
▼ Not to mention the bane of exchange students trying to culturally assimilate
Still, it is true that Japanese do often the foods that appear in the video. The thing is, they don’t really eat the kind of rice, miso soup, and pickles that are shown.
For starters, that rice looks pretty dry. Most Japanese rice is a shorter grain that soaks up extra moisture, making it fluffier and more flavorful. It’s also a lot easier to eat more or less on its own.
The pickles used in the video are a bit of an odd choice, too. That thin-sliced variety, known as fukujintzuke, is made by pickling the vegetables in soy sauce. Fukujintzuke pickles aren’t really meant to be eaten by themselves like this, though. In general, they’re used as a garnish for curry and rice. Their role is more to add a little variety to the appearance and texture of a meal, not be a dish in and of themselves.
Ordinarily, Japanese breakfasts implement nukatzuke pickles, which are made from larger chunks of vegetables and have a milder flavor.
Finally, the miso soup in this video is, for lack of a better word, kind of depressing. The pale yellow color is a little funky, but the real problem here is that there’s absolutely nothing but broth in that bowl. You’d never mistake authentic, traditional miso soup for a hearty stew, but at the very least you’ll find slices of green onions, small cubes of tofu, or a few strips of seaweed floating in it, even with the cheapest instant brands.
To the video’s credit, it does have the beginning building blocks of breakfast in Japan. Now it just needs to finish it off.
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