Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle, an unassuming street vendor in a Singapore open-air food court, has officially been crowned the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant.
From corn soup to gold soda cans to stag beetles, you can find almost anything in vending machines situated on approximately every street corner in Japan. And not too long ago in Showa-era Japan, it was pretty common to see restaurants staffed entirely by vending machines serving bland, but hot food at an affordable price. Some savvy business owner decided to cash in on this nostalgia and recently opened up an automat diner where customers can relive a time when “dining out” meant putting coins into a vending machine and waiting for your food to pop out!
Most of the foods we enjoy today have gone through many stages of evolution, to the point where you almost begin to wonder whether they can ever be improved upon. Yet, so long as cooks maintain their curiosity and enterprising spirit, the foods we know will surely continue to change. We can see the truth of this in creations such as Mokubaza’s cheese keema curry, which we covered in a previous article.
But how can we possibly improve on the wünderfood that is pizza? Well one pizza cafe in Tokyo’s trendy Roppongi district seems to think so…
We’ve already talked at length about the complex feelings we have whenever we see an anthropomorphic mascot for a food joint shucking his own kin as delicious, greasy human grub. We bet you can’t even count the number of times you’ve walked by a chicken joint whose crazily grinning avian mascot was holding up a bucket of deep-fried drumsticks, or a contented pig sitting down – fork, knife, bib and all – to a barbecue rib feast and never really thought much of it.
Well, if the usually slapdash, cartoonish mascot on the sign of your local wing joint wasn’t in-your-face enough to disturb you with implications of animal cannibalism and the idea that you might just be eating animal protein that was once a creature with enough intelligence to talk and use kitchen utensils, maybe this Kanazawa, Japan pork restaurant ostensibly managed by a live, miniature pig is just the thing to kickstart your conscience, you monster.
If you’ve lived in Japan a while or even just visited, you may recognize the word “takuan” – a type of Japanese pickle made from radishes and served as a side dish – and you’ll almost certainly recognize mayonnaise as that thing that is incongruously glopped on just about everything in Japan.
You’ll probably also recognize that these two items have absolutely no business together, especially if just stuffed unceremoniously into a loaf of bread, but, you see, this combination was almost inevitable because, as we’ve proven time and time again, gross food combinations are just the bee’s knees when it comes to prepackaged foods in Japan.
So, usually when it comes to burgers in Japan, we prefer to let the talented burger artists at famous fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s, Burger King and especially Lotteria do their thing – because it usually results in crazy squid ink burgers, nine-patty monstrosities, and other 6th grade science experiment-esque monstrosities.
But McDonald’s has slowly been unveiling a tech- and customer-savvy new way of dealing burgers with its limited run of “Create a Burger” options at select stores.
When I was a kid, I used to love using a spoon to whip my ice cream into a fluffy consistency. While it significantly sped up the ice cream’s melt time, I found the new texture I’d created a lot more agreeable than the spoon-bending hardness of the straight-from-the-freezer stuff. It never occurred to my sugar-addled, 10-year-old mind that in the process of whipping up my ice cream, I was actually making a sort of off-brand homemade gelato.
But now that I’ve grown older and my palate has matured, I still enjoy the ice cream whipping trick, but don’t do it as frequently as I used to. There’s just something missing. To my 30-year-old taste buds that have known such exotic delicacies as fugu, unagi, foie gras, street tacos and meatball subs, it’s just mushy ice cream.
But now, thanks to this secret trick we found on the Japanese Interwebs, I’ve rekindled my love for Poor Man’s Gelato.
We’ve already talked about Japan’s penchant for limited stock and limited-time seasonal items, but I’m starting to get the impression manufacturers and retailers are playing us for fools. Zipping down to the grocery only to find that at least some of the basic items you wanted are sold out is a common headache in Japan, as if retailers are hoping we’ll all be like, “Oh man, white bread must be really trendy right now. Guess I’ll buy five loaves next time.”
Convenience store chain 7-Eleven is downright diabolical about this kind of stuff, with a constantly shifting roster of goods that seem to come and go arbitrarily, which Japanese consumers have apparently picked up on because they’re currently in a crazy purchase panic over 7-Eleven’s delicious new Premium Popcorn.
Given that there were no murders, Abe gaffs, North Korean human rights violations or major Attack on Titan events today, we decided we’d do something a little fluffier and… saltier with our reporting today. After hearing that professional chefs claim pasta should be boiled in a combination of water and salt that closely resembles seawater, we wondered: Why not just use, you know, actual seawater?
Since it’s essentially an unlimited and free resource, it seems like a waste to go out and buy pure water and sea salt and combine the two when you can just head on over to Odaiba on Tokyo Bay and fill up an empty bottle with real seawater.
One of our Japanese reporters did just this, with… somewhat mixed results.
As a hardcore carnivore (not omnivore – I literally only eat meat), I’m not big on potato chips personally, but Japan is a surprisingly junk food-obsessed country and potato chips are as ubiquitous as the Pocky and Koala March candies that otaku across the globe are familiar with.
There are a huge variety of flavors, thicknesses, textures, shapes and designs to Japanese potato chips, and the industry is apparently so lucrative that consulting firm My Voice Communications – which has absolutely no affiliation with the potato chip industry – put together an insanely exhaustive and, frankly, thoroughly boring survey about Japanese potato chip preferences.
We yawned through the full survey so that you don’t have to. Here are the major takeaways, with all most of the dull stuff cut out:
There are only three reasons one could possibly fathom going to any establishment that’s known in American English as a “dive”: Cheap beer, cheap beer, and greasy burgers.
Now apparently you can add a fourth reason: Cheap, delicious bento lunch boxes, thanks to whispered-about bento shop, Kitchen Dive. With just a handful of locations around Tokyo, we’d never actually seen one in the flesh before and almost thought they were some apocryphal legend; some cruel prank older, wiser salarymen were playing on the newbies, maybe (“Oh yeah, there’s a shop selling 200 yen bento. Right around the corner. Caaaan’t miss it.”).
Finally, we spotted an honest-to-goodness, 24-hour Kitchen Dive in the unassuming Kameido area of Tokyo and the 100 yen coins in our pockets practically flew out of their own accord.
When McDonald’s Japan announced recently a rolling set of new menu items based on supposedly classic American recipes, the majority of the Internet – recalling how awesome the Big America series was – collectively foodgasmed in anticipation.
Unfortunately, now that the first items are finally here, consumer reviews have viciously skewered the new “Classic Fries with Cheese,” with comments ranging from, “This is unpleasant” to “This tastes like sloth pee.” Questions of how some Netizens know what sloth pee tastes like aside, it’s safe to conclude opinions are widely divided. So, of course, fast food connoisseurs that we are, we had to try the item for ourselves and throw our hat into the public debate ring.
Ramen is a popular comfort food in Japan because, unlike many Japanese foods, there’s very little formality in eating it, it’s not especially good for you and therefore tastes wonderful, and you’re generally free to customize to your heart’s content, choosing a broth of your liking and then heaping on the toppings until you can barely see the noodles if you so desire.
Spicy ramen varieties aren’t uncommon, either, with many popular chains such as Ichiran offering customizable spiciness levels from one to ten. Of course, if you’re the right combination of bored, crazy and rich, you can pay extra to exceed the tenth level of spiciness; right on up to 200 times normal.
Have you taken a look in your freezer lately? Has that carton of ice cream from last summer grown into an ice fortress yet? What about that mean-looking freezer burn on that mystery meat? Maybe it is time to clean out the chiller and fill it up with some surprisingly yummy frozen foods from your local Japanese grocery store.
While this is far from world-class gourmet dining, the following six foods will definitely make your stomach happy on a night when pushing the microwave’s “start” button is all the cooking you want to do. Click below to find out which Japanese frozen foods are worth your hard-earned yen!
If you’ve never actually been to Japan and had a Yukimi Daifuku recommended to or forced upon you, you probably have no idea what that headline means.
Yukimi Daifuku is an ice cream treat that wraps the Japanese candy staple, mochi – rice pounded to a gooey consistency – with ice cream. It may be one of the few ice cream desserts in Japan that is popular outside of the summer months, most likely because it combines so many different flavors and eating experiences: The gooey, sticky mochi – which is slightly savory – contrasts with the sweet, creamy ice cream to create a totally unique treat you’d be hard pressed to find outside of Japan.
Shingen mochi – a relatively common wagashi Japanese sweet similar to the more well-known warabi mocha – is a treat made from pounded rice lightly coated in roasted soybean flour (kinako) meant to be drizzled with syrup before consumption.
It comes in a plastic container which is then wrapped in a decorative plastic sheet and sealed with a small, flat spear-like utensil meant to skewer the mochi with while eating. That plastic sheet is also the key to the “proper” way of eating shingen mochi.
Unfortunately for anyone who has consumed shingen mochi until now, the manufacturer’s marketing department decided not to tell even one single person how to properly eat their product. Thankfully, a helpful YouTuber here in Japan has shared a video showing the correct way to eat this traditional sweet. Find out after the break.
The Kyoto Aquarium is offering a limited summer snack officially dubbed the “ayu salt-cooked hot dog.”
To the uninitiated, this probably sounds like a hot dog topped with some exotic, delicious spice called ayu, but adventurous expats will recognize ayu as a native Japanese fish species often served grilled whole on a stick.
Tired of being taken to the cleaners by overly enthusiastic patrons at its all-you-can-eat salad bar, a few years ago, Pizza Hut China decided to limit customers to a one-plate serving. After implementing the new rule, however, the company still found itself losing money as customers started stacking their fruit and vegetables into enormous towers, packing as much onto their plates as physically possible.
Check out this collection of photos depicting the monolithic cuisine creations.
‘Tis the season of the “Summer Gentei” (“Summer Specialties”) in Japan; an exciting time of year where near every food vendor in the country offers up some sort of cold, frozen, or energy-packed limited edition summer-themed menu. And even the foreign chains are getting into it, with Krispy Kreme Japan currently offering three new summer-only doughnuts and two summer-themed drinks. Because we love you, we went and stuffed our faces.
I used to have a co-worker who, on the hottest of summer days, would drink a pint of hot water through a straw and claim it helped cool her down. Naturally, everyone thought she was insane or belonged to some weird religion, or both, and would try to avoid working a shift alone with her.
But it looks like her weird sect of Scientology or whatever it was may have been onto something, as our Japanese reporter swears by eating microwaved steam buns to cool off in the summer.