food

Who loves revolving sushi? Only families, couples, and solo diners (so, just about everyone)

Who loves revolving sushi? Only families, couples, and solo diners (so, just about everyone)

While most of the professors I encountered during my time studying abroad were relaxed and open-minded, I can clearly remember one blue-blooded educator I met who insisted that the food served at kaitenzushi restaurants, the eateries where customers pluck pre-prepared plates of sushi off of a revolving conveyer belt, wasn’t “real sushi.”

True sushi, she said, wasn’t something that you ate to satisfy your hunger, but a flavorful accent to stimulate your taste buds. It had to be prepared painstakingly in an intimate establishment with a proper pedigree, and was certainly not the sort of thing that could be prepared in any quantity similar to the vulgar amounts pumped out by inexpensive kaitenzushi restaurants.

I listened politely, consulted my wallet, and promptly went to a kaitenzushi restaurant. Vindicating my choice are the results of a new survey which shows that revolving sushi restaurants are loved by diners all over Japan, whether they’re out for dinner with the family, on a date, or even just stopping in for a bite alone.

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Gari Gari Kun finally releases a delicious specialty flavor frozen snack, we still don’t trust them

Gari Gari Kun finally releases a delicious specialty flavor frozen snack, we still don’t trust them

First came corn soup flavor in 2012. Although unusual, it did find itself a very strong fan base for its sweet yet somewhat savory taste uncharacteristic of ice candy such as Gari Gari Kun. In 2013, Gari Gari Kun’s makers rolled out potato stew flavor, upping the savoriness factor by including little rubbery bits of potato inside the ice cream. Earlier this year, Japan was surprised by the sudden release of a spaghetti flavored Gari Gari Kun that could best be described as eating an ice-cold hot dog covered in ketchup and dipped in a frosty glass of milk.

After this onslaught of increasingly odd flavors, the Japanese public wasn’t sure whether to trust the makers of Gari Gari Kun ever again with a new flavor. However, on 22 April they released a “cream puff flavor” that both looks and sounds fantastic. But can an already shell-shocked public trust that this relatively normal flavored ice pop is safe for consumption? We picked a few up to find out.

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Raw fish, fermented soy beans, and Chinese food: Japan’s 7 weirdest parfaits

Raw fish, fermented soy beans, and Chinese food: Japan’s 7 weirdest parfaits

You know Japan can seriously bring the weird, and their take on dessert is no exception. Whether it’s unthinkable ingredients, inventive execution or just downright audaciousness, here are our votes on Japan’s weirdest parfaits.

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Tokyo custom hamburger steak restaurant is all about choices, and all of them are delicious

Tokyo custom hamburger steak restaurant is all about choices, and all of them are delicious

While Japan is brimming with hamburger joints, you can also find plenty of restaurants that specialize in the meatloaf-like hamburger steak. Served on a griddle to ensure it stays sizzling hot, the lack of a bun means that with a hamburger steak the meat can take center stage.

The drawback though is that not having two slices of bread to hold everything together usually means fewer options as to what ingredients you’d like in your hamburger steak, compared to a hamburger sandwich. Unless, that is, if you stop by the restaurant Sakana no Nakasei in Tokyo, where you can customize nearly every aspect of your hamburger steak, right down to what kind of meat to use and how coarsely it’s ground.

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Okinawa restaurant’s amazing shaved ice belongs in a (sufficiently air-conditioned) museum

Okinawa restaurant’s amazing shaved ice belongs in a (sufficiently air-conditioned) museum

Of all the art-you-can-eat creations that seem to be trending in Japan these days, most use easily manipulated and relatively sturdy substances such as rice and grated daikon radish, plus obvious stuff like cake and marzipan. So if these trendy edible canvases rank an eight or a nine on a 1-to-10 food art skill rating, we’d have to wager that ice-based food art is cranking it up to 11. And with ice melting in a matter of minutes, you’d think somebody would have to be crazy to try and make an edible sculpture out of it.

We can picture it now: The poor, young shaved ice art prodigy ridiculed and shunned by the food art community, forced to take his craft to far-off Okinawa and a decrepit-looking shop on an unassuming corner to carry out his trade in relative anonymity.

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Starbucks Japan releases yet another drool-worthy Frappuccino flavor for summer

Starbucks Japan releases yet another drool-worthy Frappuccino flavor for summer

Starbucks Japan does it again with another seasonal item: the Crunchy Cookie Frappuccino. It’s like milk and cookies in a cup, but it’ll also keep you cool this summer. With a vanilla base, chocolate chunk cookie clusters, and even almonds, it sounds like it’ll be another tempting option on their menu…with an entire cookie crumbled up and blended in!

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Chiba craft brewery releases unfortunately named “Immigrant Pilsner” for sale nationwide

Chiba craft brewery releases unfortunately named “Immigrant Pilsner” for sale nationwide

As a two-party democracy, the United States can be a fickle place for marketers. Republicans and Democrats are so different ideologically that certain words and phrases on your product label or in your ad campaign are practically guaranteed to alienate half of the market; or, if you’re especially unlucky, all of it. Take the word “immigrant,” for example – it’s a loaded word that will make Republicans shun your product believing that it advocates rights for immigrants (Remember, this is the same party whose leaders sometimes suggest in all seriousness building a moat – complete with cartoonish man-eating alligators – around the US to keep illegals out), while Democrats might see the word “immigrant” on a product and suspect some type of labor exploitation going on.

Luckily, Americans – and Japanese – of all stripes are united in their love of beer, so Chiba, Japan’s Loco Beer brewery’s rendition of an old American beer recipe, originally brewed by German immigrants, gets a pass from American expats and Japanese consumers alike on the unfortunate naming of its new Immigrant Pilsner craft beer.

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Japan’s king of curry restaurants enters the instant noodle market, we taste the results

Japan’s king of curry restaurants enters the instant noodle market, we taste the results

Ironically, two of Japan’s go-to choices for a hot, satisfying meal came from overseas. Ramen is Chinese in origin, and curry came to Japan from India via contact with the British Navy.

Deciding between the two dishes can be a difficult task, which is where curry ramen, noodles floating in a curry broth, comes in. Until now, though, trying to have the best of both worlds meant giving up on the chance to eat the offerings of Japan’s most popular curry chain, CoCo Ichi. But with a new team-up between the beloved chain and instant noodle maker Ace Cook, not only can you dine on CoCo Ichi curry ramen and udon, but you don’t even have to leave the house to do so.

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Hop on over to Ginza for adorable bunny rabbit parfaits and cream puffs

Hop on over to Ginza for adorable bunny rabbit parfaits and cream puffs

Ginza’s history as one of Tokyo’s playgrounds for the well-to-do stretches back further than relative upstarts like Harajuku or Roppongi. While this means you can almost always find an elegant café to stop into for a refined mid-day snack, some of these establishments can be a little intimidating with their blue-blood atmosphere.

There is at least one place in Ginza, though, where you can indulge your sweet tooth without feeling any social tension, as nothing is so far removed from stuffiness as a bunny rabbit parfait.

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We’re not going to lie…these sausage people currently trending in Japan freak us out

We’re not going to lie…these sausage people currently trending in Japan freak us out

A new trend is hitting the bento boxes of Japan right now and we are scared. Young children and hardworking spouses across the nation are sitting down at lunch time only to be visually assaulted by what they call “sausage people.” To most, these little weiners cut up to resemble a person seem harmless and most message boards in Japan praise the invention, with virtual screeches of the Japanese equivalent of “OMG, it’s so cute!” Well we have a newsflash for you, Japan. These sausage people, or “so-se-jin,” an adorable play on words of the Japanese word for “sausage” (so-se-ji) and “people” (jin), are down right terrifying. Don’t believe us? Just take a look at this photo compilation of sausage people found on sites across the web. Just be warned, you’ll never look at a sausage the same way again.

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Krispy Kreme Japan makes the dessert of our dreams: Doughnut ice cream sundaes

Krispy Kreme Japan makes the dessert of our dreams: Doughnut ice cream sundaes

I don’t know about you, but whenever I walk by a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop, I always peek at the “Hot Doughnut” sign to see if they’ve just recently finished making a batch of those delicious glazed doughnuts. And if that orange beacon is lit up, my wallet is going to be a few coins short while my tastebuds thank me through every last bite. Because, let’s face it, even if you’ve just had a massive lunch, there’s always room for a piping hot doughnut, fresh from the fryer.

And what makes warm baked goods even better? Ice cream of course. We can only assume that’s why Krispy Kreme Japan has unveiled a new doughnut ice cream sundae…but why hasn’t anyone thought of this before?

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We take on Thailand’s five-and-a-half-pound hamburger, and live to tell the tale

We take on Thailand’s five-and-a-half-pound hamburger, and live to tell the tale

Our Japanese-language correspondent Kuzo is currently making his way through Thailand, and while we’re happy he had such a good time at the country’s famous water festival, frankly we’re a little worried about the guy. We think all the excitement may have frazzled his brain, since he recently sent us a batch of pictures of himself eating what appears to be a hamburger-shaped novelty pillow.

Wait, that’s a real burger?!

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McDonald’s Japan’s new Avocado Beef, Chicken, and Shrimp burgers look surprisingly good

McDonald’s Japan’s new Avocado Beef, Chicken, and Shrimp burgers look surprisingly good

Regular readers will know that we at RocketNews24 are no strangers to fast food. When you’re based in one of the biggest, most convenient cities in the world and spend the majority of your day online with instant access to more information than your ancestors probably had in their entire lifetimes, you tend to lose the ability to concentrate long enough to prepare a real meal, and it’s easy to give in to the greasy and syrup-topped temptations that wink at you from the branches of McDonald’s and Starbucks located on every other street corner.

We’re not exactly proud of the amount of junk food we shovel into our faces under the pretences of journalism and science, and certainly don’t recommend that any of our dear readers attempt to replicate our own Mr. Sato’s adventures in Cholesterol Land, but we have to admit that McDonald’s Japan’s new Avocado Beef, Avocado Chicken, and Avocado Shrimp burgers actually look pretty good.

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We resist the urge to climb Denny’s Japan’s Tower Pancake so we can eat it instead

We resist the urge to climb Denny’s Japan’s Tower Pancake so we can eat it instead

Japan’s mountainous topography means that real estate is always at a premium. The towering skyscrapers of major cities like Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka are a natural response to this, as often there’s no direction left to build but up.

We couldn’t help but wonder if the chefs at Denny’s in Japan were inspired by the country’s urban architecture when they created the newest indulgence on their menu, the Tower Pancake, which, especially for a country not exactly known for its gargantuan servings, is quite the gastro challenge.

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Kid trampling, surly schoolgirls, and dancing grains of rice: Cup rice ad is classic crazy Japan

Kid trampling, surly schoolgirls, and dancing grains of rice: Cup rice ad is classic crazy Japan

Last September, we brought you news that Japanese cup noodle maker Nissin was about to launch a new product, Kare Meshi curry rice in a cup. Hoping to do for rice what it did for noodles and ensure that a new generation of Japanese never give in to the urge to cook a real meal for themselves, the idea is that lazy diners simply add water to the pre-cooked curry and rice, heat it in the microwave and get stuck in. All the taste with minimal washing up and none of the fuss of cooking rice the regular way.

This week, in an effort to lodge Kare Meshi more firmly in the minds of consumers, the noodle king has launched a new ad for its cup rice. And it is positively insane.

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Free double pickles and onions at McDonald’s Japan will help your budget, ruin your breath

Free double pickles and onions at McDonald’s Japan will help your budget, ruin your breath

At midnight on April 1, everything you can shop for in Japan got a little bit more expensive as sales tax rose to either percent. Thankfully, this three-percent hike was announced well in advance, giving consumers a chance to stockpile staples such as toilet paper, detergent, and other dry goods ahead of time.

Unfortunately, there’s one other necessary yet perishable staple of our lifestyle that we couldn’t hoard: hamburgers. With the amount we eat, that extra three percent of tax works out to a pretty hefty chunk of change.

Thankfully, at the same time as the tax increase took effect, so did a new McDonald’s Japan policy offering free double portions of pickles, onions, and sauce on the chain’s sandwiches.

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Japanese people most like to drink green tea with their chips, incredibly dull survey finds

Japanese people most like to drink green tea with their chips, incredibly dull survey finds

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:

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New super spicy snack coming to Japan is fine for your stomach, but not for your eyes

New super spicy snack coming to Japan is fine for your stomach, but not for your eyes

The snack aisle of Japan’s convenience stores is a fiercely competitive marketplace, and just about every week sees the release of some new flavor of candy or potato chip trying to steal the spotlight from its rivals. But while many of these pretenders to the throne of snack foods are only on sale for a few months or even weeks, the spicy potato rings called Bokun Habanero have been on sale without hiatus for over a decade.

Still, you have to keep evolving in order to stay ahead, and next month will see the release of a new Bokun Habanero that’s 10 times hotter than the normal version.

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We try Thai and Indonesian “Ethnic” Cup Noodles, one of them tastes like spicy Fruit Loops

We try Thai and Indonesian “Ethnic” Cup Noodles, one of them tastes like spicy Fruit Loops

Cup Noodles are an iconic part of the Japanese food landscape and of course they’re no stranger to the Japanese custom of adding unusual new flavors to stuff. This time around their maker Nissin has been inspired by some of their international partners and developed two flavors in the “Ethnic Series” of Cup Noodles based on Thai and Indonesian dishes.

The first one is modeled after the spicy Thai soup tom yum goong, and the other is said to resemble Indonesia’s savory noodles mie goreng. Having just been released on 14 April we went straight to the supermarket and picked them up to bring you the Asianiest taste that only a Chinese food made by a Japanese company based on South East Asian dishes can provide.

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Our Japanese staff try British cup noodles, didn’t completely hate the experience

Our Japanese staff try British cup noodles, didn’t completely hate the experience

Throughout the world, Britain is known for many things–great music, excellent literature, and sexy men. One thing the country isn’t known for, though, is their good food. In fact, if you ask nearly anyone what they think of British food they’ll probably stick their tongues out and make gagging noises.

It’s a bit unfair, but even in Tokyo–where you can find restaurants serving cuisine from all over the globe–the closest you’ll find to British food is a pub. Although, we have to admit, our friends from the Queen’s country at least know how to serve a good drink.

Recently, though, Mr. Sato and Yoshio, both writers for the Japanese side of RocketNews24, got their hands on a carton of Pot Noodle, a brand of instant noodles so awful “it was voted the ‘most hated brand’ in the UK in a 2004 poll.” And what did our Japanese colleagues think of these awful noodles?

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