Japanese food fascinates me. It’s so interesting and delicious. I don’t think I could ever get tired of it. Nothing can put me off Japanese, not even that time I got food poisoning in the city and ended up projectile vomiting into a garbage bin at the bus station.
Apart from the taste of Japanese, I love the concept of bento meals. I love that you can get your food in a box with each item perfectly organised, carefully divided into portions and placed in its own compartment. It truly speaks to the obsessive neat-freak inside all of us.
These meals have everything you could need. Along with your choice of main (personally I like chicken katsu) you get a crisp salad, delicious miso soup, tasty sushi pieces, all balanced by a serving of steaming white rice. You’ve got soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger to spice things up if you wish, and to cap it off there’s some refreshing fruit pieces to cleanse your palate at the end. It’s got all the textures and flavours you could want, each element achieving a zen balance with its counterparts. A bento box is an entrée, main and dessert all in one; it’s like an airline meal gone right.
I also enjoy the delightful gimmick that only Japanese can pull off: the sushi train. You know: those restaurants where you take dishes from a conveyor belt that moves around the restaurant. Can you imagine trying to pull that off with Western cuisine? It would just be a gigantic assembly line of cheeseburgers disappearing into the maw of a sweaty, 300 pound guy stationed at one end. It would be the epitome of excess. But with Japanese it seems somehow economical.
Sushi is my favourite aspect of Japanese food, and it’s a wonder that I even discovered it. I had no opportunity in my younger years, perhaps due to my sheltered upbringing. In my house, the mere suggestion of eating sushi would garner perplexed looks from my parents, as though I’d asked if we could rip open the dog and feast on its sweet innards.
“Stay away from sushi!” They’d say. “You’ll get sick from eating raw fish. It’s dangerous!”
I was traumatised. Horrible thoughts swam through my head; I imagined smelly fish heads with the spine hanging out served to people in a restaurant. It would take some time to learn that what I had feared turned out to actually be a roll of rice, which need not include fish at all.
I’m glad to have found sushi in the end. It’s the perfect light snack for morning tea on your break at work. It’s tasty and healthy. Most pieces are between 1 and 2 weight watchers points – if you’re into that sort of thing. And sure, on some level I realise that sushi as I know it is probably a Westernized version of the real thing, virtually unrecognisable to what’s actually served in Japan. But hey, I still think it’s genius.