Monday, October 5, 2009

west meets east

These three lunches are good examples of how Japanese cooking has assimilated other cultures' food throughout history:

We start with Japanese style "curry rice," which has its curious origins in the British navy, who of course got it from India. Apparently the Japanese navy adopted it from the British navy in the late 1800s. Huh. It's much thicker and sweeter than the Indian version, and also is served with sticky Japanese rice--not basmati--often with pickles and a cutlet on top. Different, but very, very delicious. In fact, curry rice is consistently picked as the favorite kyuushoku when I poll kids about it. (Normally the curry and the rice are separated half/half on the plate, but they just piled it on top here.) It's a lot healthier with all the vegetables too...

[clockwise from curry-rice]

- curry rice
(karē raisu カレーライス)
- orange jelly (orenji zeri オレンジゼリ)
- milk (gyuunuu 牛乳)
- "cheese" salad
(chiizu iri sarada チーズ入りサラダ)


In that fried fish below, we have an example of tempura, which was adopted in the mid 1500s (!) from Portuguese Catholic missionaries. By now of course it's become Japanese, but still people often refer to it as "yoshoku," or foreign cuisine.

[clockwise from rice]

- rice (gohan ご飯)
- boiled vegetables (yude yasai ゆで野菜)
- ?? tempura (?? てんぷら)
- milk
(gyuunuu 牛乳)
- meat and potato stew (niku jaga じゃが)


And finally the beloved thick (Texas) style toast. I don't know where this is supposed to be from. America? I've seen it covered with sesame butter, cheese, tuna-mayonnaise , and now pizza-esque toppings! It was so home-style and delicious! (Although it looks pretty horrible ;-)). Served with a simple (mostly cabbage) vegetable soup, and fresh pear. Oishii!

[clockwise from pizza-toast]

- pizza toast
(piza tōsuto ピザトースト)
- pear
(nashi 梨)
- milk (gyuunuu 牛乳)
- vegetable soup
(yasai no sūpu 野菜のスープ)


  1. Hello, Kevin.

    The history of tempura made me think of "nanban zuke(南蛮漬け)". It has a similar origin. Have you ever tried it? It is fried fish and onion soaked in sauce of vinegar, sugar, soysauce, red chili and broth. "Nanban" means South European or, more specifically, Portuguese. Nanban zuke is my favorite dish for summer.

    We consider niku jaga is a Japanese dish, but beef became a part of our diet in late 19th century. Ingredients of niku jaga are almost same as those of curry and they are not expensive except for beef, so no wonder they became popular at home and in kyuushoku.

    Have a nice long weekend. It is also a long weekend for Thanksgiving day in Canada. I am going to buy baked turkey and cook pumpkin soup.


  2. Ah, that sounds delicious! Maybe next summer! And that's very interesting about nikku jaga...thanks for the comment!