I live in Tokyo now but most of my friends and family do not. The main idea here is that I can tell these people about interesting things that happen and are seen.

Friday, August 11, 2006

oh man i just ate something extremely crass for dinner

As cuisine goes, I am still at the stage of pointing at things and saying the equivalent of "oh, I pray thou render it me!". This strategy is facilitated by the fact that most menus have photos of the food, or at least the specials. Thus I am very dependent upon a general policy of "honest appearance" for food, and, generally, I have managed okay. Things that looked delicious have been delicious - things that looked mysterious have typically turned out to be surprisingly good, or at least inoffensive.

That was until earlier this evening. Tonight, I will be studying how to talk to waiters.

For dinner I popped into a little place nestled under a railway overpass in the Ueno area - the smooth jazz muzak within was drowned out every three or four minutes by the rumble and clank of a train passing overhead. It was located where someone's apartment would be in a movie where "it cold sucks to live in the city" is one of the major themes.

Near as I could tell, it was a ramen joint - I mean there are heaps of them around, the pictures of the food mainly featured bowls of soup with noodles and other stuff floating in them, there were faintly Chinese-looking decorations. In fact, I'm pretty sure they DID serve a basic and probably quite acceptable ramen - I merely failed to order it. I've eaten plenty of noodly broth with slices of pork, and bits of compressed crab meat shaped into asterisks and so on - Let's mix this shit up, I said to myself let's choose this one here. It's like a ramen with some kind of brown stuff on top - looks like maybe it will even have some vegetables in it.

When my chosen dish arrived, I flinched a little. The brown stuff was beef mince. Ramen with mince poured on top? Mince? That's kind of twisted. OKAY WELL MAYBE IT WILL EXPAND MY HORIZONS dude didn't you come to Japan on account of worrying about your narrow-ass horizons is that not true. The first bite revealed additional information - it was cold.

No, not cold - the word is clammy.

It was that most insidious of dishes - a meal that is, at first, seemingly palatable, but is cumulatively disgusting - a dish that only reveals how truly foul it was after you have mostly consumed it. If you took out the bok choy, it would be like something an especially slovenly, British university student would eat when they have a hangover. Three day-old chili con carne from out of the fridge, mixed with instant noodles in a brine of cooking oil, peanut butter and cold tapwater. Not even heated up because Brian broke the microwave last week when he used the nice plate with gold trim to do his cheese sandwich.

By now well aware that I was going to have to write this one up, I attempted to ask what in hell I was eating. I'd like to see what a web search would turn up - recipes, official warnings on embassy websites (OKAY MY DOGGS WATCH OUT FOR THIS ONE IT IS COMPLETELY NOT RAMEN JUST SOME KIND OF CRAZY GUNK gross-out LOL - luv, NZ High Commission to Japan), et cetera. Unfortunately I fudged the phrases for "what is this?" and "what is the time?", and ended up asking the waiter what his personal ideas about the concept of "now" are. Naturally I had to invoke DAIJOBU and send him on his way. For all I know, it may not even be meant to be served cold - but hell, I didn't want to be equivalent to the boor who sends his gazpacho soup back to the kitchen you know.

This was not an experience to be quickly forgotten and laughed off. The dish would not let me go so easy. The frigid, ghastly oils in which the food was steeped tainted my lips and mouth, the lining of my throat - all that they touched. I could smell fumes from the stuff for an hour afterwards, seemingly emanating from my mouth, writhing up to offend my nose. I can still feel it slithering about in my guts - an evil-tempered, tumorous octopus, roiling about in its own ink.

In summary, it was pretty bad.

(PS: Japanese food is mostly awesome! But when you're a stranger, some times strange things inflict themselves upon you.)

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Funny you mentioned slovenly British ( I'm impressed with the capitalization ) students - it reminds me of what I never ever, ate even when I had over indulged in John Barleycorn's delight.
Gimme a bacon sarnie any day !

:-)

Sat Aug 12, 02:26:00 AM PDT

 
Blogger Murray said...

Hello? Hello? Is this a British person?

Dang anonymous comments.

Sun Aug 13, 03:58:00 AM PDT

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pakistani food is largely disgusting too. I was hanging out with an English guy who habitually pours off the excess oil into a second plate (which is difficult to ask for because usually they assume you want another plate of food, rather than another empty plate). I was laughing at him until I saw he had obtained nearly 150ml of yellow, viscous oil from a saucer of lentils. Then I fell silent.

Now I have refractory giardia and the thought of oily food makes me feel very queasy. I'm in Lahore now, though, which means I can go to one of the open air salad bars and eat warm potato salad. I am already packed full of giardia meds and I figure that should kill anything else I should happen to ingest, right?

Other than that: harden up, I ordered lots of accidentally cold things in China, and I just savoured them in the spirit with which they were served. Two of the coldest cold things:

- cubes of brown jelly and pork skin
- strips of steamed, chilled pork fat served cold on a bamboo frame with sesame dipping sauce.

In summary, have you eaten those octopus dumplings yet. those round ones. Takoyaki? Takoyaki. Eat those. I saw a video of a dude making them and it was a pretty good example of deftness.

I will have to try and take a photo of me in a white shirt doing that exact same po face, because I can't stand the thought that my comments should be out-po-faced simply because I couldn't be bothered registering on blogger. For now though! Shower.

-- Jeremy

Tue Aug 29, 06:27:00 AM PDT

 
Anonymous Jeremy said...

a) hey you can leave your name as well and still be anonymous by picking "other" -- information for readers!
b) sorry sorry my emails are long enough without filling up your ding dang comments page, I just re-read my comment and realised how very long it was.

Tue Aug 29, 06:29:00 AM PDT

 
Blogger Murray said...

Jezra! Dude it's a good thing I'm vain enough to check for comments on my blog or your unreasonably long comments may never have been consumed by these hungry eyes (one look at me and I can't disguise).

It's good to hear from you, even if you are bitching me out and acting ill like you maybe know something about bad food. Cold pork fat and sesame dipping sauce is really nice man. I get angry when I can't get me none. What I ate was not... it would've been nicer were it warm, but, I suspect, still pretty foul.

Octopus dumplings present a conundrum in that I do not eat octopus for ethical reasons - they're too dang smart.

Thu Aug 31, 08:37:00 AM PDT

 

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