Japanese and Korean Food To Be Aware Of

Recently, the folks at Eat Your Kimchi had an episode about Korean food they didn’t like at first, but then came to like:

Watching this was pretty funny to me because much of it describes Japanese food I’ve eaten too, and the same experience I’ve had.

You see, Japanese people (and Koreans apparently) like to eat fish. But Westerners sometimes assume that fish means “sushi”. Afterall, you can buy cheap, discount sushi at many American supermarkets, so it must be common to eat sushi right?

Well, that’s not exactly true. Sushi in Japan is a luxury. It’s something you do on special occasions with friends and family,1 and you can even have it delivered to your house on a very nice platter, which you then leave outside your door for them to pickup. Soba too, if you ever want to order that.

But in general, Japanese cuisine has a lot of baked fish, whole fish. My wife cooks this sometimes too. She’ll bake the fish in the oven, and then split it down the middle and put it on a plate. Plus she will eat the fish clean.

This really bothered me at first, because as Eat Your Kimchi said, Westerners normally assume the fish is supposed to be deboned (bones removed) and the skin, head and tail are removed like a fillet. Plus it’s usually deep-fried.2 So, eating the whole fish is bothered me a lot at first. I didn’t like to pick out the fish bones either, and the smell was terrible.

However, like Simon and Martina, I got used to it. I can’t eat it comfortably like them, but now when my wife cooks it, I don’t get nauseous like before, and can eat it.

But, like Simon and Martina, I do have limits. I have been to sushi restaurants and have seen sushi that was so raw, it was still twitching and moving. I just can’t eat that because it reminds me that the fish was alive recently, so I feel bad. With sushi, fresher is better of course, so I understand why, but it still feels a little extreme to me.

Still, if you live or visit Japan or Korea, it’s important to know these things and understand that a lot of people do eat this way, and enjoy it. You can keep avoiding and running away from it, but you do miss out on the experience.

Even if you don’t like it, the experience is still worth it.

P.S. Blog mis-fire: 2012, not 2013. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

1 My wife’s family in Tochigi Prefecture like to order sushi for us when we visit. The gesture is certainly appreciated. ๐Ÿ™‚

2 One of the many things I miss about living in Ireland are the chippers (fish and chips places). They would put the chips (fries) in a brown bag with the fish, pour in a lot of salt and vinegar and shake it to mix the ingredients. Very bad for your diet, but very tasty too. Fish and chips places in the US just don’t do this, so it tastes more bland.

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Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

8 thoughts on “Japanese and Korean Food To Be Aware Of”

  1. I was ‘fish-averse’ when I was little–I grew up in the Midwest, about as far from the sea as you can get, but in Japan, you can’t resist all the wonderful fish dishes. I never ate oysters before I came here–then, I started out with fried ones–Japanese fry cooks are experts! I have no trouble with a whole broiled fish now. When cooking, the smoke can be pretty funky–just turn on the exhaust fan! However, I still won’t eat fish eyes. Another thing is liver/innards. The Japanese even love foie gras! However, even though I hate liver, I found one form of it I actually like. A certain fish called kawahagi looks like a miniature version of a fugu/pufferfish, but nothing poisonous about it. The chef pushes the fish liver through a screen to puree it, maybe thinned out with a bit of broth or soy sauce. Then, this velvety sauce is served with sashimi–raw sliced fish. Yum! Oh, that reminds me, while I never thought sashimi was disgusting–I could eat it if someone wanted to order it– I never found its true charm until I tried it with artisanal, micro-brewery sake. Wow! It rivals wine and cheese as a world-class combo. By the way, it is nice that you have been treated to luxury sushi in Japan. But I would like to clarify that plenty of sushi is sold in supermarkets at reasonable prices here, for those who can’t eat the luxurious kind as often as we would like. Well, I could talk about food all day, so I better stop now! ๐Ÿ™‚

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    1. Hee hee, my wife and her friends tease me because I won’t eat the eyeballs. Liver is out for me too, but partly for health reason (liver is questionable, if I recall rightly).

      I noticed that too: Japanese people love foie gras. That’s another one I plan to avoid. Like veal, I could eat it, but I have to draw the line there on ethical grounds.

      Also, good note about sushi in supermarkets. When I visit, I never buy it, but then again I tend to live it up when I am there. ;-p

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  2. Great insight into the culture, live fish, and way of eating! Great explanation! ๐Ÿ˜€ And yes, the whole fish thing is common in Chinese culture too, but I definitely prefer it deboned. I always have this fear of choking on those things, they are sharp!

    Always great to see you writing! Hope you and your family had a Happy New Year!

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      1. Wooo!!! Yes, deep frying fish definitely makes them chewy rather than chokey ๐Ÿ˜€ Happy New Year to you and your family too! Your blog is evolving, developing a style of its own. It takes a lot to do video, so I get it. Awesome!

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      2. Absolutely! It’s all about just practicing! Kristian Bogner, Canada’s photographer of the year, told me just pick up the camera, and have fun with it! So you see, even the pros are advising the same ๐Ÿ˜€

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  3. Hi,
    You know that each of those fish, before being killed, was a living being that did not want to die? You know that eating the body parts of sentient beings harms not only the killed animal but the killer and the consumer too?
    Doug, I know that you are not a vegetarian, but you are a Buddhist. I am so sad when I see a self-proclaimed Buddhist encouraging others to eat the bodies of beings that could once have been their very own mothers.
    Marcus

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