Flavors can be deceiving
Japan has a rich cuisine culture, but it’s not just about sushi, sashimi or yakisoba.
Yoshoku, which literally means western cuisine, boasts many western-looking dishes that can actually only be found in Japan. Japan’s Chinese cuisine also has its fair bit of dishes that are unheard of in China.
Let’s have a look at some of Japan’s most popular western and Chinese dishes that in fact don’t come from too far.
“The Japanese love rice so much that it should even be in gratin” thought Saly Weil, chef of Hotel New Grand in Yokohama in the thirties. The dish was named Doria, and can be found at pretty much any “family restaurant” or Yoshoku restaurant in Japan today.
2. Spaghetti Napolitan
Shigetada Irie, Saly Weil’s successor at Hotel New Grand, saw American soldiers slurp away at their spaghetti mixed with ketchup sauce which was one of the military rations. He adapted the idea, but fried the spaghetti on an iron plate in similar fashion to that of Yakisoba, or Japanese fried noodles. Napolitan’s sauce is a mixture of ketchup, tobasco and worcester sauce, and common ingredients include capsicum, onion, bacon and sausages.
As its name suggests, Omurice consists of a portion of chicken rice (fried rice with chicken in ketchup sauce) wrapped up in an omelet. During the early 20th century, the dish was prepared as a quick stomach-filler for the staff of Rengatei, a Yoshoku restaurant in Ginza. The customers soon started requesting to bring the dish to the restaurant’s menu, and so Omurice was first served to the public.
4. Hayashi Rice
No, this is not curry, but Hayashi rice, a dish of beef and onions stewed in a demi-glace sauce that consists of tomato sauce and red wine. There are several stories behind its origin – one is that it was invented by a cook named Hayashi who served this at staff meals at the Ueno Seiyoken yoshoku restaurant. Another is that it has its roots in “hashed beef”, and evolved into a Japanese pronunciation of it – “hayashi”.
Tenshin is the Japanese name for Tianjin, a Chinese harbor city located near Beijing. However, Tenshindon, a crab fried rice omelette dish with starchy sauce could not be found anywhere in the city until Japanese tourists started asking for it and Chinese restaurants smelled good business. There are various theories to when and how Tenshindon was created, but all indicate that the dish is at least 100 year old and has its origins in Japan.