I often heard from my foreign guests that food is one of the most expecting things during trip in Japan. Yes, I swear that our food is so excellent in the world and especially in Tokyo, you can find any kind of dishes very easily. (Although it may be a bit difficult to find some processed food for such as Halal or for vegetarians…)
Japanese people are very good at creating new style of food by accepting other cultures
Japanese food is not only SUSHI, SASHIMI, and TEMPURA as you have already known as typical food. Actually, sushi is not our daily food and we don’t eat it so often except special occasions. And we have a wide variety of food which have been influence on other cultures and uniquely evolved in this country. We can say Japanese culture are relatively tolerance for bringing in other cultures and it is not an exception for food.
I am often enjoying eating a kind of set meal at local restaurants and one of my favorites is “Deep-fry mixed Seafood” which consists of several kinds of seafood such as shrimp, oyster and house mackerel. It seems similar with Tempura, but the coating ingredients are different from those which is cover by light batter made from flour and cold water, then deep-fried. As you see, deep-fry seafood is coated by breadcrumbs and it seems like more western styled. I guess the dish was inspired from some western aspects, however, the contents of deep-fry were adjusted according to a preference of Japanese people. The combination of seafood depends on each restaurant and sometimes different kinds such as scallop and squid are added. In case of a set meal, white rice, miso soup and pickles are usually served together with the main dish.
Freshly deep-fry are so crunchy that it is very tasty. My favorite seafood is horse mackerel and oyster. We can find similar deep-fry dishes in other countries, but I seldom found house mackerel and oyster there. In particular, I think that deep-fry is the best way to cook for oyster although we can eat them raw and boiled. I always eat them with sticky condensed brown source and tartar sauce together and this is a golden combination with a deep-fry dish, I believe! It must be high calorie, but I cannot stop to eat in that way.
A side dish for deep-fry has a good reason to be served together
Besides, shredded raw cabbage is usually served next to deep-fry seafood on the plate as side dishes. (Actually, it is not for deep-fry seafood, but “Tonkatsu” – deep-fry pork, croquette and so on.) One day I invited my foreign guests from the UK to a local restaurant for lunch and we ordered deep-fry seafood. Then, they asked me to replace shredded raw cabbage with some steamed vegetable, because they didn’t get use to eat such bunch of raw cabbage. Unfortunately, we couldn’t do that, however, we have a good reason why we eat lots of raw cabbage together with deep-fry dishes.
It is said that the custom has started more than 100 years ago since Meiji Era when imported western culture in Japan. At first, this was because cabbage was available all year long at that time. Later, we found that cabbage contains Vitamin U and it acts well on the stomach and helps our digestion when we eat it as raw. Fried food contains a lot of oil and it is easy to put a burden on our stomach. Therefore, we can lighten the burden on the stomach by eating together with fried food and raw cabbage. When you try to eat some of them in Japan, please don’t forget to consume lots of raw cabbage and almost all restaurants provide you refill of cabbage for free!