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Why we slurp ramen and Japanese food myths you need to know

“Itadakimasu! I will digest this information gratefully”

Ever heard some people reject sushi because they’re not a fan of fish? What a shame

Sushi means raw fish

Many people believe that the term “sushi” translates to “raw fish,” but the term actually refers to the method of preparing the dish whose main component is vinegared rice. This preservation method originated from Southeast Asia and was later adopted by the Japanese. Originally called narezushi, sushi rice was originally used to preserve fish using lactic fermentation before being discarded. This kind of dish is still made in Japan and has a sour taste unlike the modern day sushi which is better linked to the delectable Edo-style sushi, where food is cured using salt and vinegar. That being said, sushi gets its name mainly from the rice component and can be made with ingredients other than fish, such as vegetables and meat.

Inari and Futomaki set from Ramen Dojo

Sashimi is a kind of sushi

While we’re at it, let’s clarify that sushi and sashimi are not the same. Sashimi is what you call thinly sliced fish or meat that you eat raw while sushi is anything with vinegared rice (sushi). Moreover, sushi is not limited to your usual Nigiri and Maki. Other preparations include chirashi, also called decorated or scattered sushi (a big bowl of sushi rice mixed with other ingredients); inarizushi or inari sushi, (sushi rice stuffed in fried tofu pockets called inari age); oshizushi (pressed sushi made with mackerel), among many others.

Mixed Maki Platter from Rai Rai Ken

You MUST slurp your ramen!

I’m sure you’ve heard this before. Who hasn’t? But do you know why you should slurp? The habit of slurping noodles came about due to the concept of retronasal smell, the “the ability to perceive flavor dimensions of foods.” Slurping allows the person to get a better whiff of their soba to satisfy one’s sense of smell. Another more practical reason is that you are less likely to burn your tongue when you slurp hot noodles. Slurping also enhances the flavor of the dish because there’s less waiting for it to cool down, and more eating. 

Generally, tourists and foreigners are told that slurping one’s noodles is a sign of respect for the chef. We are told that slurping is a way of showing that you are enjoying your meal and that the louder you slurp your noodles the better. BUT times are changing and what you know then may not be true  now. Although slurping is the norm, it isn’t a strict rule and there is a limit to how loud one should be slurping. What matters is that you savor your meal and not make your meal wait to enjoy it at its optimum condition. Nowadays, modern Japanese people have started to change their views on this practice and have even started to use the term noodle harassment for slurping which disrupts other customers. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to do some slurping as there are still some conservative Japanese folk who might take this to heart. 

Ramen from Ramen Kuroda

Katsu is considered a lucky food

Katsu is a Japanese dish made of breaded and fried meat cutlets. Often made with pork (tonkatsu) or chicken (torikatsu), this dish is considered auspicious due to the term “katsu” being a homonym for the word “victory” or “win” in Japanese. This belief is similar to the more popular kitkat belief, which got its lucky connotation from the wordplay “kitto katsu” which sounds similar to a local saying in Kyushu, “kitto katsutoo” which translates to “You’ll surely win!” 

Tonkatsu from Yakimix

It is said that one in five Japanese students bring this sweet treat whenever they take a test, which is the equivalent to Japanese university students having tonkatsu the day before the test or athletes before competitions. Other than Tonkatsu and Torikatsu, Katsu can also be enjoyed as Katsudon (rice bowl), with Japanese curry (Katsu-curry) among other preparations. Maybe we should get into this belief? Not only do we get a treat but we also get some positive spirit to help get us through a task.

Katsudon from Tokyo Tokyo

Korean BBQ and Japanese BBQ are the same

Generally speaking, both ARE styles of barbeques hence, differentiating between the two may be a bit difficult though preferences will determine otherwise. Both BBQ styles have two categories: Galbi (beef short ribs) and Bulgogi (sirloin), with the latter being the more popular type of KBBQ, and Yakiniku, which is similar to bulgogi, and Teppanyaki (food grilled on an iron plate) for JBBQ. Beef is common for both styles but KBBQ uses chicken and pork just as much as beef. Chicken is served in the form of skewers (yakitori) in JBBQ.  

Sukiyaki from Sambokojin

A notable difference between the two is that KBBQ makes use of marinades for flavor whereas JBBQ utilizes dipping sauces such as mirin and soy sauce. Moreover, unlike JBBQ which is limited to raw veggies, KBBQ offers a variety of side dishes such as Kimchi and Gyeranjjim (Korean steamed eggs) to add a variety of flavors to complement one’s meat. These differences could be due to the fact that JBBQ is focused on the taste of beef hence, marinades and side dishes are rarely used to avoid tampering with the taste of high-quality beef. That being said, unlike JBBQ, KBBQ does not require high-quality meat and is more enjoyable for those who prefer a variety of flavors which the marinades and side dishes offer. In conclusion, both barbeque styles have their pros and cons and it’s up to you to decide what kind of flavor you are looking for.

Beef Samgyupsal from All4U unlimited grill and shabu shabu

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