Food tourism – Japanese style!

By | Category: Travel destinations

the offal restaurant menu

One of the advantages of travel is that it broadens the mind – so it is said. It also broadens the stomach because many of us use travel as a way to try new foods or foods that our restaurants give a ”British” touch to as opposed to what it really tastes like in the place of origin.

Since my childhood when meat and two veg ruled OK and the only foreign food we ate was curry, (it wasn’t really foreign since India and Britain had been linked for centuries) food has been revolutionised in the UK. You can find the cuisine of dozens of different countries in most big cities and even in some small villages. One of the most popular I found was a Portuguese gastropub type affair in the Cambridgeshire countryside. Today, Argentinian, Mongolian, Hungarian, Polish, Vietnamese and Thai jostle with Indian style restaurants, (be they Bangladeshi, Indian, Pakistani or Nepalese) Chinese, Italian and French ones. Japanese restaurants came her in the 1970’s (or that’s when I remember going to my first one) but how true to Japanese food are they?

I’d be prepared to bet that we aren’t quite ready for a Japanese offal restaurant.

We eat kidneys and liver, some even eat heart although I’ve found it rubbery and trendy chefs rave over the taste of pig’s cheeks. But would you eat Pork womb or cartilage?

Recently a reader was in Tokyo and sent me an image of the menu of an offal restaurant he visited. (Forgive the quality of the image – it was difficult to photograph well given that it was enmeshed in plastic and there were lights above the table.)

There he found meals he expected such as tan (tongue), reba (liver) and dekitate bacon (fresh bacon loin) but other items he was not sure he could stomach (forgive the pun.) Would you try nodobue, (tracheal valve) rappa (birth canal) or teppo? (rectum) The answer is probably yes if the name was disguised in some way. Sweetbreads sound better than pancreas or throat glands or even brains. But some still eat the stomach walls of cows – known as tripe – and I had black pudding (a blood sausage for those who don’t know) for breakfast this very morning. Yes, I’m sure we would eat them if these different offals were only known by a more delicate name.

In the meantime the menu is a great help if you become ill. At least you can visit a Japanese doctor and tell him where the problem is!

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