Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Destinations > Asia > Japan
Reload this Page >

Exotic Foods Eaten in Japan

Exotic Foods Eaten in Japan

Old Aug 16, 22, 5:44 am
  #1  
Original Poster
Four Seasons Contributor BadgeMarriott Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: NGS
Programs: UA MP, ANA MC, HH Diamond, Hyatt Explorist, Marriott Platinum, IHG Plat, Shangri-La GC, Hertz PC
Posts: 1,023
Exotic Foods Eaten in Japan

When I think of “exotic” foods, I tend to think of China, where animals and plants of every variety (even endangered species) are eaten for their medicinal properties. Of course, Japan also has exotic foods and I’d like to share in this thread a few of my experiences eating them, and I hope others will too. Admittedly, much that was exotic to me when I first arrived in Japan, no longer appears exotic after decades of residence, but just a part of Japanese cuisine, though there are still many foods that I find unusual. I’m sure other FTers who reside in Japan, and even overseas “foodie” FTers who often visit Japan for culinary adventures, have even more unusual experiences to share.

Grilled Suzume (Sparrow)
In my first year in Japan, I was taken to a yakitori joint in Nihonbashi and my friend suggested I order grilled Suzume (whole grilled sparrow), a delicacy of that particular restaurant. I was surprised to see the whole bird (head, wings, and all) and was told to eat the whole thing as is. It was so long ago that I don’t remember its taste though I do remember that it was boney with not much meat, and not as pleasant to eat as meat-only skewers.


Grilled sparrow

Fugu (Puffer Fish) Sashimi
Fugu fish gets a lot of media attention as an exotic and potentially fatal Japanese delicacy due to the neurotoxins in the fish’s liver, but in reality, it is a fairly common dish served as sashimi, shabu shabu, karaage, or cooked in nabe, but despite the media hype, it is quite safe to eat, especially when prepared at restaurants by chefs licensed to prepare it. Fugu can even be bought online and in supermarkets. What really makes it exotic is the potential fatal outcome of eating it due to its poison.

“According to the Japan National Health Ministry a total of 295 people became ill and 3 died after eating fugu on 204 occasions between 2008 and 2018. Almost 80% of these poisonings happened in peoples’ homes when they prepared the fish themselves.”
https://medium.com/japonica-publicat...u-4757a027d63a

A friend in Tokyo took me to a fugu restaurant back in the 80s and ordered fugu sashimi. I was excited and found the fugu very beautifully presented but had a bland and uninteresting taste. Given that, and its high price, I never felt a desire to order it again on my own, but I did eat it again at a friend’s home many years later.

In Japan, people who have accidentally consumed the fugu’s poison can exhibit all the symptoms of death while still being conscious and can revive many hours or days later in the morgue.

An interesting side note: The poison of puffer fish has been found to be an ingredient in so-called “zombie powder” used by Voodoo priests in Haiti.
https://science.howstuffworks.com/sc...es/zombie1.htm


Fugu sashimi

Ikizukuri (Preparation and eating of live seafood)
Back in the 90s, I was taken to a restaurant in the Ginza by the Japanese distributor of the company I then worked for. There were several fish tanks located at the entry and behind the sashimi/sushi counter of the restaurant, which is not unusual in Japan. We sat down at the counter and because I was the guest, my host ordered for me. The chef pulled a fish out of the tank behind him and proceeded to cut the fish while still alive directly in front of me, slicing its meat into small pieces that were served still wriggling on my wooden plate with the whole fish head cut off and still breathing. My heart sank, and my stomach turned, as I had never seen a dismembered but still living fish before and did not wish to see it suffer. Still, I hid my feelings as best I could and ate it because of the importance of the business relationship, and in Japan, since this was an expensive delicacy and I was the guest, it would have been bad form to reject it. I later learned that Ikizukuri is banned in certain countries.

These are just a few of my experiences with Japan’s “exotic” foods and cuisines. What are your experiences?

Last edited by Nagasaki Joe; Aug 16, 22 at 6:29 pm
Nagasaki Joe is offline  
Old Aug 16, 22, 7:30 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Sep 2009
Programs: UA GS>1K>Nothing; DL GM 2MM; AS 75K>Nothing
Posts: 9,186
I had a Big Mac for lunch today.
5khours is offline  
Old Aug 16, 22, 10:42 am
  #3  
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Beantown! (BOS)
Programs: AA PtPro (2 MM); Hilton Diamond; Hertz President Cr; DL SkyMiles; UA MileagePlus
Posts: 3,144
Hata-Hata (ハタハタ)

Hata-hata is a family of Japanese sea bass commonly found off the coast of Akita. Hata-hata is a dish commonly found in the coastal area of Akita. The season for hata-hata is November and December when female hata-hata lay eggs. Hata-hata eggs are called Buriko (ブリコ) in Akita dialect. Female hata-hata with buriko is grilled. Grilling of hata-hata is done so that buriko (eggs) remain medium rare. Egg remains in the sack during the grilling and sack fluid remains in the sack. Buriko (eggs) are eaten with sticky, viscous, sack fluid.

Hata-hata is a delicacy of the coastal area of Akita, and eating buriko (eggs) may be an acquired taste.





Nagasaki Joe likes this.

Last edited by AlwaysAisle; Aug 16, 22 at 10:48 am
AlwaysAisle is offline  
Old Aug 16, 22, 11:03 am
  #4  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: SFO
Programs: MM / UA 1K
Posts: 451
Some of the delicacies of Nagano-ken:

Koi - Folks in Nagano sometimes like to eat carp. I realize once upon a time sources of fresh fish in Nagano were somewhat limited but, um no thanks. I've had it several times but it's never been tasty.

Basashi - No, not cherry tree flowers or leaves (it's sometimes called sakura niku) but rather horse meat. I guess it's not that exotic in some countries but being from the US, it was for me. I had it served shabu-shabu style at a ryokan near Suwa.

Inago - Grasshoppers. I've had them panfried in Nagano and as tskudani in Tokyo.

Hachinoko - I guess this is one of the more exotic ones for me - bee larvae. These were panfried with some soy sauce and then added to steamed rice. They are kind of sweet and pop in your mouth as you chew.
Nagasaki Joe likes this.

Last edited by mongobot; Aug 17, 22 at 11:25 am
mongobot is offline  
Old Aug 16, 22, 2:13 pm
  #5  
Aman Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Everywhere
Programs: UA GS 3MM, NH PLT
Posts: 639
While staying at Sankara Hotel in Yakushima, they served us a very strange looking crab called Asahigani from Tanegashima. In English, it's sometimes referred to as "Frog Crab" or "Spanner Crab."

The second photo is the actual serving of the crab.



KI-NRT is offline  
Old Aug 16, 22, 2:30 pm
  #6  
Aman Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Everywhere
Programs: UA GS 3MM, NH PLT
Posts: 639
Chi Anago Usuzukuri Ozaramori (地穴子薄造り大皿盛り - Thinly sliced raw Conger Eel and Conger Eel Skin)

Served at Migiwatei Ochi Kochi, a ryokan in Tomonoura.

Nagasaki Joe likes this.
KI-NRT is offline  
Old Aug 16, 22, 2:39 pm
  #7  
Aman Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Everywhere
Programs: UA GS 3MM, NH PLT
Posts: 639
The red fish itself is not particularly exotic (Maguro); however, how it's presented definitely is.

Katsuura port in Wakayama is renowned for its Maguro, and some specialty restaurants and ryokan serve Tuna that has NEVER been frozen. This particular Katsuura-san Nama Maguro (勝浦産鮪) was served at Kumano Bettei Nakanoshima, a ryokan that's on its own island. And not far from Kumano Nachi Taisha.

WSTC likes this.
KI-NRT is offline  
Old Aug 16, 22, 2:44 pm
  #8  
Aman Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Everywhere
Programs: UA GS 3MM, NH PLT
Posts: 639
Everyone's favorite Winter delicacy... the oh so creamy Shirako! (雲子 - Cold Milt)

This one (the dish on the right) was served at Asaba Ryokan in Izu, and was grilled on top of Daikon, and doused with Kikuna-an (Crown Daisy sauce.)

nancypants likes this.
KI-NRT is offline  
Old Aug 16, 22, 3:35 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: Mar 2013
Location: LAX adjacent
Posts: 165
For us, it has to be chicken sashimi. Raw chicken, slaughtered individually by a local butcher to help reduce the possibility of getting salmonella poisoning. While the possibility is far, far less than chicken mass-produced in the US, its not non-existant. Every time we go to our friends house in Kagoshima, her mom serves it up with both sliced onion and green onion, along with soy sauce. Its pretty tasty, and you know what, it tastes like chicken! Ok, well actually it tastes more like raw fish.



Due to early COVID restrictions, a fantastic local restaurant also started selling chicken sashimi right from a vending machine.
BeachRat is offline  
Old Aug 16, 22, 5:13 pm
  #10  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,202
Originally Posted by KI-NRT
Everyone's favorite Winter delicacy... the oh so creamy Shirako! (雲子 - Cold Milt)

This one (the dish on the right) was served at Asaba Ryokan in Izu, and was grilled on top of Daikon, and doused with Kikuna-an (Crown Daisy sauce.)
+1 for Shirako at a sushi restaurant in Kanazawa. The (English) explanation was fine, it was the taking out of an entire hardback book size container of it in the explanation that threw me.
Firefly squid in Toyama

Occasionally the method of preparation in a show kitchen can be a little memorable. One upscale tempura place served a small fish which kept live under the counter, skewered, and tempura fried without killing it before it hit the oil. Then it is served by the chef right in front of you. Those who don't like to see the "farm to table" process, try to act normal.
japanesegeek likes this.
freecia is offline  
Old Aug 16, 22, 6:59 pm
  #11  
Original Poster
Four Seasons Contributor BadgeMarriott Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: NGS
Programs: UA MP, ANA MC, HH Diamond, Hyatt Explorist, Marriott Platinum, IHG Plat, Shangri-La GC, Hertz PC
Posts: 1,023
Originally Posted by KI-NRT
Chi Anago Usuzukuri Ozaramori (地穴子薄造り大皿盛り - Thinly sliced raw Conger Eel and Conger Eel Skin)

Served at Migiwatei Ochi Kochi, a ryokan in Tomonoura.

I lived for a period of time in the center of Japanese eel production in Shizuoka Prefecture, and a friend of mine owned an eel restaurant there, so I've eaten just about everything eel related, but I never had the eel skin served separately. Below is one of my favorite beer snacks, deep-fried eel bones, very crunchy, and a great compliment to sake, beer, or what have you. They also make a great gift for friends back in the US.


Deep-fried eel bones
japanesegeek likes this.

Last edited by Nagasaki Joe; Aug 21, 22 at 6:13 am
Nagasaki Joe is offline  
Old Aug 16, 22, 7:26 pm
  #12  
Original Poster
Four Seasons Contributor BadgeMarriott Contributor Badge
 
Join Date: Jan 2017
Location: NGS
Programs: UA MP, ANA MC, HH Diamond, Hyatt Explorist, Marriott Platinum, IHG Plat, Shangri-La GC, Hertz PC
Posts: 1,023
Originally Posted by BeachRat

Due to early COVID restrictions, a fantastic local restaurant also started selling chicken sashimi right from a vending machine.
The prices look very reasonable for the quantity received. Did you ever try the vending machine variety and how did it compare to the freshly prepared one?
Nagasaki Joe is offline  
Old Aug 16, 22, 7:33 pm
  #13  
 
Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: NYC / TYO / Up in the Air
Programs: UA GS 1.5MM, AA 2MM, EK, BA, SQ, CX, Marriot LT, Accor P
Posts: 5,550
LOL - Japan has many unusual food options -- My wife's family lives very close to Shimonoseki -- so I've had incredibly fresh blowfish at the seafood market for 100 yen per piece -- it was delicious -- but the most rare things I've had in Japan are animal meats -- like Hokkaido Deer & Bear (both were Excellent) - and of course Horse, whale and Dolphin -- and let's not even talk about live frog hearts... The Japanese can totally keep up with the Chinese...
japanesegeek and Nagasaki Joe like this.
bmwe92fan is online now  
Old Aug 16, 22, 8:53 pm
  #14  
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 2,202
bmwe92fan The game meat reminded me of the wild mountain vegetables I've had in country side ryokans. It is seasonal and regional beyond bamboo shoots, mustard greens, and chrysanthemum which is more widely seen within Japan.

I haven't had the deep fried eel bones. I like wide (fettuccine width) soft dried squid like Soft Saki Ika ソフトさきいか which I haven't seen at Chinese or Korean markets in the US. Is that a regional variant?
freecia is offline  
Old Aug 16, 22, 8:55 pm
  #15  
 
Join Date: May 2017
Location: YEG, SFO, VCA, JR JY-13
Programs: AC 25K x2, AC 75K
Posts: 825
Yup I'll third the horse meat. You had to down it with a special ginger beer or something? I barely remember that night, I just remember balking at the idea, but the "boss" insisted but it turned out alright
japanesegeek likes this.
asovse1 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread