Over the past ten years, Japanese food has played a particularly comical role in my life.
During my first year at university in Vancouver, a friend and I went to an all-you-can-eat sushi place on South Granville. Confident after a meal with my sushi-ordering-pro cousin, I felt I too could order us the perfect amount of all you can eat sushi.
Can you guess the problem?
I mistook the # of rolls for the # of pieces.
Imagine: you want six pieces of spicy tuna roll. You put six down on the paper. Your waitress looks at you like you are nuts, asks if you are sure, and you nod your head. You roll your eyes when she walks away. Am I sure?
Six rolls of spicy tuna arrived. Or about 20 pieces. Maybe more. As well as a plethora of California rolls, maki rolls, and an assortment of sashimi and nigiri.
My friend and I looked at each other with astonishment. I nearly cried.
If you don't know, here is a fun fact about all-you-can-eat sushi: you have to pay extra for what you don't eat.
On our student budgets, what we weren't going to eat was like $50 worth of raw fish.
What to do? Wrap sushi in napkins and deposit the sushi in the bathroom, in our purses, wherever - I think we almost put it down our shirts.
I am much better at ordering sushi now :)
There was then the time I had sushi in Japan. I was in northern Japan playing an alien in a Japanese play. Our director, although crazy and chauvinistic, loved to spoil us. He took us to the #2 sushi restaurant in all of Japan. Japanese are a modest people - no one wants to take the #1 spot.
It was probably, and will forever be, the most incredible sushi I have ever tasted. I mean, they grated the wasabi fresh in front of us. Pretty spectacular. It was the meal that I discovered toro or tuna belly. They seared it every so slightly and it literally melted in my mouth. I also learned not to drench my sashimi in soy sauce.
The deliciousness of the meal is not the reason for its memorability. It's this.
During the course of the evening we were served a tiny bowl with a lid. I opened the lid to find a yellowish broth with a floating white ball.
A rule in Japan is to eat first, ask later. Therefore I sipped at the broth and took a brave bite of the white thing.
I had stupidly assumed it was some sort of tofu.
Once it slid down my throat, I knew it was most definitely not tofu.
I asked my friend to translate what it was and he typed something in to his handy little Japanese/English translator. He showed me the word:
Clearly he must be mistaken.
I asked him to type it again.
So many questions were running though my head: how do you cultivate blowfish sperm, how do you cook it and more importantly - WHY DO YOU EAT IT????
I casually informed the other Canadian girl what it was. She winced and delicately spit it back into her bowl.
We threw out the 'ask later' rule that night.
On that same journey to Japan, we became very sick of Japanese food quite quickly. After the amazing sushi meal, we were treated to several more rounds of sashimi. Which in great quantities soon diminishes in flavour and texture.
There comes a time when one can no longer swallow raw fish meat.
Especially on an evening when you are presented with Whale sashimi. From an endangered whale no less. The hosts proudly informed me that only 60 of these whales still swam in the ocean.
So not only was I eating an endangered species, but it was a species that was fatty and oily. I gagged a bit. I think I actually threw up in my mouth.
After our 'meal', my other Canadian friend and I sought out Mos Burger. The Japanese equivalent to McDonald's. We were in desperate need of cooked flesh and french fries. There seemed to be no hope, until I spotted the tell-tale red sign about a kilometre away.
I have never run so fast in my life.
We sprinted as if we were in an Olympic race.
And we ordered two burgers each, three packs of fries and gigantic milkshakes.
Sushi may be delightful but nothing can replace a good old-fashioned cheeseburger.