West Eats East
Beyond Sushi, Where Does J-Food Go?
The last two years, J-foods have been covered from views of culture, culinary and business prospects here in our market. Now it’s time to say sayonara or goodbye. In this last story, let’s see through my crystal ball for the tomorrow of J-foods. What is going to happen in J-foods for healthy eating, anything beyond sushi? My crystal ball tells us something suggestive, hopefully.
Sushi: Sushi will diversify primarily due to the supply conditions of seafood and other ingredients. Chirashi, Gomoku vegetables, or Oshi sushi may come to accommodate diverse taste and style. Since rice is a major ingredient, sushi is gluten free, which may be much promoted. Nigiri will cut in the roll-style dominant sushi recipe. Nigiri is nothing special but easy probably easier to make for appealing to the authenticity of sushi. Since a major sushi seafood is salmon here, the way to present salmon may be further innovated like favoring with miso or baking with herbs like rosemary. Meat will be sure to come more into sushi, primarily roast Kobe beef. Chicken might be possible like teriyaki chicken sushi. Not much Spam sushi, I guess. More vegetables can be used: eggplants already in Japan, cucumbers and cooked vegetables. Vegetarian sushi must be a new promise. Mayo, despite of not being my taste in sushi, can be blended with miso, white soy sauce or other ingredients for surprisingly unique flavors. The future of sushi, in a direction, may come from creativity, while, in another direction, from traditional varietal sushi. Through my crystal ball, a seafood bowl is seen in a blur. You know rice bowls that beef or chicken teriyaki are served over cooked rice. A seafood rice bowl is that sashimi style seafood slices are placed over the rice with or without vinegar favored along with slices of cucumber and Kamaboko fish cake. It can be served in a medium size bowl probably along with sliced sweet ginger and wasabi. A seafood rice bowl is not my creation but very popular in Japan for lunch, easy, less expensive than similarly arranged Chirashi sushi. No particular skill is needed to make it except for extreme clean-hygiene kitchen practices to handle raw seafood. Depending on supply and price, you may serve tuna bowl, salmon bowl with salmon roe, a variety seafood sashimi-shrimp, pickled mackerels and broiled unagi sea eel. A leaf of green shiso can be used to separate cold ingredients on rice and also as a garnish. A seafood bowl, called Kaisen fresh seafood-Donburi bowl, may come to our table in the not too distant future.
Bento: It translates to a packed meal in a box-container to eat out for lunch or meal at school-office or outing like a cherry blossom party or picnic. A lunch box, bento, you may recall at J-restaurants or groceries, contains a variety of cooked vegetables and animal protein foods pork or chicken cutlet, shrimp tempura, broiled salmon or mackerel. A bento usually does not include raw food items like sashimi because it is intended to carry for some time and distance at ambient temperatures. A couple of roll sushi, usually California roll, may be included but it uses imitation crab meat, a processed food. A tiny soy sauce pack is often included. At a cashier, you may be asked for chopsticks. A bento is good because of omnivorous eating. You may eat at least 10 food items, promoting your healthy diet. A bento is a popular lunch item in J-grocery stores in big cities. Some office workers go and buy, and eat at the office. A bento is a good “to go” food, which can be eaten conveniently for dinner as well. Since it is sold often in an open cooler, bento will be more palatable once warmed in a microwave oven for a couple of minutes.
Ramen, soba noodle soups are expected by some people more in our eating but they may be limited for lunch or light snacks unless loaded with vegetables and meat. Such noodle business needs a long line of customers to make a good profit out of $10-15 per head sales. Ramen tastes almost the same all over the places without specific characters despite claimed flavors, which is a little bit disappointing. Curry over rice is another popular menu item which J-food business anticipates to grow, but it is liked or disliked depending on food habit or eating experience and it may take more time to become a promising taste here.
J-food has made a great contribution by bringing more vegetables, seafood and exotic foods into our eating. It also stimulates our awareness of freshness, omnivorous-ness and health-food interaction. Also a new business or menu opportunity. Be well for J-foods down the road. Kanpai or Cheers with sake.