On one of her visits to Japan, my mother made the following comment: “If I lived here, I’d never cook.” As a New York City dweller who always cooked, this is kind of funny because NYC certainly has its share of take-out available. Or delivery. But it is simply nothing compared to the huge variety that Japanese depachika and shopping streets provide.
Yet, I hardly availed myself of this option, either. Because Japanese cooking uses the same seasonings over and over, each household develops their own ofukuro no aji based on the proportions used. I’ve already talked about the difference in flavor between Kansai and Kanto, but it goes further than that. In my own household, I tend to season in a Kansai type way, but perhaps a little sweeter than most. So that’s what my kids are used to as well.
And then there’s the whole discussion about whether takeout food is even healthy. I think Japan fares better in that respect, if only because there are so many options. Take a look at the makaroni sarada pictured below. That’s the label on it, but can you even see the makaroni? Proportion wise, I think it has less macaroni and more healthy ingredients than a macaroni salad in the USA would.
One thing I WOULD buy eagerly in Japan would be deep-fried items. Often I’d see venders right outside a supermarket doing the frying right before my eyes. So, I’d know it was freshly fried and hadn’t been sitting there for a few days. A sure hit with customers. Pictured below is a chocolate korokke. A novelty item, no doubt. Nope… not interested!
- depachika – デパ地下 refers to the basement of a department store. There you will find what amounts to both a supermarket and a food hall. Not to be missed.
- ofukuro no aji – お袋の味 the taste of mom’s home cooking
- Kansai – 関西 Western Japan
- Kanto – 関東 Eastern Japan
- makaroni sarada – マカロニサラダ macaroni salad
- korokke – コロッケ croquette