Kangaroo tataki

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I don’t think kangaroos roam freely in Japan, and yet I found a helping of kangaroo on the menu at “Rice and Circus” in Tokyo. Having never eaten kangaroo before, I jumped at the opportunity. It was served as tataki, meaning it was seared very quickly, and then thinly sliced. A mix of carpaccio and rare steak.

I was a bit apprehensive as I had heard kangaroo can be quite tough when cooked incorrectly, but because the meat was so rare, there was nothing to worry about. It was as tender as can be. Even though I couldn’t make out any big distinction between this and any other steak, I did like the kangaroo tataki a lot. I hope to try out a bigger piece of roo next time.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 8

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Raw horse mane sushi

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As if eating raw horse sushi wasn’t strange enough, the plate of sushi I grabbed from the conveyor belt of a sushi restaurant in Kyoto also presented me with a raw horse mane nigiri. Raw horse mane? What does that even mean? I thought the mane of a horse was the hair growing on its neck, so I reckon this might be the meat from the next.

It turned out to be pretty much a big slice of fat. It was slightly yellow like chicken fat can be. The texture was somewhere between soft and chewy. I was not blown away. I have eaten fat in other places where it was rendered down, and tasted pretty nice, but this was just one horrible bite of fat. I managed to eat it though, but it’s truly a thing of nightmares.

Fear Factor – 9 / Taste Test – 2

Roast duck sushi

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When I think of sushi, my mind immediately goes to rice with raw fish. During my short time in Japan I learned that that’s not always the case. Yes, something can only be called sushi if it contains vinegared rice, but raw fish is not essential. There are tons of other options to go for.

One of these more unusual kinds of sushi passed me by on a conveyor belt in Kyoto. I spotted a roast duck nigiri sushi. I had never heard of such a thing before. I would have imagined this to come from some hipster restaurant in downtown LA, but here it was in Kyoto staring me in the eye. Curiosity got the better of me and I went in for the kill. It worked as a combination. Duck and rice, that’s not too odd after all. I do think the duck could have been seasoned a bit more.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7

Raw horse sushi

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My very first post on this website was about a horse meat stew that I love, but I never thought I’d see raw horse meat on the menu somewhere. That is until I saw a plate of raw horse meat sushi come by on a conveyor belt sushi restaurant in Kyoto.

It was a piece of nigiri style sushi with a slice of raw meat on top. It was a bit of a scare to actually eat it. I mean, who eats raw horse? On the other hand, it was only one piece, and I could easily go for something else after. It turns out I was worried for nothing. This piece of meat was no different than for instance raw beef. It was tender and tasted very similar to beef indeed. I don’t think I would manage a whole plate full, but one piece was not too bad.

Fear Factor – 5 / Taste Test – 7

Kobe beef

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Every chef around the world seems to be cooking up Wagyu beef and it has swiftly become the most prized beef, surpassing Angus and many others. Wagyu is scaled to reflect its marbling. The higher the ranking, the better the beef. Wagyu cows are raised in Japan and said to be treated like royalty, even being given massages. If Wagyu beef is the best, then Kobe beef is the best of the best. It is one of three locals breeds of Wagyu that rank highest in the world.

I was planning on going to Kobe on my recent trip to Japan, but timing didn’t allow me to go there. Fortunately I did find some places to samples the highly prized beef at the Kuromon Market in Osaka. This is also probably the cheapest place to try it as you don’t have to order a whole steak or a set meal. My friend and I shared one piece of Kobe beef that was grilled on a teppan, cut into smaller pieces and served with some salt and spring onions.

I can honestly say it was the best beef I have ever had, and probably ever will. I’m not just saying that because of the name, it really was that good. The meat seemed to melt on my tongue as if it was butter. Only the end bits were a tiny bit chewier, but the middle part was as tender as can be. Strangely I didn’t have a big beefy flavor as I had with other cuts of meat, such as the cheeks, but the tenderness alone warrants a ten on my scale.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 10

Chicken neck skewers

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In the west we’re not that accustomed to nose to tail dining anymore. Of a chicken we usually only eat the breast, legs and wings, and so much goes to waste. Besides the organs, you can of course also eat the feet, neck or cockscomb. I’d never tried any of these, but that changed recently when I had dinner at a bar in Osaka serving grilled chicken.

Most of the meat served that day was in fact breast or leg, but I did find a chicken neck skewer on the menu. There isn’t much meat to a chicken neck, so this skewer consisted of many quarter sized pieces of meat. The taste wasn’t all that special. It tasted like chicken, obviously. The meat was a lot chewier than chicken breast which . If I hadn’t known it was chicken, I might have thought it to be pork.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 8

Crocodile tempura

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During my trip to Japan it turned out that my Tokyo hotel was really close to a restaurant called “Rice and Circus”. It specializes in game meat from all over the world, served in a Japanese style. This was a heavenly coincidence for me, on which a few more entries will follow. First up, croc. Crocodile is one of those unusual cuts of meat that is actually more common than one might think. It’s not at all the difficult to get a hold of in the States, or for examples South Africa, yet it was new to me. I guess in Europe we don’t really eat much of it.

I had heard most people say before that crocodile tastes just like chicken, with a few people claiming it to taste a little fishy. I’m not the biggest fish lover, but I thought I could handle it. The croc here was served tempura style, meaning it was battered and fried. I did think it similar to chicken, not because it tasted similar, but because both don’t have much of a flavor to begin with. Chicken breast that is. There was no distinct flavor here, certainly not fishy. What was a little different was the texture. Although similar to chicken, it was a little chewier. Not exactly tough, but with a bit of a bite. Crocodile with a bite, go figure.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 8

Spaghetti burger

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Spaghetti and meatballs have been known to go together. They might not think so in Italy, but go together they do. Make a big enough meatball and you have a hamburger. Why not then mix the two and make a spaghetti topped hamburger. That’s exactly what I got at a local American diner here in Lanzhou.

The burger itself was a nice and thick beef burger that you would get in any decent diner. It was topped with a mount of spaghetti Bolognese. I found the two definitely go together, and they blend quite nicely into one. My only qualm was that there could have been, should have been, more spaghetti on top. As the burger was so thick it took over most of the taste.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7

Reindeer sausage

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On my way back to China I had to change plains at Helsinki Airport and had a few bucks left to spend. I had already bought a few drinks when I noticed there was a 40% off sticker on a pack of reindeer sausages. I had just enough money left and so the sausages came to China with me.

I had expected a coarse sausage, but in fact these reindeer sausages had a completely smooth consistency like hot dogs. The casings give it a similar snap, and it reminded me mostly of the smoked sausages we eat in Holland. The only difference was that these reindeer sausages had that slight sour taste that I described in an earlier post. After all this I should go to Finland and try some real Finnish food.

Fear Factor – 0 / Taste Test – 7

Goose breast

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Only recently did I try goose for the first time. It was served sliced cold at breakfasts in Poland. Little did I know that just a few days later I would have my second serving. This time I ordered fried goose breast at restaurant De Sjuuteaendj in Holland. This restaurant was voted the greenest and most organic restaurant in The Netherlands and is only a stone’s throw away from my parents’ house.

The duck breast came sliced and was perched on an autumnal barley risotto with mushrooms and a beer gel. The risotto was just perfect even though I couldn’t taste any beer. The star of the show, however, was the goose and not the barley. Unlike in Krakow the fat was rendered and the skin beautifully crisp, making it a lot more appetizing to eat. The meat was left pink which left it juicy and tender. This was a vast improvement on the previous serving, although I did like that at the time.

Fear Factor 0 / Taste Test – 8