Jellyfish salad

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I had eaten jellyfish salad once before, and I kind of liked it so my fear factor is quite low. The first time I tried it though, my fear factor would have been much higher. I mean, who eats jellyfish? Well, it turns out quite a lot of people here in China and Japan do. In Osaka I found it on the menu of a yakitori place mixed with sour plum.

It made for a very interesting combination. The jellyfish itself has virtually no flavor. It’s all about texture with this one. It’s chewy, but not hard or rubbery. You can still bite through it easily. I’m not quite sure what to compare this texture with. Maybe seaweed comes close. The flavor was all down to the plum sauce, which was very sour indeed. It was a nice refreshing taste, but I’m glad it was only a small bowl, as I’m not sure I would have wanted to eat much more.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 7

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Whale bacon

 

IMG_7570I know the consumption of whale is frowned upon all over the world, and it was a bit of a struggle to decide whether or not to eat whale. In this case I rely on my moral code: I don’t eat meat of endangered species. I don’t eat meat that’s illegally obtained. I don’t eat meat if the animal is brutally tortured. I don’t eat living animals. The consumption of whale in Japan is legal, and they mainly hunt minke whales, which are not endangered. Therefore it meets my criteria. I do apologize if that offends anyone.

At Rice and Circus bar in Tokyo we asked the waiter for some fried whale, but they were out. Instead we could try some whale bacon. That sounded a bit ominous and what arrived at the table was pure fat, no bacon. It was simply that, slices of whale fat. I tried a piece and it was terrible. I can eat fat if it is rendered out, but this chewy strip of fat was hard to swallow. The last piece was exceptionally large, and I almost couldn’t get it down. If you’re ever in Japan and tempted to eat whale, don’t order whale bacon.

Fear Factor – 5 / Taste Test – 0

Blowfish

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Blowfish, known as fugu in Japan, is one of the most famous “unusual” foods to eat in Japan. Everybody has heard of this infamous spiky fish that blow itself up like a balloon in case of danger. The reason it’s so well-known is the fact that this fish is poisonous. It’s not just dangerous, it can kill a man. Luckily only a small part of the fish is inedible. The rest can be eaten, as long as the fish is handled correctly.

Fugu is a very expensive thing to eat, as it needs a trained professional to prepare. I didn’t want to spend too much money on a whole meal, so when I came across some blowfish at the market in Kyoto, I thought it would be safe to try. The salesman heated up the two fillets of fish and poured some sauce over it. It tasted like any other white fish to me. I guess the main reason for people to eat this fish is not the taste, but the danger.

To be honest, I kind of doubt that this was actually blowfish. I feel like the fillets would have been bigger. Also I thought it would have been more expensive. Anyway at the time of eating I was convinced it was indeed blowfish, so the fear factor still holds.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 6

Pickled mackerel sushi

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You don’t normally see mackerel on a list of sushi options. Mackerel is a very oily fish and it will go off very quickly when kept raw. In Japan they have found a great solution for this. They pickle the mackerel in salt and vinegar. I grabbed a plate of pickled mackerel sushi when it came round on the conveyor belt.

I was expecting something very sour and acidic, but that was not the case. For the most part it was just about a normal taste of mackerel, and the texture hadn’t changed all that much either. I guess it was only slightly pickled.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test – 7

Fatty tuna sushi

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One of my favorite fish to eat is tuna. Its meat is so red it’s almost like a steak, and you can treat it that way too. I’ve had it cooked rare, grilled, raw and canned. I had not, however, had a piece of fatty tuna. It had always been dark red and lean. Among my sushi set at the famous Endo Sushi in Osaka, was a tori, or fatty tuna, nigiri. This fatty part of the tuna is harvested from the belly end of the fish.

The piece of fish that was presented to me looked more like salmon than tuna. It was a soft pink rather than the usual deep red I was used to. It definitely looked fattier than normal. When I tasted it, it was almost like eating a stick of butter. You start out with a soft, but firm piece, and slow the fat starts to melt in your mouth. The fat was not at all unpleasant to eat, like some other animal fats can be, and it tasted quite rich, but I still like my meaty tuna more.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 7

Sea urchin sushi

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A couple of months ago I wrote about an uni taco I tried at a food festival in Shanghai. At the time, I couldn’t really get a good sense of what uni is, so I decided to try it again. On my recent trip to Japan I visited renowned sushi restaurant Endo Sushi in Osaka for breakfast. I chose a set of five pieces of nigiri sushi including uni.

This time it was just rice and uni, so I could get a much better taste of what it’s all about. I didn’t find the taste to be that strong actually. It most certainly didn’t taste fishy, which is a good thing. Once again it was a textural thing, as the uni is quite rich and cream like a ripe avocado. Although I liked it, I wasn’t blown away by it. Uni is an expensive ingredient, so I better save my money for something else.

Fear Factor – 1 / Taste Test – 6

Grilled dried ray fin

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At the game meat restaurant Rice and Circus in Tokyo I ordered a portion of grilled ray fin. I had never seen ray on a menu anywhere, but in hindsight it could have easily been skate, which is a little more common. Still it was unusual in the way it was prepared, as it was dried first.

The ray fin came cut into strips with a side of mayonnaise to dip it in. It definitely needed that, as on it’s own the fish was quite dry. No wonder, of course, as it was a dried piece of fish after all. It wasn’t exactly as dry as beef jerky, you could still chew it without too much effort. It tasted just like any other white fish, which is to say just fine. I might have enjoyed it more if it hadn’t been dried.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 6

Vinegar granita

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I don’t often write about food that I cooked myself. I don’t think anybody is waiting for another boring vegetable curry recipe or an egg white omelet. I will leave that to my fellow bloggers who are much more capable at that than I am. Every once and a while though I make something that’s a little more unusual, and would fit well on my blog.

For a special occasion recently I went all out and whipped up a multi-course dinner. All the dishes of that night were inspired by the food and ingredients of my home. Last week I already wrote that in Holland we often eat raw herring with onions, and I decided to make a play on that.

I made a sort of pate of herring, and topped it with crispy rye bread crumbs. To highlight the onion part of the dish, I took some brine of a pickled onion jar I had, and made a granita out of that. The vinegar made it really sharp, but the tang was dulled by the iciness, and it worked really well with the other ingredients.

Fear Factor – 3 / Taste Test: 7

Unagi pizza

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Unagi is the Japanese word for freshwater eel. It is often used to describe a Japanese dish of roasted eels. It is NOT a form of total awareness like Ross believes in an episode of Friends. Recently Pizza Hut in China put out an unagi pizza topped with grilled eel and bonito flakes.

I was hesitant to try, as I don’t usually like fish on my pizza, so I ordered a half and half pizza just in case. Unagi is quite a meaty fish though, and as a result the pizza did not taste fishy at all. In fact, I would say there were so few pieces of the eel on the pizza, I could hardly taste it. The only thing that set it apart from other pizza topping for me were the bonito flakes, which gave an interesting chewy texture.

Fear Factor – 2 / Taste Test – 6

Raw herring

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When in Rome, do as the Romans, but when in Amsterdam do as the Rotterdammers. A typical Dutch delicacy is raw herring. People generally eat it with raw onions and pickled. In Amsterdam it is cut, but in Rotterdam it’s eaten whole by taking it by the tail and simply biting into it. I found myself in Amsterdam at a fish stand, but I still asked for Rotterdam style, as that’s the touristy thing to do. I was on holiday in my own country after all.

I have to say I was a bit worried about this as I had never eaten raw herring before. In my mind I thought it was going to be fermented or sour, but it was so much better than I expected. As I dipped the herring first into the onion and then into my mouth I found the flesh to be very delicate and very sweet. The tiny bones were so soft you could just eat them and the skin was not rubbery at all. It caught me by surprise how much I enjoyed it.

Fear Factor – 5 / Taste Test – 8