The University of Iowa

The Way to a Man's Heart

December 1st, 2015

By Luke Bader*

Hey Everyone!

Let me tell you all something. I’ve been here in Japan for a little over two months now. During this time I have seen some amazing things, made some great friends, and had some incredible experiences. But do you know what has really gotten me excited during my time in this wondrous land?

If you haven’t been able to guess by the title, it’s the food…the absolutely wonderful food.

Back home, when I tell people how much I love Japanese food, I usually get this response: “I like trying new foods, but I can’t stand the thought of eating raw fish.” It’s usually around this point I have to refrain from putting my hand to my face and slowly shaking my head. The truth is people, there is so much more to Japanese cuisine than the ever popular sushi and sashimi.

WARNING: You may want to eat something before you continue reading or risk getting drool on your keyboard.

photo of katsudon, a Japanese dish

Homemade Katsudon with veggie tempura and miso soup! My host-parents are awesome!
  • Katsudon (カツ丼)
    • This is, by far, on my list favorite Japanese dishes. Simply put, Katsudon is bowl dish made mainly of steamed rice, fried egg, and tonkatsu (pork cutlet) which can have an assortment of condiments based on your preference. I’ll be honest. I’ve had this a few times, and if I even happen to smell this on the street coming from a small diner, I’m always tempted to stop in for a bowl. Luckily I have enough self-control or my wallet would be a little lighter and I’d be a little heavier.

photo of yakisoba, a Japanese dish

Getting ready to fry up some yakisoba! Yum!!!
  • Yakisoba (焼きそば)
    • For those of you who don’t know ‘soba’ is a noodle made from Japanese buckwheat (Although today many dishes use noodles made from flour as well). Of the many different styles of dishes I’ve had here that have included soba, yakisoba is my favorite. So, what is yakisoba? Probably the best way to describe it to my friends back home is that it is essentially Japanese stir-fry. Again, this is one of my personal favorites. Yakisoba can be made in a variety of ways, but my favorite includes some type of meat (typically beef or pork), a variety of vegetables (cabbage, carrots, peppers, onions, etc.), and a type of soba sauce.
      • Fun Fact: Yakisoba can also be used as festival food. Once, at an Asian culture event at the university, a club I belong to (Japanese Students and Scholars Club (JSSC)) made yakisoba buns (Google it and thank me later).
  • Tempura (てんぷら)
    • Okay, I confess, tempura is probably a fairly commonly known dish, but I can’t help but mention it here. Why? Simply, it’s just that delicious. Tempura is a Japanese dish that consists of a variety of food that has been battered and fried. Arguably the most popular form of tempura is shrimp tempura but there are so many more options and all are equally delicious. With tempura you can use squash, mushrooms, eggplant, asparagus, peppers, carrots, and green beans. People…if I had heard of tempura when I was five years old I would have had no problem eating my vegetables.

photo of Mos burgers

Be careful McDonald's... Mos Burger is gaining on you!
  • Burgers (バガー)
    • I know what you’re thinking. Burgers are typically an American thing. But let me tell you friends, we should really borrow some ideas from Japan in this regard. In Japan, the top burger joint is obviously McDonald’s (There’s no escaping them). But right behind McDonald’s is a chain restaurant called “Mos Burger”             (モスバーガー). Being in Japan, this place has some pretty unique options, such as the ‘Tatsuta-age Chicken Rice Burger’ and the ‘Hokkaido Croquette Burger’. Some of these might sound odd or look a little funny, but trust me when I say your taste buds will thank you later.
      • As a side note on burgers. American McDonald’s could learn a thing or two. Example: Here in Japan, they have veggie burgers (nice for any of your vegetarian friends) and shrimp burgers. Why are we so behind on this people?

Needless to say, I am definitely going to be trying out cooking some of these wonderful dishes when I get back (with katsudon at the top of my list!).

So tell me people! What are some your favorite foreign dishes? Or if you are already in a foreign country enjoying the local cuisine, what kinds of foods do you miss from home?

Thanks for reading everyone! まったね!


Quick Fact:

  • In Japan, pretty much everywhere you can buy something (restaurants, grocery stores, book shops, etc.) you should know how to handle your money. In Japan, instead of directly handing your money directly to the cashier, there is almost always a small tray where you should put your money. This is done for a few reasons (from what I’ve been told); for possible sanitary reasons (some cashiers wear gloves), and also for practical purposes. Money up to 500 yen (about $5) is in coin form so it makes it easier to count out on a tray.

*Luke Bader is a senior majoring in international studies with a minor in Japanese and a certificate in writing at the University of Iowa. This semester, the Jesup, IA native is studying abroad on the USAC Nagasaki Program in Japan.