Japanese food is known for its simple way of dealing with ingredients and sophisticated presentation. The older I get, the more I appreciate traditional Japanese food. A simple meal consisting of a small piece of cured grilled salmon, cooked rice, pickled cucumber, and miso soup with white turnip is a treat to me. But Japanese also love Japanized food, foreign food modified in a way to suit Japanese tastes.
Three popular foods in Japan of foreign origin are curry rice, ramen, and hamburger. Curry rice obviously originated in India; more exactly, according to wiki, it came through the U.K to Japan. That’s why many Japanese people consider of curry rice as Western food.
Japanese curry rice is pretty different from the Indian precursor. Almost always the ingredients include beef (!), carrots, onions and potatoes. The sauce is gravy like and starchy. If I feed it to Indians, it would be hard for them to think the food used to be an Indian food. Still, it is delicious and very popular in Japan. I cook it often, because my husband and son love it.
Ramen is chinese style noodles. Some of the instant noodles in a cup are named “ramen” even in the United States. After originally being introduced from China, ramen was developed into various variations in Japan. Some use a soy sauce base, some use a pork soup base, and others use a chicken soup base. Ingredients are also widely varied.
It used to be difficult to find a decent ramen shop even in New York. (Here a trick to turn spaghetti to ramen noodles at home.) But over the years many gourmet ramen shops popped up. If you are willing to wait on line and pay over $12, you can find a good ramen shop in New York now.
I remembered that the first McDonald’s opened in Japan in 1971. But even before McDonald’s, Japanese were already familiar with home made hamburgers. Japanese hamburgers are not what Americans think of. It’s made of ground beef, chopped onions, bread crumbs, and eggs. The ingredients are mixed and shaped like patties, cooked, and served with thick Worcestershire-like sauce.
When I made them for my husband and son, they barely ate them, and refused to call them “hamburgers.” They insisted on calling the food “round meat loaf.” Actually, I found that the type of food is called Salisbury steak in the United States.
Those food are all introduced relatively recently to Japan, but they are so heavily modified in order to satisfy the particular tastes of the Japanese palate. They have a special place in Japanese hearts. We do love them dearly.