Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Uma! (うまっ!)


So if you're familiar with real Japanese cuisine, you probably know yaki-niku (焼肉). They bring out a bunch of raw meat and you grill it at the table and eat it. Yeah, that's not what this is.

日本料理よく知ったら、確かに焼肉知ってるやろう。生肉をもらってテーブルで自分で焼いて食うんだね。これは焼肉・・・じゃないんだ。

This, my friends, is basashi (馬刺し), a specialty of Kumamoto-ken, one of Japan's southernmost provinces. I was in Kyushu this weekend visiting someone and we swung down to Kumamoto to sample this delicacy. Oh, in case you're wondering, basashi is horse. And it is eaten raw.

これは熊本県の「ばさし」って名物料理だ。最近の(三練習*三連休は、九州に住んでいる友達を訪ねてて、一緒に熊本に行った。知りたかったら、「ばさし」っては馬だ。で、生で食べられてる。

So yeah, that's not my tongue. 僕の舌じゃないよ。I was so hungry that I actually ate a horse (アメリカンジョーク). ばさしはうまっ(日本のジョーク - ありがとう、ディラン)!

I'm sure for a lot of people this kind of food is quite intimidating. Since I like my burgers rare or medium rare, though, this wasn't too scary for me. Even so, it was a little daunting at first. We had some of what I assume was flank meat and also some liver. It was actually pretty tasteless. You're supposed to eat it with sweet or salty sauce, mixed with ginger and scallions, or with oil and salt. Maybe I'll eat it again sometime. And with that, I've officially eaten all the special Japanese foods that I have sought to: whale, blowfish, and horse, along with a slew of special Japanese foods that I haven't sought: shirako, shrimp heads and tails, kelp...

What's next? Well, it isn't unique to Japan, but I hear you can get deer meat somewhere. And you know I have a score to settle with those bastards.

食べてよかったよ。多分たくさんのアメリカ人は、こんな食べ物が結構怖いやな。でもハンバーガーなら、僕はレアかミディアムレアで好きだから怖くはなかった。それでも、最初はちょっとてごわかった。脇腹肉か何かとレバーを食べた。実は無味だったんだ。だから甘口か辛口のソースと生姜とネギで、油と塩で食べるべきだ。まあ、また食べるかもしらへんよ。それで、特別な食べたい日本料理を食べてきたよ: 鯨や河豚や馬刺し。後別に食べたくなかった食べ物も: 白子や海老の頭としっぽや昆布。

次はどう?日本に特有じゃないけど多分どこか鹿肉を食べられる。あいつに貸しがあるなぁ。

*Thanks for the correction, Yoshie!


7 comments:

  1. I can't believe you've eaten whale, dude. That is a mega fail.

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  2. I know it's a controversial issue, but I'll just say two things: first, I made sure it wasn't an endangered species first.

    Second, I appreciate the arguments of people who say whales shouldn't be eaten, but I also think a big part of it is cultural. Jews and Muslims don't eat pork, just as Hindus don't eat beef and many Buddhists don't eat meat for religious reasons. In America we don't eat stuff like money brains and snake guts because we think that's gross (and some people I'm sure morally object to eating monkies), but people do in some parts of the world.

    That said, you're of course welcome to your own opinion and feelings on the issue.

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  3. You know you've already had deer meat (venison) many times in New York, right?

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  4. Yeah, but Japanese deer and I have business.

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  5. I've never eaten whale, but I'm definitely going to try it while I'm here. I doubt trying it once will affect whales as a species. Or is someone going to quote that "no raindrop blames itself for the flood" line at me?

    Great post by the way. Coincidentally I had horse last night "prepared" the same way you had it. It just tasted like cow to me though. I didn't know what it was when I ordered it since the menu had the kanji 「桜肉」and not 「馬肉」. So just so everyone knows, when you order the "cherry blossom meat" your ordering horse!

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  6. Oh nice - where did you get horse? Yeah, I actually asked Yoshie why it had the sakura kanji and she speculated that maybe it is packed (shipped or whatever?) with cherry tree wood or something like that. Kind of like when you grill or smoke meat, different woods can bring out different flavors? Not sure, though.

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  7. You know, apart from the infamous Kujira-ya in Shibuya, the only places I've ever seen whale on the menu explicitly has been dumdumDAH! "foreigner friendly" bars. Yeah. Always in katakana up on the specials board, the chalk melding and engorged into the board from an indefinite number of years of perpetual "weekly" specialdom. Unless its been going under the euphamism of "bacon" elsewhere with the "kujira" bit only implied then I'm beginning to suspect a staggeringly large proportion of eaters (excluding those little townships where it is still cultural) are in fact foreign tourists actively seeking it.

    Blue Shoe:
    I swear I've seen horse sashimi on the menu at a chain izukaya. Might've even been Za-Watami.

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