Japanese Restaurant Menu
The theater, as you know, begins with a hanger, and restaurants in Japan with osinagaki, the menu. Externally, menus often resemble, without exaggeration, works of art. There are oshinagaki, which are written with a brush on thin rice paper in the style of famous masters of calligraphy. In many restaurants, the texts of the menu are not inferior in artistry to the design. The list of dishes sometimes resembles the classic poetic three-verses. In any case, many images from poetry migrated to Osinagaki. In autumn, for example, you will be offered momiji oroshi. Momiji is a scarlet autumn maple leaves, a traditional poetic image, and osi, literally, is something passed through a grater. The Japanese mood is also caused by a dish with a name such as tsukimi van. A van is a thick vegetable soup with meat or fish in a wooden bowl. And tsukimi is an autumn ritual of admiring the reflection of the moon in water-flooded rice fields. Again in the name of the dish is a hint of the season. Late autumn is associated with boiled shigure-ni dishes. Sigure – translated autumn drizzle, but not cooking.
Menus with such names are read as an ode to autumn, especially if you know Japanese poetic images well. When autumn goes into winter and the “icicles” of Japanese daikon radish pick up the peak of their taste, furofuki (finely chopped boiled daikon with tofu bean curd) appear in the menu of national restaurants. The name of this dish is associated with steam coming from a hot bath, so beloved by the Japanese on dank evenings. This dish, typical of late autumn, is adjacent to mizore ae. Mizore – rain with snow, and ae – vegetable salad, sometimes with fish and soybean paste. It necessarily contains a grated snow-white daikon with a sweet sauce. The dish is usually designed in such a way that outwardly it creates the impression of wet snow, which adheres to the bare branches of trees, covers the city streets.
Poetic names on the menu that evoke the image and memories correspond to the developed Japanese aesthetic taste, but they also carry specific information about the dish. A tsukimi van will almost certainly contain a perfectly round egg cooked in a special way, without shell, in boiling water or some other component that resembles the full moon in shape. Even at McDonald’s restaurants in Japan, for many years in the autumn they have been offering a hamburger with an egg and call it tsukimi baga (i.e. a burger – a cutlet). Momiji orosi, as a rule, says that the dish includes bright red pepper with grated radish as a seasoning for fried and boiled foods. Sigure-ni warns gourmets that they should prepare for a sharp, highly peppered ginger-style dish.
In addition to seasonal and poetic hints, many names of dishes offered in the restaurant often go back to legendary and fairy-tale characters. The most famous of these names is associated with cappuccino-loving water kappa. A popular type of sushi is called kappa maki. This is a handful of rice wrapped in dried nori seaweed with a cucumber in the middle.
Penetrated the menu of Japanese restaurants and two popular characters of Japanese folklore, cunning crooks – kitsune (foxes) and tanuki (badger). The links on the kitsune menu are a direct hint that there will be something fried, golden brown in the dish. Many tales say about tanuki that in the full moon they like to expose their thick, drum-tight bellies, demonstrating satiety. However, if you choose soba tanuki on the menu, this does not mean that you will be served something satisfying, for example, that there will be pieces of meat or shrimp in soba (buckwheat noodles). Tanuki are insidious deceivers. Therefore, it is worth it to be surprised to find pieces of batter fried in oil in a plate instead of shrimp. Tasty, but far from satisfying. This is close to the tricks of the tanuki deceiver in fairy tales. True, in reputable restaurants such jokes with the names of dishes are very rare.
Often popular dishes are associated with the names of their creators. You can recall that sandwiches, a piece of ham or meat between two slices of bread, are named after their “inventor” Count Sandwich. In Japan, the monk Takuan Osho, who lived in the 17th century, entered the culinary history as the author of the pickling process. Today, on the menu you can find takuan zuke – pickled daikon using special technology.
It is difficult to cover all the features of the names of dishes of Japanese cuisine. The fact is that in different parts of Japan, dishes with the same name can vary greatly in terms of their constituents and taste. Therefore, having come to a restaurant for the first time somewhere in an unfamiliar place, a foreigner, and a Japanese who is not used to frequent trips, should rely not so much on poetry of sounding as on luck.