If you know a little about eating in Japan, you know about the set menus, particularly popular at lunchtime in many eateries all over Japan.  Its called a Teishoku, or set meal, always including rice, pickles and miso soup, plus a ‘main’ dish.  The main dish varies from meat, like pork cutlets, to grilled fish, to sashimi, the kind of fish depending on availability and season.  All kinds of side dishes can also be included, including a variety of stewed vegetables.  The price of this set meal is usually very reasonable.  It is understandable why the ‘Teishoku’ is such a popular meal all over Japan.

Pictured above is a ‘Okonomiyaki Teishoku’. Okonomiyaki is a yummy Japanese food, a meal in itself, originating from the west, in Osaka.  As you can see, it is pancake like and is filled with cabbage and leek, stirred directly into the batter.  There are Okonomiyaki restaurants all over Japan where you sit at grills and whatever kind you order, seafood, pork, or beef, for instance, is grilled right in front of you!  It is smothered in something like whorchester sauce then mayonnaise, then sprinkled with aonori, which is crushed, dried, seaweed and dried bonita fish flakes, a meal in itself.

If you live in Japan for any length of time, you probably heard the differences in how things are, eaten, cooked or prepared, from east, the Kansai area, to west, the Kanto area.  (Basically the difference between Osaka and Tokyo cuisine, oh, but Kyoto is a whole other story!)   This doesn’t even include different eating cultures of the northwest, Tohoku, or Hokkaido, among other areas, but we don’t have time to get into those today.  There is, no doubt, a constant, amiable competition as to the best way that food should be eaten with contenders from all over Japan with varied regional tastes.

Back to the east west thing, for instance, did you know that Kansai curry rice is made with beef, and Kanto curry rice is made with pork?  In the east, unless otherwise specified, curry rice is made with pork.  With this difference comes a pride, so that each side swears by their way!  With this kind of thing in mind, it is no wonder that Japanese media is swamped with food programs, and articles!  Understandably so!  Food culture in Japan runs so deeply and so broadly that the information is endless!  Often times you have to be prepared to see mouth-watering footage of a variety of dishes.  It is good advice not to watch TV on an empty stomach on any given Sunday afternoon!

Where does this leave our Okonomiyaki Teishoku?… as food culture is a subject greatly discussed and marveled over in Japan,  the gist of this article is that only Osaka-ites would think to put okonomiyaki in a teishoku!  Of course easterners are willing to try it, as illustrated here, but there  is something just not right about it for Tokyo-ites.  When the okonomiyaki set meal is placed in front of him on the table the Tokyo-ite will partake of it with relish, enjoying its taste immensely, but still  it is just not right.

Considering that okonomiyaki is made from wheat and is a pancake, a bread, in effect, it just doesn’t set right to eat it with rice.  It is too much of the  carbohydrate!  Kind of like eating mashed potatoes and corn, but hey, that is good country cooking, at least in America!  Maybe good country cooking the world over is a little heavy on the carbs!  Perhaps Kansai food culture is a bit more down home country cooking than Kanto.  Who knows!  It won’t do to offend anybody over this, so here is the complete photo shoot of this definitely western Japan set menu, Okonomiyaki Teishoku.  You must try it next time you are in Osaka!

Here is Okonomiyaki being eaten with rice.  What do you think, East or West?

[ Read in Japanese ]