food reactions

I still remember my first time coming to Japan, when my host family sat me down for dinner with nothing but chopsticks to tackle an entire grilled fish complete with head, tail, and everything in between. They watched me expectantly as I stared down at my plate, unsure of where to start. Was I supposed to eat the head? Should I scrape the scales off first? Was it customary to bite into the middle, bones and all?! I hoped that one of them would start eating first, to give me some sort of clue as to what I should do, but they kindly urged me to dig on in, laughing heartily when my only response was a meek little, “How?”

It was an embarrassing experience and felt a little demeaning at the time, but the fact remains that Japanese cuisine features a lot of mainstream dishes that we simply don’t find in the Western world. While some cultural favorites like sushi, have more-or-less made their way onto the world market, common dishes such as zaru soba and shabu shabu are rarely found outside of Japan.

Keep reading for a look at some of the interesting reactions foreigners have to Japanese food, as well as some helpful how-to’s on how to proceed, should you find yourself faced with one of these unfamiliar Japanese dishes.

  • Sushi

Chuu Toro (Fatty tuna)

Sushi may not seem so special in this day and age, but when it comes to the delightful delicacies of fatty tuna, there is something left to be experienced. Just look at this man lick his fingers and thank the baby Jesus after munching on a single mouthful!

Sugiko (Salmon roe)

On the other hand, not all flavors are so well suited to a Western palate. While some might enjoy the way that salmon roe bursts inside your mouth, with its salty flavor, this man was less than impressed. It’s still quite fun to watch in a schadenfreude kind of way, though…

Uni (Sea urchin)

I think I might have stepped in on someone’s private moment. That’s quite a sexy way to eat sea urchin. Should we give you some alone time?

  • Noodles

Ramen

Admittedly, ramen are Chinese-style noodles, and serve as the go-to dish for penniless Western college students, but Japan has developed its own special service method at their popular ramen stands. This clip gives us an understanding of both the incredible taste of fresh in-store ramen as well as the steps one must take to order one’s food at the popular ramen chain, Ichiran. Don’t forget to slurp!

Ramen take two

In contrast to the last piece, these kids don’t seem to know what they’ve gotten themselves into, eating with far less grace and varied levels of enthusiasm. At least they appear to be having fun, though I might suggest a lesson in properly using chopsticks.

Zaru Soba (Cold buckwheat noodles)

Good job, girl! Figuring out how to slurp up noodles without hitting yourself in the face with them is most definitely a learned skill (I’m being serious). It’s just a shame that no one ever taught her how to eat cold soba! Word to the wise: zaru soba is meant to be dipped in sauce before being eaten.

Wanko Soba (continuously served buckwheat noodles)

What hungry man wouldn’t be happy to have a never-ending bowl of delicious buckwheat noodles? Just look at that smile!

Udon (thick rice flour noodles)

A small girl struggles to keep noodles in her mouth. Nothing is cuter.

  • Meat

Gyuu Don (Rice bowl topped with beef)

We’re not sure why this guy’s friend is so skeptical of what amounts to marinated meat piled high on top of rice, but we’re glad he was so pleasantly surprised by the flavor. Take note of the electronic vending machine used to place an order. It’s a fixture commonly found in noodle joints, cafeteria-style restaurants, and places selling rice bowls.

Yakiniku (grilled meat)

Going to a Japanese grill usually involved cooking the beef yourself, same as with Korean barbeque. What you’re less likely to find in the Korean counterpart is wagyuu on the menu. Japanese beef has a reputation for being some of the best, and while it won’t taste anything like the steaks back home the flavor is absolutely mouth-watering. Just listen to this guy’s reaction!

Shabu shabu (Japanese fondue)

And finally, as another cook-it-yourself meal, shabu shabu is a lot like fondue, but rather than wait a few minutes for the meat and vegetables to stew, the ingredients are sliced so thin that it only takes a few seconds before it’s ready to eat. These guys know how it’s done!

Japanese food may have some funky flavors and there may be some unfamiliar eating habits involved, but it’s all well worth a try. Open yourself up to the cuisine and experience new aspects of the culture. Just be prepared for a Japanese response to your experimental eating. They have a peculiar habit of finding any Westerner’s reaction to Japanese food, whether good or bad, to be inexplicably adorable.

Source: Naver Matome (Japanese)
Video links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11