Ten cups: island cuisine

Ten cups: island cuisine
Ten cups: island cuisine

Returning to the mini-series covering January to March 2022…

After our Valentine’s Day photo session in Boma, we drove to a bed-and-restaurant overlooking the coast. Dining delights awaited.

A student amused me once by reporting that most people visited Japan for the food. Though I suspect the survey results may have misled by allowing respondents to select multiple answers, I would have to admit that my name would have added to their number. Friends persuaded me to risk another overseas move in part by singing the praises of Japanese food.

This restaurant did not disappoint. “That’s a lot of raw,” one of the other JETs remarked as I gleefully welcomed plates of local sashimi and wild boar carpaccio. Japan’s stringent hygiene standards have indulged my weakness for undercooked things (as my brother calls it): not only sushi, but raw eggs and red meat abound. In Amami I tasted horse sashimi, and at the local grocery store I picked up a prospect that had fascinated me ever since I first heard of it from a friend — chicken sashimi.

The sheer outrageousness of eating raw chicken appealed to the code of adventurous eating that I have cultivated since my childhood travels as a military brat. Try anything once, a maxim gifted from my parents, had driven me to munch on grubs in Ecuador. Even in less exotic locales, I scan the menus in search of something I haven’t sampled before – like beef lung at a ramen restaurant. The chicken sashimi didn’t offend my senses, but I understand why fish is more popular. The dark meat loses its charm in stringiness, while the breast reminded me of tuna… but I couldn’t shake the feeling that it would taste better cooked.

The second tenet of my code stipulates a preference for food in its native climate. I had tasted dragon fruit before, at the Korean supermarkets in northern Virginia, but the specimens here surprised me. Instead of white flesh dotted with black seeds (incongruous with their flamboyant exteriors, I’d always felt), the fruit here splits on deep fuschia. The rarest, my teachers tell me, show golden inside.

Though it has served me well over the years, my policy nearly led me to a choice I would have regretted: giving Western desserts the cold shoulder. Why eat cake in Japan, when you could have mochi? I erred. The pastries here are heavenly, particularly if you favor creamy fillings. Ice cream sundaes, while often thinner in texture this far south of the country’s dairy powerhouse, Hokkaido, nonetheless impress with their inventiveness. Sometimes trying something once isn’t enough.

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