In a country where only 24% of the population even have a passport (compared to 45% of Americans and 78% of Brits), the closest most Japanese have ever been to “foreign” food is the restaurant down the block. Not surprisingly, this black hole of experience plays out in some very amusing, sometimes surprisingly tasty, but always-entertaining ways. Here are some of my favorite (and not-so-favorite) foreign food fails of Japan:
Looks foreign, without any of those pesky “foreign” flavors
Flavors that are never eaten together anywhere else in the world
There are only two kinds of food in the world: Japanese and not-Japanese
And then there’s this cheap lunch item that’s a giveaway for which “foreign” tastes are beloved in Japan, and which are not:
(My one caveat when urging visitors to try one of Japan’s “foreign” restaurants if they want a truly “Japanese” experience is to try anything but “Mexican.” There’s some spice—cumin is my guess—that Japanese diners really don’t like, so every Mexican restaurant in Tokyo eventually substitutes Italian herbs if they want to stay in business. This makes for a distinctly YIKES of an experience if you were hoping for genuine south-of-the-border goodness.)
Unclear on the concept
And finally, foreign food as a blank canvas
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