We were out for dinner with a couple of friends in a Japanese restaurant. One of them has not tried Japanese food before and was very intimidated (but very curious and eager to try!). I know in her mind there are a lot of questions:
What will I order?
Will all the food be raw?
How on Earth will I be able to eat with a chopstick?
Why is the rice bowl so small?
First, there is a reason why Japanese cuisine is popular all over the world. There are a lot of options actually ‘edible’ to foreign tongue. For first timers, I won’t recommend jumping into sushi, sashimi or anything raw (unless you’re really that adventurous) – you can stick to global favorites like Chicken Teriyaki, tempura, tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlets), sukiyaki, ramen (egg noodle soup) or curry rice.
Extra reading: 100 Dishes from Japan
See? There are so many food options that is NOT raw. You can also ask for spoon and fork in all restaurants. Nobody will kill you for not using a chopstick.
Our friend is from India – a place so different from Japan, from culture to food to eating customs. The rice they eat look like this (they eat this with their hands):
She was really curious how to eat the rice using chopstick, not knowing that there is a reason: the rice in Japan is sticky, unlike the long grain Basmati variety that tends to ‘scatter’. You can easily pick up clumps of Japanese rice with the chopstick when you eat it. You can never eat Basmati rice with chopsticks otherwise it might take you forever to finish one small bowl!
That said, the short grain Japanese rice is firm and very filling than the Basmati counterpart (my opinion as well as others who have tried both), our Indian friend couldn’t believe she was already full with only a small bowl of Japanese rice!
All in all, she was delighted with her first taste of Japanese food and said she’ll come again to the restaurant with her family. I think Japan gained another fan.