Boiled Tofu Lunch Set (Ohara, Japan - May 17, 2012). This delicious and healthy vegitarian lunch set came with several types of picked vegetables. Before coming to Japan, I had eaten ramen, udon, takoyaki, okonomiyaki, sushi, tempura… but I had never tried - or even heard of - the many types of pickled vegetables that have come with almost every meal! In the yellow dish here is particularly delicious wasabi pickled…. somethings… which were so, so tasty paired with beer! :S I can’t remember if they were mushrooms or what…
Marri posted a link to this infographic and I found it really interesting - On this page, “Who Eats What” (at the very bottom), they have data on Tokyo with a note that says “we aren’t sure yet why Tokyo got such a low [healthyness] rating.”
Obviously, I have no training in stats and so I can’t begin to speculate on the science here - but what I can do is muse on my experiences with food in Japan (the plural of anecdote is data, right?).
There is meat on everything here. Seriously. I am a weekday vegetarian and I try to make healthier choices with every meal: less sugar, less salt, less animal products. But this is especially hard when everyone is gathered around a grill laden with all you can eat slices of kobe beef. And what isn’t smothered in meat has an ample dose of butter/mayonaise/sugar. My salad was actually 1/3 mayonnaise.
So when the infographic above shows Ramen and Udon, you might be picturing healthy little bowls of noodle soup. What you should imagine is a bowl a big as your head with large slices of meat floating in it. A bowl so filled with melted butter that the top of it GLISTENS with a slick of animal fat.
I’m not really being fair to Japanese cuisine. While in Kyoto, My family indulged me and we did go to a fantastic vegan restaurant (We ate delicious curry and picked vegetables which I will write more about later maybe) and I had a vegetarian boiled tofu set in Ohara which was a lot of fun because you boil it at the table. There is lots of excellent healthy, vegetarian options here in Japan. I’m just saying that when I see that in Tokyo they eat 19.1x more Udon and 27.6x more Ramen than the rest of the world - I’m no longer fooled into thinking that those dishes are by definition a healthy choice.