By Michelle “Ms. Geek” Klein-Hass
Americans assume that their taste in food is universal, considering that American cuisine is a hodge-podge of cuisines from all over the world. However, they would be sadly mistaken. When one considers that, at least where processed food is concerned, adding lots of salt, fat and sugar is an almost universal go-to strategy. It’s tempting for North American palates, but when Asians try American foods, they often consider our foods overkill.
Let’s look at what Japanese people consider gross about American food.
Sugar is appreciated in Japan, but not at the level we here Stateside use it. We tend to over-sweeten everything from our candy to our teriyaki sauce. Chocolate, say, from Meiji is a bit less sweet than chocolate from Hershey’s. And the idea of a super-sweet matcha latte makes some Japanese very upset. You see matcha in Japanese traditional sweets now, (wagashi) but it’s a recent addition to the traditional craft.
And the one place that offends the Japanese the most about our use of sugar? In rice pudding.
The British, American and Mexican love of rice pudding (Arroz con Leche) is absolutely considered something puke-worthy. Mochi notwithstanding, rice is not considered something you eat with sweet food as a dessert. The special sweet rice that is pounded for Mochi is not used for anything else in Japan. They also frown on the American practice of pouring soy sauce on plain rice at the table. Rice is part of Shinto belief, it’s deeply ingrained in Japanese life, quite literally their staff of life. The subtle flavor of rice, completely unadorned and very fresh, is the basic building block of Washoku. (Japanese traditional cuisine.)
Speaking of Mexican food, Mexican food has been a hard sell in Japan because traditionally beans are used in sweets like Daifuku (a big mochi confection stuffed with sweetened azuki beans) and Dorayaki, (a sweet made with two pancakes stuck together with the same sweetened azuki bean paste) not in main dishes or side dishes.
The idea of refried beans and burritos stuffed with rice and beans is very odd to them. Most Japanese palates are also not very fond of strong levels of spice or garlic, although Korean food and Szechuan and Hunan Chinese food are not unfamiliar there. They are also not very into cheese.
They particularly don’t like American Cheese, that mainstay of American fast food. It tastes waxy and tasteless to their tastes. IMHO I don’t blame them on that point. But the more traditionally-made European style cheeses also offend, particularly those that have a distinctive odor.
And then there’s root beer. (And licorice. )
I’m talking about these in the same segment because the common complaint with Asian tastes about root beer and licorice is that these American favorites all taste like traditional medicinal ingredients. Traditional Chinese medicine uses ginger, sarsaparilla bark, licorice and a number of other strong-tasting roots to make healing potions. While ginger is used — sparingly — in Asian cuisine, the other medicinal roots are not normally used in cooking.
Here’s a video of Japanese friends of an American expat being challenged to drink root beer. All but two of them are gagged by the taste.
Now, to be fair, there are things that are eaten in Japan that are almost universally hated by Americans who try it. One of them is Natto. It’s fermented soybeans, traditionally eaten for breakfast, but also is served as a topping for sushi.
Here’s another video, this time of the same guy who tried to turn his Japanese friends onto root beer, attempting to eat a piece of Natto Gunkan (battleship style) sushi at a Kaiten-Sushi restaurant. Can he hang with it? Check it out.
Here’s another video, from Buzzfeed, where typical Americans of varying ethnicities try foods that are loved in various parts of Asia, but unfamiliar in the US.
Please enjoy a few more videos where Asians and Americans try foods uncommon in their parts of the world!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wq9r2dmWlJo Celery is not to Japanese tastes.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bf11-ruYgOo Korean girls try American snacks.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gfok7gnjhI4 Americans try Korean snacks.
Sources: http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/35sz6h/japanese_people_of_reddit_what_western_foods_seem/ http://en.rocketnews24.com/2015/05/22/japanese-people-reveal-the-6-western-foods-they-find-most-disgusting/