When I first met my husband Brad, he used to think that all Asian food was Chinese. I wish I were kidding, but it’s true! I was well on my way to becoming a true “foodie” after living and feasting on a variety of foods in Chicago during my college years. I made it my mission to introduce Brad to more diversified food after learning of his limited exposure.
First I tried to introduce Thai food and sushi, because it was what I was really into at the time. Of course, the hubs was not interested until one night I made myself Pad Thai from a box (it was a freebie in a swag bag). It was okay, but nothing fantastic. Little did I know, it was the turning point in our food relationship. Brad decided to be adventurous, which was really unusual for him, but he tried it, loved it and wanted more! I didn’t let the opportunity pass, so the next night we were daring and ate at a Thai Restaurant. Shortly thereafter, we became friends with another couple (one was Japanese) who really enjoyed sushi as well. Yay for me, because they convinced the hubs to try it… of course it didn’t hurt that his brother was stationed in Japan at the time and loved sushi as well.
Fast forward about eight years to our arrival in Japan. We met some new people on base who told us there was a really good Ramen restaurant outside the gate, and our first thought was “Ramen, really!?!” We thought that ramen was simply the plastic wrapped dried noodles we bought at the commissary. We had no idea how popular or how complicated traditional Japanese ramen really is… we were so naive. I was proud that Brad willing to go out and truly experience a local restaurant and their cuisine.
One of my first outings with my daughter was dining at the Shinyokohama Ramen Museum. I mean, WOW a whole museum dedicated to these wonderful noodles and savory broths, I was amazed at how delicious my lunch was! My eighteen month old devoured the small bowl I gave her and HAD to have more. The most unique part of my experience was the ordering: it’s almost like ordering through a vending machine. You simply walk up to the kiosk, select the type of broth you want, and any extras like additional meat, rice, gyoza, drinks, etc… then you give the receipt to the food runner or cook and it’s brought to your table. It’s a pretty brilliant system.
Sushi has since become one of Brad’s favorite foods. As we got more adventurous, we made our way to the nearest mall to experience our first sushi-go-round. We were so nervous!! I mean, we were in a foreign country, we couldn’t speak or read the language and we were afraid we weren’t going to be able to figure out what we were eating. Lucky for us, many of the nearby restaurants had picture menus and the locals were really awesome at trying to help Americans figure things out. We had been to several sushi-go-rounds since and have even discovered the 100¥ go-rounds. It’s a place where, you guessed it, everything is 100¥ or about $1.30/US!!
Our first trip to the 100¥ sushi, we managed to use the “electronic” hostess, which is a touch screen with Japanese characters. There was a sign in English above the machine, but I felt like a pro, especially after witnessing a local Japanese family being assisted by the cashier when they needed help. But there’s something even cooler about this place! You can select your plate off the moving conveyer belt while at your table or sitting at the counter; order from a a touch screen; get your dessert or drinks from a self serve fridge or serve yourself green tea from the hot water spout that is at each table and counter. I know it’s hard to believe, but it gets even cooler!
When you’re finished eating, you simply place your dishes into a slot at the end of your table under the conveyor belt. The touch screen automatically updates itself with the number of plates deposited and voila! Your dining experience has come to an end… it’s way more exciting than I’m sure it sounds!! And the fish… it’s so fresh and delicious, melts in your mouth!
Now that we’ve become a family of adventurous eaters, we’ve incorporated some of the local cuisine into our meals at home. My youngest eats the occasional packaged Japanese food bought from town. She enjoys rice porridge with flatfish and seaweed, while both my daughters enjoy the different flavored rice crackers. My two year old has even been known to snack on seaweed and say, “mmm… tasty!
In the fifteen months since we’ve arrived, we’ve definitely broadened our horizons. We have enjoyed Japanese curry, Soba noodles and Korean BBQ, which is now one of our favorites. We shopped and ate at Yokohama’s Chinatown, delved into Italian restaurants with a Japanese twist, and have discovered that 7-11’s are the best for Onigiri picnic lunches. If I elaborate on any of these I’ll be writing a novel, so stay tuned for more on my food adventures. I’m so glad that Brad is now on board with exploring new cuisines, thankfully, because otherwise he might starve. I know he will enjoy the love of authentic food like I do, but I’m so proud of him and grateful that I can now call him an adventurous eater!Have you gone outside of your comfort zone thanks to a PCS or TAD? Why not? You may find you love it!