Since arriving in Japan, I've discovered many Japanese foods I like. Joe and I are regular customers at the local sushi restaurant, and last winter there were many cold days when I enjoyed a steaming hot bowl of udon, these deliciously thick noodles like the kind you'd expect in grandma's homemade chicken noodle soup. The tempura (deep fried vegetables or seafood) is also super tasty though probably super sinful. I recommend the Just Hungry blog for many yummy Japanese recipes.
While testing my palate, I've also put many "foods" in my mouth that I never dreamed I'd eat. Any number of fish eggs (roe), shrimp with the eyes and legs still attached, a sea snail and a half-cooked crab leg that very nearly made me hurl in the middle of a restaurant. Just to name a few that come to mind.
Often, eating these things has not really been a matter of choice. Well, the crab leg was a choice, but I didn't realize it wasn't totally cooked. The other things were served to me by Japanese who might have been offended if I didn't try them. The snail was actually kinda decent. The fish eggs I can do without.
I've grown so accustomed to the idea of eating things that ought not be edible that it didn't really phase me when my new Japanese friend from the gym called me to invite me to dinner someplace serving, she warned, food I may or may not be willing to consume.
"I wasn't sure how to say it in English," she said, "So I looked up the word in my dictionary. I'm not sure if I'll say it right but I think it's called...pig..." A pause.
Silence while reality set in. "Innards?" I said, half in disbelief.
Pig intestines. I laughed. Then said sure. What the hell. I'd eat pig innards. Bring it on.
So a couple of Saturdays ago Joe and I met her downtown and headed to a nabe (pronounced "NAH-bay") restaurant. A nabe is an earthenware pot that they set on a portable burner in the middle of the table. This is our nabe at home. And Joe with his winter beard.
You're supposed to toss in some raw meat and mushrooms and veggies and cabbage and water for broth and let it cook right there at the table. The stuff in the restaurant looked a lot better than what we cobbled together at home.
I admit to being a bit apprehensive about the pig innards, but excited to try something new, too. My general take on exotic but seemingly disgusting food is that there are a whole lot of people out there who seem to think it's good, so it's got to have some sort of redeeming quality.
After all the stuff cooked in the pot for a bit, I spooned some out into a bowl and sprinkled some red spicy seasoning over it.
It tasted like pork, but chewy. Once you got used to the chewy part, it wasn't bad at all. Pretty tasty, actually.
And now I can say I've eaten pig intestines. Not sure how to feel about that.