So last weekend, I was presented with several dining options, all seemingly derived from American origins.
First, as shown above, are corn dogs. At this particular 祭り (matsuri), or festival, were hundreds of small selling stands, each with their own offerings: desserts, trinkets, grilled meats, etc.; and of course there were several stands with corn dogs…curiously, sometimes named “French Dog”, others “American Dog”. Both sell completely identical food; essentially the same as corn dogs in the US.
But the one stand that interested me was one labelled “Jumbo Dogs”. Not only are they noticeably larger (roughly 50%), but the added girth requires a heavier-duty skewer as well. In this case, the stick was almost beefy enough for billiards use.
I was interested in this stand not because of the size…in fact during my past year-plus here, I’ve noticed my eating habits changing to appreciate smaller servings, versus the American method of eating giant helpings with big mouthfuls. No, I was interested in this because of the sweat-inducing habañero sauce applied generously instead of ketchup or mustard. It makes my fingers, lips, and tongue burn like almost nothing else in this country can. It’s a special treat I get but once a year, and only at this festival.
The second “American” food laid before me was KFC. It’s no secret that in the US, I don’t eat fast food or anything like it. KFC is an especially notorious restaurant, not only for their frequent quality control issues, but also for ranking as one of the most unhealthy places to eat in America. So you can imagine my lack of enthusiasm for sampling whatever they serve in this country.
As it turns out, the Japanese are much more strict and keen about quality and safety when it comes to their food; the same dodgy tricks and ingredients food companies get away with in America simply don’t cut it here. That’s not to say they have a clean record; recently some things like HFCS have been slowly filtering into the processed foods, especially breads/carbs.
The healthier aspects of food here and numerous online accounts vouching for it were at least encouraging. And after reluctantly trying a bit, I can say that KFC in Japan is: totally edible.
But that’s as far as I’ll go. I prefer the native friend chicken, 唐揚げ (karaage), by a very wide margin. I will also say that KFC is really just a name; the taste, recipe, and indeed preparation are very, very different from its Kentucky origins and shares almost nothing in common, just the “FC” part…no “K”.
I don’t anticipate ever eating any more of it, but it is an interesting experience/experiment nonetheless. If you’re a KFC fan, you have nothing to lose by trying it for yourself should you land in Japan someday.