POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, January 22, 2012 Share
After spending 3-years in Osaka, Japan and finally returning to Tampa, my biggest disappointment is the lack of real Japanese cooking in Tampa. The Tampa Bay area has a small Japanese population so it is understandable. However, to the hundreds of Japanese students who study English at USF or Eckerd College, the lack of native cooking is unforgivable. Almost any given Japanese restaurant has the same boring two choices: chicken or steak teriyaki. The sushi is so Americanized at sushi bars that is it not worth pursuing. It is just as bad as craving real Mexican food at any given Taco Bell. There are a few options available to the adventurous diner. One is to fly back to Japan just to get something good to eat. The other is to join the Tampa Japanese Food Meetup.
The Tampa Japanese Food Meetup was recently created by Ron Shigemura to carter to people who want to experience real Japanese food and not some watered down imitation. Shigemura is a retired chef, along with his good friend Shige, who put time and dedication into creating delicious Japanese foods. No Japanese restaurant in all of Florida offers this. You can try real sushi, sukiyaki, nabe, and many other dinners. Everytime I attend a meetup dinner, I find that I learn something. Just when I thought I knew it all, something unknown is there to be discovered.
Last nightís dinner was a great success with over 20-people attending. Diners started out with delicious appetizers such as yakitori, grilled chicken skewered, along with skewered vegetables, and mushrooms. Also available was kareage, fried chicken, gyoza, Chinese dumplings, and the favorite of beer drinkers, edamame. Next was three main courses to sample and enjoy. All were nabe which means one pot dish. There was Ishikari Nabe, a popular dish from Hokkaido in the north of Japan that has salmon stewed with miso, potatoes and different vegetables. Ever wonder how sumo wrestlers get so big? Then try the second main dish, Chankonabe that has meatballs, chicken, pork, udon noodles and many vegetables. The Sumo wrestler skips breakfast, in order to practice. Lunch is one pot of Chankonabe and six bottles of beer followed by hours of sleep. The same thing is repeated for dinner. But just having one or more servings isnít going to hurt you. It is eating the entire pot and resting that does it. The last item is the most famous and generally found in Japanese restaurants all over the world, Sukiyaki. Meaning cook as you like in English, Sukiyaki usually has thin strips of beef, green onions, Chinese cabbage, Chrysanthemum leaves, and shirataki noodles. The traditional way to eat Sukiyaki is to crack open a raw egg and beat it into a small bowl. Then you pick up pieces and dip into the raw egg. To me this is the best way to eat Sukiyaki.
After dinner was a raffle, with lots of fun prizes, followed by dessert. The main dessert was cheesecake with various fresh fruit toppings. It is very hard to find Japanese cooking of this high quality without taking a trip to Japan. So if you want to taste what Japanese food really is, home cooking is your best option in Tampa.
"The Asian Aperture" is ©2012 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Crazed Fanboy are ©2012 by Nolan B. Canova and Terence Nuzum.
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