The Imagery of Japanese Food

On some Japanese restaurant menus, you can see oyakodon, a chicken and egg rice dish 日本水果直送. Chicken, egg, green onions, and several other ingredients are simmered together with condiments including soy sauce and then served over rice in a large bowl. Oyakodon may taste slightly sweet due to the mirin. Mirin, which is used for cooking, is a rice wine with a very high sugar content. Eat chicken, beef, pork, or another Japanese dish that tastes sweet, but is not dessert, chances are good that the sweet taste comes from mirin.

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While this image of parent and child together on the table in front of you may not resonate with most Westerners, the image seems popular in Japan. You can also find shake oyakodon, which is salmon parent and child, on some menus too. This is salmon and roe, which are served raw, over rice. You can also find cooked salmon served together with raw salmon roe over rice. Some sushi places serve pieces of sushi with salmon and salmon roe together too. They could be combined inside a gunkan, which is how sea urchin and salmon roe are generally served. This could also be a regular piece of salmon on rice, adorned with a few salmon eggs on top.

Many Japanese seem to derive great satisfaction from these combinations of food that can be eaten in many forms. Out for sushi a while ago, my friend Fred saw shirako on the menu. Not knowing what it was, he asked.

The sushi master said that tarako, was the eggs, and shirako was the male part. Fred, knowing that tarako was cod roe, immediately put two and two together, realizing that tarako was cod sperm. Later, he found the term cod milt, which sounded much better, on the Internet. Just as most Americans prefer calamari to octopus, Fred imagined that most Americans would prefer cod milt to cod sperm, or at least be less revolted. Fred thought about this a while, and then ordered one. Now, he can’t even remember what cod sperm tasted like, just that it was neither delicious nor revolting, just another variety of sushi, perhaps a little bit on the slimy side.

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