One of my favorite things about Japan is how food companies and restaurants like to try crazy and wacky ideas. No idea is too strange to try. Keep your eyes open, and you'll catch some interesting food mashups.
"Ice Cucumber Pepsi"
A while back, Pepsi in Japan released "Ice Cucumber Pepsi." Why they thought mixing carbonation with anything that resembles the taste of cucumber is beyond me. One Japanese person I talked with said that for Japanese, a chilled cucumber is something Japanese like to eat to cool down during the summer. Now that I think of it, I have seen it at food stalls at Japanese festivals.
Japanese food stall or "yatai" (屋台) selling chilled cucumber
It was a crazy combination, but that didn't stop people from trying it and posting their reactions on YouTube. You can still search "Ice Cucumber Pepsi" today.
Following that, Pepsi released "Shiso Pepsi." What is shiso, you might ask? Well, it's that broad, minty leaf the Japanese like to garnish sushi and sashimi with.
Sashimi garnished with shiso
I personally liked the taste, but other foreigners I talked with told me the taste was comparable to what they imagined Pledge, or any other cleanser tasted like.
Grilled corn KitKat
A while back, I wrote a post on the various KitKat flavors put out only in Japan. You can check out a list of crazy, wacky versions of KitKat here.
"Napolitan Flavor Garigari Kun"
By far, the craziest mash-up I’ve seen in my life as a Japanese resident has been “Napolitan Garigari-kun” (ナポリタン・ガリガリ君). “Garigari-kun” is a kind of popsicle bar that has a hard outer layer, and a soft, slushy inner layer put out by Akagi Dairy (赤城乳業, akagi nyugyo).
A normal "soda" flavored garigari popsicle
The word “garigari” is an idiophonic adjective which describes the crunchy, grainy texture of the slush inside.
A garigari popsicle is hard on the outside,
soft and slushy on the inside
Their signature popsicle is “soda” flavored (“Soda” is a sweet Japanese flavor that is supposed to invoke the taste of “ramune,” an artificially flavored carbonated drink.), but every year, they try new and different flavors. “Napolitan Garigari-kun” is ANYTHING but what Americans like me know as “Napolitan Ice Cream." (Misspelled as "neapolitan." Has nothing to do with Napolitan gelato by the way.)
"Neapolitan" ice cream which actually has its origins in Prussia
The word “Napolitan” in Japanese (ナポリタン) invokes the image of a sweet, ketchup-flavored spaghetti garnished with sliced onions, green peppers and Vienna sausages. It is said to have been very popular in post-war Japan, the middle of the Showa period. At a time when the Japanese attitude was to become more “international,” Japanese cafes tried to serve “western food” that catered to Japanese tastes, but still evoked the feeling of eating “food from abroad.” “Napolitan Spaghetti” was one of many “yoshoku” (洋食, lit. “western dishes”) served at Japanese cafes, which included other “western foods” such as “omrice” (オムライス, “omuraisu,” a portamenteau of “omelete” and “rice”), “curry with rice,” pancakes and others.
I’m not exactly sure how it happened myself, and if I had more time I could probably do more research to find out exactly, but I’m just going to be lazy and assume that some Japanese cook saw Italian spaghetti and tried to recreate in the best way he could. He already knew how to cook yakisoba, noodles already familiar to the Japanese, so he replaced the Japanese noodles with spaghetti, replaced the yakisoba sauce with ketchup, the meat with “western” meat such as “Vienna” sausages, and the vegetables with what he saw, slapped the label “Napolitan Spaghetti” on it and voila. “Napolitan Spaghetti” was born.
Yakisoba being prepared on a hot griddle
“Napolitan spaghetti” is literally prepared in the exact same way as “yakisoba”, except with “western” ingredients. The vegetables and sliced wieners are grilled, the noodles added, and ketchup is poured on top. At the time, it was served to evoke the feeling of eating “exotic western food,” pretty much how we would like to think we’re eating “Italian” when we eat pepperoni pizza, “Chinese” when we eat “chop suey,” and “Mexican” when we go to TacoBell. Actual Italians, Chinese and Mexicans disown all of these. Though spaghetti that is closer to its Italian counterpart has finally made the scene in Japan, “spaghetti Napolitan” is still enjoyed at Japanese cafes for its “nostalgic” appeal. It’s a comfort food that still evokes a feeling of the post-war “good ol’ days” in older Japanese. Perhaps this is why some people at Akagi Dairy decided a “napolitan spaghetti garigari popsicle” might be a good idea.
Speaking of which, one of my favorite "western foods" is "omusoba"; yakisoba in an omelet!
For this post, I wanted to share a recent experience I had with... (da-dodo-daaaaa!!!)...
Sour Cream and Onion Pringles Yakisoba!!!
Yes, Pringles Yakisoba.
It’s Japanese instant fried noodles flavored with that flavored potato chip-shaped snack we wall know and love!
Quite possibly the most famous instant yakisoba product is Nisshin's "UFO Yakisoba."
When I saw this at a local grocery store in the instant noodle section, I knew I just had to try it and share my experience on this blog!
The instant noodles are prepared in pretty much the same way as a bowl of “UFO” instant yakisoba. You open the package, remove the pre-packaged sauce and dry ingredients and add boiling water to the noodles. The water is drained through the package’s built-in strainer, the sauce is mixed in first then the dry ingredients, and then the noodles are ready to eat.
I’m already a huge fan of sour cream and onion Pringles, so I already had an idea of what to expect. The noodles were surprisingly delicious! They tasted like I was eating sour cream and onion pringles, complete with crunchy potato bits!
I personally quite liked it, and it will hold a special place in my heart, but it won’t replace UFO yakisoba for me.
That was it for this month’s blog entry! I hope everyone is nice and toasty this holiday season.