Monday, January 03, 2005

one fish, two fish, red fish, globe fish

"anyone who says that they don't like japanese food, simply hasn't tried it"  sushi zume
takoyaki cooking

from the boiling to the bizarre, japanese food is as diverse as it is beautiful. much more than raw fish and rice, japanese food can be a sensory delight, visually spectacular and  orally lush.

recently i was asked by a co worker, as she puffed out her cheeks, "do you know fugu ?" of course the simpsons episode instantly sprang to my mind. "yer i know fugu, but i've never eaten it". i think i detected a glimmer of naughtiness in her eye, as if something in her seemingly innocent mind said 'let's scare the aussie girl' as she excitedly blurted out "oh let's eat, let's eat, you eat fugu with us", again puffing her cheeks out. "it's poisonous, right?" i said whilst playing charades, acting like someone had just fixed a noose around my neck causing my eyes to roll back in my head and my tongue to hang out to one side. "dai jou bu, dai jou bu" (no worries, no worries) she replied, again with 'that look'.

while i wasn't too concerned about eating the famous deadly japanese fish, i did wonder if i should take some precautions, maybe call my family and friends, write a will...something, just in case. of course i didn't do any of these things, but it's the thought that counts right?

i think i was just as excited as my co workers were as we all piled into the car and made our way to the japanese restaurant. they chattered about this and that but would often stop and say to me, with eyes wide and cheeks puffed out "growbe fish". one of them had obviously typed 'fugu' into their cute little electronic dictionary and the answer had appeared "globe fish".

as we entered the restaurant we were greeted by an older lady in kimono and a tank full of "growbe fish".  the fugu looked rather cute i thought. although they are not famous for their good looks they are sometimes kept as pets, i remembered having seen them mini size for sale at a shinjuku department store. after much ooooowwing and ahhhhing, we were finally seated in a cosy corner of the traditional style japanese restaurant. the usual lengthy ordering process and waiting thirstily for the first "kampai" (cheers) followed, but before long there it was in front of me...the infamous fugu. to be honest i was shocked, not by its grotesque appearance, but quite the opposite. we were each given a plate that displayed a round of paper thin, almost transparent fish pieces accompanied by a small bundle of negi (spring onions) and a small bowl of dipping sauce.

before devouring the dish, i wondered what might happen should i end up with a deadly piece on my plate, put there accidently by the apprentice in the kitchen. would i simply slump to the floor? would it be a dramatic death, with foam and convultions? however it soon became apparent to me that i was more likely to die of starvation than food poisoning. the aim of this fugu game was to wrap the sticky, clear piece of fugu around the skinny tube of negi, dip it into the sauce and then get it to your mouth using a pair of oddly designed chopsticks, all the while being eyed by your colleagues.  lucky for me i have become quite skilled in the art of chopstick use aswell as making a japanese-style fuss even if i don't particularly love what i'm doing/eating/seeing/hearing (some people call that faking it, some japanese might call it good manners). after all the build up and the anticipation, i was left thinking 'fugu is not all it's cracked up to be' and 'is that it? cos im bloody starving!'

little did i know things had only just begun, the first round of fugu was merely offered to tempt the taste buds, get us wanting/ needing more. next came the fugu nabe. a gorgeous steaming hot pot of deliciously fresh vegetables, delectable noodles, scrumptious lemon and soy dipping sauce and the boney, barely edible, almost tasteless fugu.

i'm not saying that i didn't enjoy fugu, it was certainly a great experience. but it would be true to say that half the fun of "growbe fish" was much like the fun of  the "lucky dip". the excitment, the unknown, the anticipation, the fact that i had the money to throw around on expensive deadly fish.



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