food

Business booming for yakiniku restaurants, but are customers chemically dependent on meat?

13 Comments

Yakiniku (Korean barbecue) restaurants have been popular in Japan for a long time now. People around here can’t seem to get enough of managing their own grill and eating copious amounts of pure meat. However, in recent years, Japan seems to really be getting into red meat.

Particularly in summer, Japanese people appear to be craving red meat extra hard. News Post Seven reports that of all types of restaurants in Japan, the yakiniku sector has grown a hearty 14% compared to the previous year. It was the only type to grow over 10% – an impressive feat in this sluggish economy. As a result we are seeing other restaurants and bars adopting charcoal grills to tap into this success.

To answer the million dollar question of why Korean barbecue is going so strong, News Post Seven‘s Tatsuya Matsura came up with an interesting theory. Let’s see if it holds water and maybe a little BBQ sauce too.

Where’s the eel?

Eating eel in the summer in Japan is almost a ritual. Despite the sweltering temperatures, some people look forward to this season to get their hands on some unagidon which is a cut of eel slathered in a uniquely delicious sweet sauce atop a bowl of rice, praised for its stamina boosting properties.

However, these eels have been declining in number sharply recently, possibly due to overfishing and loss of habitat. Greenpeace has added it to their red list of seafood among other aquatic animals in a dangerously unsustainable situation. This means less eel meat, which in turn means higher eel prices resulting in fewer eel eaters. Still, why does this make people turn to beef and pork in such high numbers?

To explain the connection between a decline in eel and an increase in red meat, Matsura points to our brains, namely anandamide. This is a neurotransmitter that encourages humans to eat by rewarding it with chemically secreted pleasure.

Anandamide is said to be affected by THC, the active ingredient in marijuanna. It also reacts to arachidonic acid which can be found in a wide range of seafood, meat, and egg products. So, in effect Matsura suggests that we can get hooked on meat a similar fashion to narcotics. This theory was also presented in the 1975 documentary "Dolemite."

Granted, meat hardly compares to the harder drugs in terms of addictiveness, but as Rudy Ray Moore wisely points out, it can be a gateway drug. And for the people of Japan who eat eel on an annual schedule it could train people’s bodies to subconsciously jones for it when the season rolls around. However, this still doesn’t answer why people are turning to yakiniku.

The Replacement Grillers

For the missing link between the eel meat addiction and red meat passion, Matsura turns our attention to Louis-Camille Maillard, a French scientist who identified why a French fry tastes better than a raw potato and why grilled eel tastes better than a living eel.

Known as the “Maillard reaction”, it’s when high temperatures are applied to a combination of sugars and amino acids (the good stuff that kids go for) a different flavor is produced. We can also detect this effect through smell and visually by the browning that occurs. As such we humans get used to certain types of browning and charring and can expect what taste we’re going to get whether it be the mild golden sweetness of a fresh loaf of bread or dark lines giving a sharp savory taste to a piece of grilled chicken.

So, to conclude Matsura’s hypothesis, people who are used to eating eel but can’t now have it, turned to the thing which resembles it most: yakiniku. It’s an interesting theory, and I can’t see any major flaws to it. However, of course, the recent booming in yakiniku business could have been triggered by any number of factors.

Source: News Post Seven

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13 Comments
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It’s an interesting theory, and I can’t see any major flaws to it.

Well here's one: I've never eaten eel but I really enjoy yakiniku.

And surely fish is closer to eel replacement than beef?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is just getting stupid with all the Korean thing bashing in Japanese media. They're going after Korean barbecue now? Why isn't anybody worried about the radiation fallout in Japanese produces? Yet, they worry more about the Korean barbecue. Go figure.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

How is this "Bashing" chucky? you are just looking for an argument when there isn't one. I can understand posting in the island disputes or the governmnet policy articles...but this is just....silly. It's talking about why yakiniku is popular using the amino acids resultant of the maillard reaction as a theory... chill out.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Chuck.

Pls, point out the anti-korean stuff in the article. Replace yakiniku with BBQ and it wouldn't change anything.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

This is just getting stupid with all the Korean thing bashing in Japanese media. They're going after Korean barbecue now? Why isn't anybody worried about the radiation fallout in Japanese produces? Yet, they worry more about the Korean barbecue. Go figure.

Good God you didn't even read the article... stop being such a nationalist.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Well OK, maybe I was a tad over reacting. I'm conditioned to be negative since 95% of stories about Korea, in Japan media are negative/bashing in some form, and their reader reactions, much worse. But I still don't understand how Korean barbecue has anything to do with this, since many Japanese consider yakiniku as Japanese food, not Korean.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

Sounds like cod science to me.l

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Whatever media is posting negative about Korean BBQ or Japanese BBQ or American steak or Malaysian BBQ or middle east Kabob, I will not stop eating them. Most of the Red Meat comes from US and Australia. If the red meat has hormone, Koreans BBQ is not guilty about it. Farmers from those nations are responsible.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I like the feeling of a mini indoors BBQ! Shrimp anyone?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yakiniku (Korean barbecue)

So the English translation of Yakiniku is Korean BBQ?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I love both eel and beef. So if I can't get eel, I'd go for beef. To me, pork and chicken can't really be considered substitutes, since the tastes are all completely different. Well, I guess you can say the same thing about substituting beef for eel, but to me they are a bit closer in taste than pork or chicken - though of course not so close that beef can be really considered a substitute for eel. As for Matsura's theory, it sounds plausible. Wow, now I'm really hunger for eel. Or beef.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

on the bbq, I enjoy beef, eel, leek, pakchee, you know,anything with two e's tastes delicious on the grill in Summer I find!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@chucky

"But I still don't understand how Korean barbecue has anything to do with this, since many Japanese consider yakiniku as Japanese food, not Korean."

This article is about red meat, not about Korea or if yakiniku is Japanese food or not. They wrote "Korean BBQ" because that is how yakiniku is translated in English (sometimes as Japanese BBQ, but that is Japanese style of Korean BBQ), or to give idea what yakiniku is for English speakers who don't know yakiniku. and they picked yakiniku because it is THE popular food with meat in Japan. What you are saying is like, if this article was about Spaghetti, then they are bashing on Italy, and you know how stupid it sounds.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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