food

Eating like a local: A B-kyu gurume

3 Comments
By Hilary Keyes

Food is a major part of Japanese culture—even on dating apps, you’re more likely to find profiles seeking a drinking buddy or sweets meguri (スイーツ巡り, sweets tour) partner than anything else. If food is the way to the Japanese heart, then B-kyu gurume is the comfort food that everyone should know and love.

What is B-Kyu Gurume?

B-kyu gurume (B級グルメ) literally means “B rank food” and refers to cuisines that are popular with the masses, made with less ‘fancy’ ingredients, and are often quickly and easily served and eaten. Most B-kyu gurume can easily be replicated at home, so it’s also got the added home cooking, “made with love” factor to it as well.

These Japanese comfort food are also known as gotochi gurume (ご当地グルメ)—or “local dishes”—because they feature local ingredients. What counts as B-kyu gurume in Osaka is completely different from what is comfort food in Sapporo. Even within a given city there can be vastly different ideas of soul food depending on the area’s history.

If you’re looking for healthy Japanese fare, B-kyu gurume is probably not going to work for you, although if you’re looking for something different for a treat, then it’s sure to hit the spot. Just keep an eye out for any food allergies, as hidden ingredients can be surprising at times.

Basically: B-kyu gurume is the gourmand’s equivalent of your family’s secret recipe handed down for generations made with full fat and sugar, but available for a cheap price and made to order.

Japanese Versus Internationally Influenced

As with food cultures over the world, there are both those that are domestic and the ones that grew from international influences. B-kyu gurume comes in classically Japanese dishes and “Japanified” foreign varieties. 

One of the oldest and most well known Japanese B-kyu gurume are onigiri (おにぎり) or rice balls. These glutinous delights tend to be topped or filled with anything from flaked salmon, wasabi greens, soft boiled eggs, or pickled plums and may be wrapped with a sheet of roasted nori seaweed as well. There are shelves of these in every supermarket, convenience store, and even take-out bento shops in Japan—that’s how common they are.

Another rice-based comfort food is tamago kake gohan (卵かけごはん). Basically, you crack a raw egg over some plain white rice and add a dash or two of soy sauce for flavor. That’s it. Of course, you can liven it up with some furikake seasoning too, or purchase gourmet eggs specially bred for their tastiness (or whatever the technical term may be!), but even the most basic of ingredients will give you classic Japanese comfort food.

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© Savvy Tokyo

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3 Comments
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I don't think the examples in this article are correct. Onigiri are not B-kyu gurume, that sounds weird, and most home cooking is not either.

B kyu gurume is more like non-Michelin ramen, gyoza, yakisoba, takoyaki, katsudon, and stuff bought from stalls at a festival. Cheap, not high class, but hits the spot. Usually cheap ingredients. Ramen etc. can range from wonderful to pretty terrible, and people can be very particular about it, so only good ramen-ya qualify as B-kyu gurume. Since it's "gurume", it has to be good examples of those dishes.

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Sounds like the North American term could be 'greasy spoon' .

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@kohakuebisu: same here. When I started reading, I was like, oh cool, a new concept for me to learn. But when I reached the last paragraph, I was like, hmm?

Based on the writer's own definition, my idea of a Japanese B-kyu gurume would be a really good everyday food, not just any everyday comfort food! Apart from the ramen you mentioned, I would also include a scrumptious, fancier ekiben, for example. Something that's local (and affordable for the locals) yet it's quite special that you'll actually look for it when you're in the area, and consider it a treat (e.g.: makes you feel goooood).

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