Last December, while conducting a study on the number of characters input into Google’s search engine, the company compiled various statistics on people’s search habits between January and November, 2013. Among them were the most-searched Japanese foods outside of Japan.
We’ll get number one right out of the way because it’s not really a shocker: “sushi.” Number two, however, was a little more unexpected. Can you guess what it is?
Oddly enough, the second-most popular Japanese dish as searched in Google from abroad is none other than Japan’s favorite bar snack: “edamame.”
Edamame are just soybeans that are picked while slightly immature, giving them a vibrant green color and a firm yet yielding texture that can’t be beaten. At Japanese drinking and nibbling establishments known as izakaya, they are especially loved and often served after being boiled in salty water.
Google speculates from their findings that the popularity of the humble edamame likely grew gradually over the years largely from tourists who sampled them in Japan or at Japanese restaurants in their own country. Since they are soybeans which contain calcium and protein, they are largely seen as something of a health food in countries like the U.S.
Japan’s largest edamame exporter, Nakasatsunai Village Agricultural Co-op in Hokkaido, concurs saying “it’s a popular food around the world, but in the U.S. many are eating it with sushi.” This habit is especially surprising to Japanese people who are more accustomed to eating the beans with beer and chicken on a stick, and who wouldn’t dream of popping a few edamame shells into their mouths alongside morsels of delicate sushi.
Other Japanese netizens responded to the news with the hope that “Western people will realize the healthy deliciousness of red bean paste used in Japanese sweets,” but many questioned the health benefits of the snack, with some claiming the edamame served in izakaya “may actually be bad for your health depending how much salt is used in the boiling process.”
Rounding out the top three was another surprising result: ramen. Numerous comments of “since when is ramen Japanese food?” came up, but it appears that the numerous tweaks that Japan has made to the Chinese dish over the generations have resulted in it becoming their own, at least in Westerners’ eyes.
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