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Few surprises in survey of most unpopular foods

23 Comments

We often read about Japanese foods that foreign residents and tourists don't much care for. But which items do Japanese themselves disdain, with the reaction Kuwazu, kirai. (I won't eat it -- I hate it)? Nikkan Taishu (May 8) ran the results of a survey conducted by Voice Note, a web site that wants to know what people think about, well, everything.

The 200 subjects of this particular survey, conducted nationwide, were males and females ranging in age from their 20s to their 80s. The five most unpopular foods were gleaned from their responses.

In 5th place, with 3% of respondents was namako (sea cucumber). An invertebrate related to starfish and sea urchins, the sea cucumber can be found in all parts of Japan. Three species are distinguished by their colors, which are red, blue and black. In past times it was often served in soups, but now it's common to slice it up and consume with a vinegar topping. Its entrails, referred to as konowata, can be pickled in brine and eaten. Namako is considered a delicacy in China, where it is preserved by drying and then prepared by stewing it. The creature appears to owe its unpopularity to both its inelegant appearance and its jellylike, slippery consistency.

In 4th place, with 4.5%, was celery, an import that was originally brought to Japan by Dutch traders during the Edo period. "I don't like its smell or its taste," remarked one subject, a man in his 40s. This distinctive aroma comes from apiol, a substance also found in parsley that is said to calm moods and have beneficial effects on the stomach lining. 

Two items tied for the next places both with 6.5% of the replies. One was natto (fermented soybeans), and the other goya, also known as bitter melon. Natto, which can be consumed in a variety of dishes such as in omelets or mixed with raw tuna, is a regional food and people in the Kansai area are known to heartily dislike it, both for its pungent odor and slimy consistency. The article notes that a new odorless type of natto has been marketed, and suggests readers keep an open mind because it is, after all, an inexpensive source of protein with numerous health benefits. As for goya, some people apparently have trouble with its bitter taste. The food has been riding the crest of the boom in Okinawan cuisine, and its consumption has been said to help people recover from summer heat. More Japanese have been growing it in their gardens and grind it into a paste to use as sunscreen, but avoid consuming it.

Finally, the least popular food, stated by 7.5% of respondents, was the green pepper. It is widely cultivated by farmers in Ibaraki, Miyazaki, Kagoshima and Kochi prefectures, and contains both vitamins and flavonoids, so it's certainly beneficial for health. The problem is, many people don't like its characterstically bitter taste -- which can be reduced to some degree by cooking in oil, for instance as an ingredient in tempura.

From the above, the writer notes, it's clear that many Japanese have a low resistance to bitter foods. There were plenty of others in this category they avoid due to their being nama kusai (having a fishy smell), as well as tomatos, liver, umeboshi (pickled plums) and cucumbers.

© Japan Today

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23 Comments
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people in the Kansai area are known to heartily dislike it

Nonsense.

Peppers at number one? So innocuous.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Lol... Natto, Goya, green peppers... love all of those for a bit of flavour. Namako I'll eat... actually... celery... of the above bunch... that would be my least favourite but I'll still eat that too. The one food I can't stand is green peas but none of those above would make my list of worst five.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A little chopped celery, with a little chopped onion and some mayonnaise, mixes with some canned tuna in a bowl for spreading - makes a great toasted tuna salad sandwich that goes well with a large glass of sweet milk.

Let me explain sweet milk, in the American south, it is sweet milk (regular milk) or buttermilk. One does not go into a small grocery store in the south and ask for milk, as the response will be, "Honey, do you want sweet milk or buttermilk?"

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

So eggplant didn't make the list? Nasty stuff, eggplant. After I told my wife I don't like it she uses it at least twice a week!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

My wife eats it every day but not me, Natto!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"In 4th place, with 4.5%, was celery"

These celery dislikers have obviously never tried a stick of celery smeared with Skippy's peanut butter which is widely sold in Japan,

"Finally, the least popular food, stated by 7.5% of respondents, was the green pepper."

Sorry, I just can't respect anyone who dislikes green peppers, haha, seriously though, how can anyone dislike green peppers? Absolutely delicious, especially when sauteed with onions. Heck you can eat 'em raw, in salad or just by themselves.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Namako isn't food.

Natto stinks and has gone off. No more food than mouldy bread is food, not fit to eat.

My all-time most loathsome food is tororo-imo - grated yam seasoned with soy sauce. The first time I was served it, it was presented in a pretty little glass dish, and I assumed it was apple puree, which is exactly what it looked like. The difference in taste from apple puree when I slurped it down left me with a mental trauma I will probably never recover from.

Tororo-imo. Blech.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Ever tried to dissect a Namako? Think alien/horror movie embryo. Worth it though, yum. In fact love all of these worst ranked foods. Bit of an acquired taste , but joy! Healthy too.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So eggplant didn't make the list? Nasty stuff, eggplant. After I told my wife I don't like it she uses it at least twice a week!

Agreed! Aubergine/eggplant is absolutely vile.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Parmigiana is an Italian dish made with a shallow or deep-fried sliced eggplant filling, layered with cheese and tomato sauce, then baked. Parmigiana made with a filling of eggplant is the earliest and still unique Italian version. Wonderful!

Or, Melanzane alla Parmigiana

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Cleo, agreeing with you. Include all mushrooms into your mould comment!! Blech.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Agree with zichi. Parmigiana (aka in our house as 'nasu gratin') is very, very nice. I'll be making it several times over the summer when our three aubergine plants come into production.

Aubergine/eggplant is absolutely vile

My grandkids told me they absolutely hated aubergine/eggplant/nasu in any form and Would Not Eat It. Then they tucked into a Parmigiana and came back for seconds. It all depends on the presentation.

That said, the only way I want a namako presented to me is as part of the underwater scenery at the beach. Not for eating under any circumstances.

Include all mushrooms into your mould comment!! Blech

No, no, no!! Mushrooms is a staple of life. Couldn't live without them. Button mushrooms (white or brown), maitake (great in tempura), enoki (for o-nabe), eringi (try putting them uncut into oden), all the others, just wonderful. Yum.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

We eat mushrooms almost everyday, maybe about ten different types over the course of a week.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I wish there were more field and cup mushrooms in Japan. They are a delicious little gift from nature.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Totally agree with natto and bitter gourd. Just can never get over how incredibly bitter the gourd tastes, that no amount of sauces and spices can cover up. Makes me gag just thinking about it. Natto, while much healthier than regular tofu due to its fermentation, is a textural thing with the sliminess and stringiness very off putting.

Other nasty J-cuisines:

Konnyaku (all forms of it)

Yamaimo (so slimy worse than natto)

Raw egg over rice

Sea urchin/uni

Tamago (way too sweet)

Octopus (tako, too chewy and flavorless)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A little chopped celery, with a little chopped onion and some mayonnaise, mixes with some canned tuna in a bowl for spreading - makes a great toasted tuna salad sandwich that goes well with a large glass of sweet milk.

Bingo! I couldn't imagine a tuna sand without lots of celery, as well as nice plate of buffalo wings and blue cheese dip. I say dip becuse, IMO, the standard store bought dressing just doesn't cut it, and not so easy to find at times. Make it your self.

Green pepper is another veggie i love. hOWEVER, the majority they sell here, thin skin, no water/dry and too spicy. The US GP's are not so bitter and full of water. Can't wait for the larger versions to start selling here during the summer. Not easy to find. One trick is weight the larger ones with your hand to find the thickest skin with water.

Never ate eggplant until this local restaurant served us an horderve of quartered and fried eggplants marinated in some kind of soy sauce, maybe Kirin, not sure, with garlic and hot peppers. With I could find this recipe.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

None of the foods above phase me. I love them all. I actually make Kim Chi Goya, mix it with natto and pour it over some Udon. Heaven.

celery-love it, peppers love em. namako- bring it on.

The only 2 foods I loathe in Japan are Basashi ( I will not eat horse, much less raw horse) and Sweet Bean Curd (Anko). The only two Japanese foods I hate

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The only 2 foods I loathe in Japan are Basashi ( I will not eat horse, much less raw horse) and Sweet Bean Curd (Anko). The only two Japanese foods I hate

Interesting. I'm a no-go for most of the foods in the article (I'll eat celery), but basashi and anko are two things that I don't mind, even though I'm a somewhat picky eater.

I say 'somewhat' because I'll try almost anything once, but there are lots of things I don't like and won't try again.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Interesting. I'm a no-go for most of the foods in the article (I'll eat celery), but basashi and anko are two things that I don't mind, even though I'm a somewhat picky eater.

That is interesting as I wouldn't have imagined you as a picky eater.

I say 'somewhat' because I'll try almost anything once, but there are lots of things I don't like and won't try again.

That's a good attitude to have. I have very few foods I don't like, but those 2 in the top do it for me. Other than that, I can pretty much eat anything Japanese..

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Natto makes me sick just looking at it being whipped around on chopsticks. Then the smell. I can’t understand how the misses can eat that stuff.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Natto on its own is pretty vile but mixed with rice and a raw egg it's OK. I love celery and I love goya and i'm really quite baffled how green peppers made it to number 1! My top ones no particular order would be natto, tororo and raw shirako (although I do love shirako tempura) and that really salty stringy squid stuff they often give you in izakayas.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Are Japanese green peppers different from ones in the U.S.? Because I'm really sensitive to bitter flavors, but I love green pepper, and don't find it to be bitter at all. I'm very confused...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Are Japanese green peppers different from ones in the U.S.? Because I'm really sensitive to bitter flavors, but I love green pepper, and don't find it to be bitter at all. I'm very confused...

Yes, they are different. The Japanese versions are smaller, about the size of a small computer mouse and very very thin and bitter. It's summer now, so you might find the larger and thicker and sweeter US version at grocery stores or JA markets. Just bought some yesterday. If you find the US versions here, they are not as sweet as back home so be prepared.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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