Several months ago, the Japanese government wanted to establish a "sushi patrol" to root out rice-packing poseurs passing off mayo-drenched hand-rolls as the real deal. Well, that's yet to happen, and so as I began taking it upon myself to decipher the blurred line between real and fake, the thought occurred, "Should authenticity really be the mark of a good meal?"
And does Japan have any right to criticize others when the country itself is a major perpetrator of food bastardization?
Some of the country's best eats are so culturally-disassociated that you just sorta end up calling it Japanese food. Pizza-la, for example, has this great "Bomber" pizza topped in segmented quarters with tomatoes and scrambled eggs; seafood; teriyaki chicken and asparagus; and potatoes and bacon. (Hey, don't knock it 'til you try it!) So how would you classify this unique combo? Italian? American? I'd say it's uniquely Japanese.
To generalize a bit, it's the older Japanese generation, mostly males, who prefer the more "authentic" fare. Shio-kara (salted and fermented cuttlefish) comes to mind. I can't stand it but old men love it with their Asahi beer.
And then there's food for the 18-35 demographic, which they serve to no end at Torrance's Musha. I headed there the other night with Rameniac, who'd heard the place gets lively with young, hot Japanese people on the weekends. Well, they were no where to be found, but at least the food was good:
Here lies a Japanese/Korean hybrid. Yes, for the first time in modern history, the two nations amicably unite to bring you buta kimuchi, a medley of soy sauce-flavored pork, mushrooms, onions, and spicy, pickled cabbage. It's accompanied by Japanese Kewpie mayo in case you can't handle the heat of solidarity. (4 out of 5 stars)
Takotama is Musha's signature dish. Filled with octopus, onion, shiitake and layers of scrambled egg, some might call it a noodle pie. Others describe it as egg foo yung. I thought it was an okonomiyaki. It might as well be called a U.F.O., unidentified funky omelette. Drenched in mayo and homemade soy-based sauce, it's on the sweet side but I still found it addicting. (4 out of 5)
Musha's Fried Chicken (M.F.C. for short) is one of those dishes that'll make you do the happy dance in your seat, 'nuff said.
The Japanese word for this dish is chikin katsu, or chicken cutlet. According to Wikipedia, cutlet was introduced to Japan during the turn-of-the-century Meiji period, in a Western cuisine restaurant in the ultra fashionable Ginza district of Tokyo. Yet another uniquely non-authentic dish. (4.5 out of 5)
These yuba rolls stuffed with cucumber and crab were a great refreshment to my oiled and greased palate, though it doesn't pack much punch. Definitely skipable.
Yuba is the byproduct of boiled soy milk. Soy is native to both Japan and China, but these most likely came from the latter cause imports are cheaper. During the anti-carb craze, yuba-wrapped sushi gained popularity at Los Angeles roll factories as the low-calorie alternative. So again, not authentically Japanese. (2 out of 5)
And finally there's the tanshio (cow tongue), which most likely came from Australia or, dare I say, the U.S. ("E-coli on the side, please!") Though according to an authentic Japanese person, this dish is definitely an old man's beer companion.
I enjoyed it. It's lightly seasoned and comes with a buttery dipping sauce. Oh and yes, you cook it yourself on a mini tabletop grill. Ooh~ It's always nice to have an extra hot tongue in your mouth. (^_<) (3 out of 5)
1725 W Carson St
Torrance, CA 90501
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