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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Everything is ehhh-di-bool - in its own way

'Kaiko' in Japanese.
Went out for Korean last night with a Japanese friend on Aoyama-dori, a little east of Shibuya station. The service was cheerful, the restaurant was clean and spacious, not-overpriced, and - perhaps best of all - it had a menu that, while ordinary menu size, had a much wider reach.

I went right out on a limb and ordered the above. Any guesses what it might be? About 2cm (1 inch) long, a pudgy, chewy consistency, and a flavor that I knew I didn't actively dislike, but found it hard to gauge how much I really liked - probably because I'd never tasted anything quite like it before, which, at 40 y.o. plus, is saying something!

I badgered my initially horrified friend to try one - just one - and, giving in and masticating gingerly, he described it as having 'undertones of compost'.

You're probably imagining the very worst now, but, no, it was nothing fecal. It is one of the mainstays of the pre-modern Japanese economy - a sideline that almost every farming family engaged in during the winter months. They cultivated the succulent little creatures above for the cocoons they wove, and from which they were never to emerge except, one supposes, as fried snacks for those winters when the rice ran low.

They are silkworms - known in Japanese as kaiko. No doubt better for you than a hamburger patty, but if its a choice between silkworms or an hour on the step machine as post-Big Mac penance, which would it be, I wonder?

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