One of the cooler things I got to experience in Japan was 回転寿司 (kaiten-zushi, also known as conveyor belt sushi). There is conveyor belt sushi in America (and, recently, Boston!) but I never had the chance to try it before.
Conveyor belt sushi is exactly what it sounds like: sushi on, well, a conveyor belt. Basically, the restaurant has a giant circular conveyor belt that is constantly moving. On the inside of the circle, sushi chefs are constantly making new maki and sashimi and placing their completed plates on the belt. Patrons sit on the outside, watching the plates go by and nabbing the ones that they want. It’s a strange combo between a fast-food and a sit-down restaurant.
You can get whatever and however many plates you’d like (each plate only had two pieces of sushi) but in the end, you will have to pay for them. At our restaurant, the plates were color-coded according to price like so:
So I had to be careful not to eat too much. And given the number of strange and enticing sushi rolling by, this was hard to do.
If you’re not careful, the cost can add up quickly! My group, comprised of only poor college kids, was cautious. We were pretty amazed by our fellow Japanese diners, though.
At the end of your meal, you call over one of the servers to tally up your plates. I’m not sure how this worked, but our servers has some awesome scanning device that did this automatically!
I admit that I’m not the bravest sushi eater. I’ll eat my raw salmon, my raw tuna, my eel and shrimp. But I’ve never found sea urchin or roe or squid to be particularly tasty. This time, however, I was feeling adventurous. I decided to grab this plate:
In case you’re unfamiliar with it, that’s natto– a popular and traditional Japanese food. It’s really just fermented soybeans. Looks harmless, right?
Now look at this picture of natto.
And this one.
And– uh, I don’t know what Google Images is trying to tell me, but you can look at this one too.
So now you somewhat have a sense of the texture of natto: half slimy, half sticky, viscous enough to form strings when it is mixed. I can’t really demonstrate natto’s flavor, but I can give you a description from Wikipedia: “nutty, savory, and slightly salty,” with a smell “somewhat akin to a pungent cheese.”
Japanese natives enjoy asking foreigners if they’re able to eat natto or not, since it has a very strong scent and flavor. It’s like a test. A test of… Japanese-ness. Natto is an acquired taste, they say, obtained only by the Japanese natives who grew up with it. Well, I was determined to take this test. As an exchange student, I had to try ALL the foods!
That’s one taste I was never meant to acquire.
I have pictures of this haha
I have a video of me eating it, even
It was a good time.
Sushi. Sushi! SUUSHI!! SUSHI!!! SUSHI!!!!!!!
I LOVE SUSHI!
Ha! Natto is my Japanese achilles heel. Japanese people ask me “Do you like Japanese food?” I LOVE Japanese food! “What about sushi?” I LOVE sushi! “Is there anything you won’t eat?” No, I eat everything.
Then, I see one eyebrow slightly raised, and I know what’s coming next. “Have you tried… natto?” And my secret shame is exposed.
I once picked up a pot of natto at breakfast time. I intended to try it, because, you know, I try everything. I picked up a glob of it with my chopsticks and conveyed it towards my mouth. Long slimy strings stretched out. Then the smell. The sharp vomity smell that bypassed my nostrils and arrived directly at the back of my nose and throat, making me retch. At that point I realised, I am NOT putting that in my mouth.
So natto remains the one thing I haven’t tried. But I guess I need to eat it, at least once, to extirpate my shame and to be able to say, yes, I’ve tried it.
It tastes better than it smells.
Which isn’t saying much. That smell is something to behold.
To be fair, I held my breath as I put that natto sushi in my mouth. And, at the time (since the natto was bite-sized) I didn’t get to observe the incredible texture that is those sticky, slimy strings. If I was getting natto straight from the pot, I don’t know if I could have done it! My host family enjoyed making fun of the fact that I didn’t like natto.
If you do end up trying it, I recommend having something close by to wash it down!
I shouldn’t pick on sushi as I have never tried it; it simply doesn’t sound good to me at all.
My daughter loves it.
As for natto – who knows, but I would try that one, just to see.
By the way, the picture is, um, I think, not really aimed at natto. I think I am glad you didn’t follow it very well. It makes you a little special and sweet.
Yes, I think that last photo is not quite how you’re actually supposed to eat natto. If you happen to be in Japan and you’re feeling adventurous, you should definitely try natto! For the experience alone.
We have sushi trains in Australia too, even here on the Sunshine Coast near where I live. I’ve never tried natto, though I’ve heard somewhat about it. I like takoyaki though! But I’m not otherwise very adventurous. I mostly eat crab, shrimp otherwise, but I think there are other things too…
Hey, being able to eat crab and shrimp and takoyaki isn’t bad at all! I know people who steer clear of seafood– they’re missing out on some of the best stuff. I usually stay away from the crazier seafood too. It can get weird!
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