Quarter Pounder With Noodles

What’s your million dollar idea? You know the one. The thing that occupies your mind when you’re scraping mangled receipts and Post-it note reminders out of a washing machine lint trap. (By the way, the inventors of Post-it notes worked at 3M until retirement…I find something awfully depressing about that).

Anyway, what I was getting at was this:

I can barely wrap my head around this. I can definitely wrap my stomach around it, but my head, not so much. That beauty is a Ramen Burger, and I call dibs. I’m bringing this back to the States, and I’m going to make a sensible, not-outlandish living as a Carnie, hopping from town to town, county fair to farm show, introducing America to something they didn’t know they loved.  I’ll make enough money to throw slices of fresh bread to the ducks, not that week-old stuff. That stuff is for the birds.

This past weekend our neighborhood was overtaken by food vendors, a lot of them, for the Azabu-Juban Noryo Festival. The streets filled up with Tokyo folk (Tokyoites? Tokyojin? Tolkeins?), creating a thick wall of people on every street, and picking up groceries meant redefining my personal comfort zone. But on the positive side, picking up groceries also meant stopping for grill pit fish, giant scallops swimming in a shell full of butter (or mayo, it’s hard to say, my eyeballs were salivating), potato chips on a stick (dibs again), and draft beer. Lovely stuff.

The Ramen burger can’t be that hard to make. It’s cooked ramen noodles, griddled into the shape of a bun. Then you throw in some roast pork, spring onion, bamboo shoots, cabbage, and a broth-inspired sauce (soy, miso, or tonkotsu – heavenly pork bone). Brilliant.

Oh, and that thing on the right is just some delicious potato topped with butter, mayo, salt, kimchi and corn. Whatever.

Where Is Pancakes House?

Sometimes a man just needs some pancakes.

We’ve been in Japan for three weeks, which really isn’t long enough to start getting cravings for American food. What have you gone three weeks without eating? Probably a lot of things. Probably most things.

But still, sometimes it’s nice to know that a comfort food is available to you. We’ve had trouble finding breakfast joints. Sure, onigiri is lovely in the morning, but once in a while I need pancakes and eggs.

Japan, being the space- and time-efficient place that it is, up and combined the two:

Okonomiyaki is often prepared on a hot grill at your table. A batter of eggs, flour, cabbage, and every fish and crustacean from the sea, okonomiyaki is basically a catch-all omelet, but sort of like a pancake, except when it’s like pizza. Phew.

Being the daring sorts that we are, we spotted a sign for an okonimiyaki restaurant and wandered up to its third floor location. Please take a moment to congratulate us. So far, unless I can see right into a restaurant from the ground floor, I don’t bother going in. I’m illiterate in the language, so who knows what I’ll get into. Call me a coward, but at least I won’t accidentally walk into an all-you-can-eat raw horse buffet.

But okonomiyaki! It is lovely and full of toppings. A sweetish BBQ sauce, shredded nori, scallions, bonito flakes (which dance around when exposed to heat), and mayonnaise.

I may have been the sort of person who once turned his nose to mayo, but now I’m on board. I guess Japan is giving me some perspective on what’s really important about my country. U-S-A! MAY-O-NNAISE!

With all the toppings and ingredients and foreign language (to me) and train tracks outside the window and the manga convention downstairs and the holy-cow-we’re-really-living-in-another-country-no-fooling, I noticed that okonomiyaki tasted surprisingly…familiar.

Not familiar like, “Oh, I had this at the Stop ‘N Save just the other day,” but rather, all the flavors just seemed to come together like something a boy from central PA is used to.

This, of course, is mayonnaise: