Japanese Cuisine

Nichiku’s hidden menu: Have you ever heard of ‘B-cuisine’?

Mention Japanese food, many people will subconsciously think “expensive” “can not afford to eat”. The old artist also talked about Kaiseki, which cost more than 3,000 yuan per person. The comment section caused many readers to cry.

Many people may be confused by the term “B”. The terms “A grade” and “B grade” originated from American movies, which were originally used to distinguish the length of a film and the production budget.

So the concept was transferred to the food world, where “A-grade cuisine” was used by the Japanese to refer to high-end food with expensive ingredients and excellent production; “B-grade food” naturally refers to food cooked with lower grade ingredients, but is cheap and tasty and popular with the general public. It can also refer to the “non-mainstream” hidden food produced by the cheap shops in the alleyways and villages that are popular with the locals.

To put it bluntly, B-grade food is nothing more than cheap food that looks like it came from a humble background, but who says cheap doesn’t have good food? B-grade food will hit you in the face.

01

Just How good is B-grade food?

Despite their humble origins, it is no exaggeration to say that B-grade food dominates the Japanese food scene today.

It’s hard to imagine how crazy the Japanese are about B-grade food. Not only do they get into the habit of checking out the famous B-grade food every day, but some of them even travel around the country on motorcycles to eat cheap and delicious B-grade food.

What’s more, B-grade food is a competition. Every year, Japan holds a “B-1 championship” to choose the best and most popular B-grade food. The “B-1 Championship” has been held since 2006 and brings together B-food groups from all over the world who want to compete.

In 2012, 610,000 people from all over Japan visited the stadium in just two days. Diners pay to taste dozens of competing B-dishes before dropping their “sacred” chopsticks into a recycling bag of B-dishes they believe are the best.

Any food that wins a “B” grade in this competition is usually “famous.” In just one day, thousands of diners will rush to the birthplace of this dish and line up in front of local eateries, hoping to get their hands on the “top food” chosen by hundreds of thousands of chopsticks.

The two-time winner, Fuji Palace Chow Mein, is a specialty of the city of Fuji Palace in Shizuoka Prefecture. Unlike other stir-fried noodles, it features its unique steamed noodles, shredded cabbage and pork fat on an iron plate, stir-fried in a Worcesterian chili sauce, and topped with a gravy of fish (sardines or mackerels).

Another popular fried noodles, “Suisan Fried Noodles”, has something to do with the fact that Suisan, a city on a plateau, is covered with snow all year round. Because of the cold climate, the people of Sukiyama make miso that is easy to store and does not rot.

In the 1950s, hot sauce, commonly used in stir-fried noodles, was expensive, so Suisan residents had to substitute miso paste, which was readily available.

Unexpectedly, this adds a unique flavor to the fried noodles.

Say the Japanese eat light food, let’s see how they eat water. The Japanese have a variety of tastes and recipes for offal.

In Kanagawa, Japan, there is a thick charcoal roast fat sausage, using charcoal is a smart way, not only with high temperature roast to remove the excess oil, and bake the skin until the burning fragrance, crispy skin, soft rotten inside, while drinking beer, while the teeth are greasy smell.

For the Okinawans in Japan, they are masters of bitter melon cooking. Okinawans also set up a memorial day for bitter melon, which is probably the only one in the world. Their bitter melon is fragrant, and the local people eat it as cucumber directly.

There is also the familiar takoyaki, which can be found almost anywhere on Earth. Its ancestor, Akishiyaki, is also a local snack.

Akashi was born because Akashi is a place where gemstones are produced, and rice flour and egg whites are used to make Akashi gems. In order not to waste materials, workers would often fry the leftover egg yolk in a mold used to make gemstones, and Akishiyaki was invented.

It is said that the folk master, everywhere is wisdom. Don’t underestimate these mediocre B-grade dishes, they are often the most hidden treasures.

02

Japanese, how much do you need B-grade food?

Compared to Japanese haute cuisine, which involves a lot of red tape, B-grade cuisine has a relatively short history and lacks many rules. The essence of B cooking, in other words, is the opposite of what A cooking is — easy to put together, easy to get, quick to make.

It has to do with Japan’s post-war history. After World War II, Japan was in ruins, and many places became industrial cities of different kinds. As a result, various industries in the city were developed to serve the working class, including local fast food, which later became B-grade cuisine.

Regional fast food, while rooted in regional snacks, also caters to Japan’s industrial growth. Compared with local snacks, local fast food takes less time to make, is easier to make, and can help people replenish their energy better.

Nobetsu, Hokkaido, for example, has its roots in the coal mining industry in the 1950s and 1960s. Coal miners were desperate for energy at the end of a hard day’s work, and Hokkaido’s cold weather made it possible.

A steaming bowl of pimple soup has as many as 10 ingredients, which meets the standard of meat and vegetable pairing, is cheap, and can satisfy hunger and warm your body with a mouthful. Similarly, Yokkaichi, in Mie Prefecture, is catering to local petrochemical workers by creating Tonteki pork chops, which replace the pricier steak with garlic to help the workers gain energy.

Local fast food, such as this, boomed after the war, along with Japanese industry. However, because communication was not easy at that time, these local fast food was only popular in certain areas, but did not spread throughout the country.

In the 1980s, A craze for A-grade cuisine swept through Japan. At the height of Japan’s bubble, people had plenty of money and leisure. People yearn for the western lifestyle, eating habits, more praise the European and American diet represented by the “high-end food”.

It wasn’t until the 1990s that local fast food came into the public eye. The popularization of the Internet has made it easy to obtain information resources from all over the world, including local snacks which have always been “hidden and famous”. Now popular in Japan and even around the world in different places and different flavors of ramen, in fact, originated in different places of instant food.

It will be after the turn of the millennium that local fast food becomes B-grade food. In the 21st century, the Japanese economy is no longer prosperous, and many people have less money, so they prefer simple and cheap food. At the same time, Japanese people no longer blindly worship foreign things. As A result, local fast food quickly became the mainstream of the market and was given the name “B-grade food” to rival A-grade food.

B-grade cuisine, which was born during the recession, has taken on the burden of reviving the economy. The city of Tsuyama in Okayama Prefecture, for example, is too depressed to return to its former prosperity, with no new commercial buildings or industrial parks.

So locals decided to turn their attention to the promotion of beef sausage udon. Tsugan cattle has always been famous, beef sausage udon is also a local famous food, but outside Tsugan, this human delicacy is little known.

In 2009, Tsuyama competed in the “B-1 Championship” and finished third. Overnight, the town was flooded with diners from all over the country who came in the name of Udon.

The restaurant, which used to be quiet, is now so crowded that the owner even has to hire part-time waiters. It’s also benefiting local meatpacking plants, pasta factories and even places that haven’t been visited before.

In this way, udon, a simple dish of beef sausage, has created an unprecedented economic benefit for Tsuyama and revitalized the city.

B-grade cooking also has soothing powers. In 2011, a massive earthquake devastated Miyagi Prefecture on the Pacific Ocean. Old homes have been washed away, and the shops that many people used to rely on for a living are no longer viable. To support the recovery efforts, products from Miyagi are being sold all over Japan, including the region’s famous B-grade dish, Roast Beef tongue.

It seems that B-grade food not only satisfies their appetite, but also sustains their spirit in times of depression and sustains the emotional power of the national economy. Take a look at The Lonely Gourmet. Goro is warmed by the seemingly banal Chinese cuisine, cow water, curry and fried udon. After all, it doesn’t have to be expensive to be truly delicious.

03

A guy who loves B-grade food, is it lower?

A and B, the former and current overlords, seem to have stood in opposition to each other from the day they were born, representing opposite ends of a chain of contempt in the food world.

Grade A cuisine, representing high taste and high consumption class. They are cooked and presented according to strict standards, and they must be enjoyed according to meticulous dining etiquette.

B-grade cuisine, by contrast, represents the lower middle class. They are quick to make, generous portions, reasonably priced and require little dining etiquette. To put it simply, A versus B food is like a Michelin versus a street food.

The Japanese are also happy to talk about the difference between AB. In Crayon Shin-shin’s 2013 theatrical version of the movie “Super Delicious! B-grade Food Escape!” The conflict between Grade A and Grade B cuisine is vividly demonstrated.

Foodie Bowie, who has always insisted that the world should eat Grade A food, is full of disdain for Grade B food and hopes to eliminate these “inferior eating”. Bowie was raised to believe that B-grade food was the food of the poor, and that he, as a man of higher education with formal training in food, should not eat the food of the lower class.

However, Shin and his friends are fighting a battle to defend B-grade cuisine in order to taste the delicious teppan fried noodles made with a secret sauce. They believe that B-grade food represents love, courage and vitality.

At the end of the movie, Boi is deeply affected by the delicious Chow mein. The division and class barrier between Grade A and Grade B food was also broken by the children’s pure and enthusiastic “fried noodles song”.

In fact, even in the real world, A-grade cooking is no longer A match for B-grade cooking. After all, the luxury of Japan’s breakneck economic growth has faded, and the Japanese are no longer as concerned with the gaze of the West as they used to be, freeing their palates and allowing them to return to their roots.

The casualness of B-grade cooking allows this concept to be generalized to every corner of the world. Almost anyone can call their own cooking “B-grade.”

My mother also made a B-grade dish — a simple fried noodles. Shin-ichi’s mother for a new car would also mix in leftover food, Ni Ni’s mother would add tempura scraps, Masao’s mother would add bean sprouts, and Toru Kaemama’s mother would add shrimp and cuttlefish.

B-grade food, like pizza, taco, and fried rice, can be prepared at will, and there is nothing authentic about it, so it will cater to most people’s taste buds. B-grade food is an exclusive food world for migrant workers.

Working class “social animals”, do not have so much time to waste, with readily available ingredients to cook can satisfy hunger, enhance the appetite of the food is a rigid demand.

The wealthier upper class, on the other hand, tend to use high-end ingredients to show their status and social status. Is there really class in taste buds? Perhaps the so-called class nature of taste buds, in fact, is not born, but is just a result of the social structure of the rich and poor.

But food, there is no high or low. I prefer food stalls, tea restaurants, fly restaurants, small restaurants, because I can taste the world fireworks gas. But they’re not averse to the occasional fancy restaurant.

To put it bluntly, we all go to different places for different purposes. Food stalls, B-grade food, are full and social. Michelin, five-star hotel, is to their own occasional reward, to the environment and style of art appreciation. No one is superior to any other.

 

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