World Gourmet Food in Tokyo
by Satoru Kobayashi
Japanese Mother is 1st Class Chef
What is "Makunouchi Bento Box" you ask? Must be good, many foreign visitors to this world famous city request them.
Originating back to Tokyo's "Edo" days (1603-1867), Makunouchi can means entertainment; Maku refers to the theatre curtain, Uchi means in-between the plays; Bento means carry out food. To save time and not disrupt the play, Makunouchi Bento was eaten between curtain calls. Each box contained a hefty sampling of a variety of foods cut to bite size. The mini food in a 6 inch square box today oozes with smells from barbeque and fried pork, tempura, spaghetti, dumplings, and selected meats.
Did you know that in selected places in Japan you can eat yourself around the world in a day? Or that a Japanese mother can cook up a Japanese breakfast, an Italian dish for lunch, or perhaps and Indian dinner with a Chinese noodle dish for a late night snack? The foreign exchange program students will all agree. The Japanese mothers-turned first class chef guarantees you go around the world in one day.
Import, Customize, Reinvent
The Japanese culture by nature is adept at adopting, reinventing, customizing and improvising foreign cultures and languages. For example, foreign words in French and English are adopted into daily usage. Even Chinese characters are eventually reinvented and recreated using two Japanese versions. The same can be said of dishes from other cultures. Japanese curry is creamier than Indian curry. And it's almost impossible to find Tokyo style ramen noodles in China. In other words, the Japanese enjoy importing ethnic food and culture from around the world and reinventing it to recreate unique menus, many with the use of one single ingredient!
World Gourmet Has Own Identity
Do only the financially well off dine on world gourmet food? Not necessarily. In Tokyo even high-end restaurants are reasonably priced compared to European three star establishments. But here you can dine at fast food shops or stand up counter places for only 100-300 Yen. Many Ramen noodle and curry restaurants charge less than 200 Yen. This means a client can enjoy reasonably priced and tasty food in an enjoyable atmosphere and not pay premium prices for premium food. This is why area restaurants serve not only dishes from around the world, but present it in choice locations with beautiful interiors all designed to entice the clients to come in and dine or reserved for special occasions.
Tokyo is "Makunouchi" Box Lunch itself
In Japan dining is considered to be one of entertainment. As many dining guide books covering over 10,000 establishments in Japan may acknowledge, this is one dining experience you must try. And nowhere is this more evident than feasting on a Makunouchi Bento Box, all giving credence to Tokyo's reputation as a town serving gourmet food crammed in a small package, or the city of the "Makunouchi Bento Box"! ■