Thursday, November 17, 2011

Asians Like It Hot

If there's one thing that's important about serving food in Japan, it's temperature. As a rule, warm food is served piping hot in Japan (and in most parts of Far East Asia, I think). This is especially important for soup noodles like ramen, as serving less-than-scalding-hot ramen is possibly the greatest imaginable sin known to Japanese culinary culture. (nb. This sin is punishable by ramen hell, where you are forced to eat lukewarm ramen with soggy noodles for eternity. Eternity!) There's even a term for people who can't eat things that are scalding hot. We call them neko-jita, or literally, cat tongue. (Cats can't eat hot foods? I didn't know other animals liked their food hot.) While it's not quite an insult, most cat-tongued people admit to it somewhat apologetically, as if it were something to be ashamed of.

It can get pretty extreme, though. They basically serve everything scalding hot in Japan, including foreign foods that don't necessarily need to be superhot, like pasta. I once burned my entire mouth taking a bite of spaghetti that I didn't expect to be 100 degrees C. How does one even serve pasta that hot? (It didn't even come on those iron plates...just a normal one.)

Anyway, you think I'd learn my lesson, but no. I'm a fast eater by nature (though slower than G and his dad) and I think I most likely will continue to burn my tongue/throat/roof of my mouth eating noodles for as long as I live.


  1. I've noticed that my family dislikes stuff that's cold! Anything should be at least lukewarmish. Bought a sausage roll? Pop it in the oven! No? You're crazy! Cold food? Ugh!
    I do wonder how they serve pasta that hot. I mean, it cools down within seconds I make it. :p

  2. What I also realized is that I never have seen asian people eating raw vegetables, something I quite enjoy. I once was told that I look like a rabbit when I eat a raw carrot.

  3. T: Yeah, definitely. My mom is obsessive compulsive when it comes to making food hot before it's served. G and his family don't even own microwaves. My mom always heats the milk for the coffee because she doesn't like it how the cold milk cools down the coffee. She might even pre-warm the coffee cup with hot water.

    R: That's true, we don't really eat veggies raw. We do eat a lot of pickled veggies (cold), though.

  4. leather-mouth.

    mehrdad's like that too...just right out of the boiling kettle.

  5. Leather-mouth! That's a good expression.

    I swear. I'm not going to be surprised if you and M ever find out that you have Asian ancestors.

  6. I feel like the Japanese have to eat/drink stuff scalding hot - and then they have to compensate that by slurping. As loudly as possible (especially guys). Which is louder than I used to think was possible, woah.
    I'm used to trying to make no noise at all when eating/drinking so... uh, this is pretty strange for me. I always wonder why they don't just let it cool down a bit and then actually enjoy the taste. Well, for things like tea/coffee/soup, not for any kind of noodles as I understand eating those before they get soggy.