Post-Event! Food at Waku Waku +NYC

Post-Event: Food at Waku Waku +NYC

If there’s one thing that set Waku Waku +NYC apart from the typical Japanese pop culture festival, it was the food. Sure, there are plenty of general Japanese culture events that serve samples of Japanese food, but we brought in some of the best restaurants around to give a taste of Japan.


IMAG0388

Hot Dishes

Two varieties of ramen were available from two of New York’s most popular ramen restaurants: Kuro-Obi/Ippudo NY and Totto Ramen. While it might have seemed redundant at first glance, in fact the two shops provided unique experiences because of the differences in their broth. Kuro-Obi/Ippudo NY used a combination pork and chicken broth, while Totto Ramen went with pure chicken, allowing more people to taste the joys of ramen. Kuro-Obi/Ippudo NY also served roast pork buns that were a kind of cross between Japanese chashu, Chinese char siu, and peking duck. Some might say that the weather was too hot for ramen, but true ramen lovers knew that it wouldn’t be the case.

If you were looking for less soupy affairs, curry from Curry-Ya was another one of the sit-down specialties, and possessed a sweeter flavor that worked well for the summer.  BentOn also provided delicious yakisoba that was fun to slurp up.

On-the-Go Street Food

IMAG0384

Bowls and utensils might have been too unwieldy for some looking for a quick bite to eat, but fortunately Waku Waku +NYC provided lots of dishes that were perfect for eating on the move. Chief among these were the delights from Dotonbori Kukuru. The restaurant’s Takoyaki Meisters showed what authentic takoyaki from Osaka, the birthplace of the fried octopus dumplings, was all about. Complementing the Osakan street food was daigaku imo from La Poppo, which finds its origins not in Osaka but in Tokyo, as a classic snack for hungry college students.

Even “handier” foods were also available for attendees, namely yakitori from Teriyaki Boy and both katsu pork cutlet sandwiches as well as katsu skewers from KATSU-HAMA. Both yakitori and katsu are increasingly common foods, but many restaurants shortcut the process, resulting in mediocre takes. Teriyaki and KATSU-HAMA, in a delightful contrast, use authentic cooking techniques for their signature dishes, and you could of course literally taste the results. KATSU-HAMA provided both pork and chicken katsu, which allowed a greater variety of people in a city as diverse as NYC to enjoy Savory Square. BentOn accompanied their yakisoba with gyoza.

Toeing the line between grab-and-go and sit-down was the rice burger from Yonekichi. Providing a fork just in case the “bread” got to be too unwieldy, the highlight of Yonekichi had to be their salmon burger. Rice and fish are long-time partners in history, and this was an exciting take on the combo.

Drinks and Dessert

IMAG0382

For tea fans (and if you’re into Japanese food you’ve probably noticed that tea is a big deal), ITO EN and MatchaBar were in full force, bringing a variety of tea brands. MatchaBar made their signature matcha fresh on the spot, while ITO EN’s bottles were not only very convenient but also incredibly refreshing. Coffee fans weren’t ignored, however, as Hi-Collar showed Waku Waku +NYC the world of Japanese coffee. Stronger than American coffee, it was a must-try brew.

And what better way was there to end (or indeed begin) Savory Square than with some delicious dessert? Beard Papa’s signature creampuffs came in a full plethora of exotic flavors (Calpico stood out the most!), and you could see them making the cream right on the premises. For something lighter, BentOn provided shaved ice. If your willpower didn’t waver from all of that, then you had to face ice cream from ITO EN (if the tea hadn’t gotten you already), as well as taiyaki from Otafuku x Medetai. Red bean paste received many converts on that day, while adherents to the popular Asian dessert filling came away satisfied. The last leg of the dessert temptation gauntlet was the luxurious flavor of ROYCE’ Chocolate, whose matcha chocolate seemingly transformed people’s views of the world. Suddenly there was BR, “Before ROYCE’.”

So, what was your favorite food at Waku Waku +NYC? What foods would you love to see next year? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

Not Just Tokyo: Regional Diversity in Japanese Popular Culture

This is a guest article by Katriel Page. You can check out more of her writing at Study of Anime.

While we see the Kanto region and Tokyo represented in a lot of manga and anime, from the scramble crossing of Shibuya Ward to the name of the first region in the Pokémon series – Japan is more than just this region. In fact, the second most populous region, Kansai, incorporates not just the ancient capitals of Nara and Kyoto, but also the high commercial and culinary center of Osaka. “In a country where regionalism remains strong, the two [Kanto and Kansai] stand as shorthand for an internal east-west divide roughly translated as Tokyo and Osaka – the two main economic powerhouses of the nation and the most populous metropolises of Japan” [Christal Whelan, Kansai Coo

But where do we see these?

Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe come up from series such as Azumanga Daioh and Kill la Kill; from school trip episodes to transfer students.

Let’s talk about the two most distinguishing features of any particular region: how people speak, and what people eat.

Each city in the Kansai area has their own slightly different dialect: some cities differ more, such as Kyoto, due to the centuries of heritage and culture there. Kyoto dialect comes up in the series of Bleach, for example: Gin Ichimaru, in the Japanese dialogue, speaks in Kyoto dialect which comes off sounding as a sort of polite, formal dialect. Osaka dialect, on the other hand, is known for being very abbreviated and commercial-based: “mokkari makka”, for example, derives from a phrase “are you making money”, and has come to mean “how are you” by extension. The phrase is not used much anymore due to a variety of reasons, but the expectation is that people from Osaka will at least know it: and people outside of the Kansai region expect these people to speak this way. This is part of the joke of calling Ayumu Kasuga in Azumanga Daioh “Osaka”, because she behaves and speaks counter to the stereotypical expectation of someone from Osaka to behave and speak. If you know a little Japanese and want to experience some Osaka-style dialect, Facebook now has the option to turn the language setting into Kansai Japanese, in addition to “standard” Tokyo-dialect Japanese. The version of Kansai dialect Facebook uses is based on Osaka dialect, so it will give you an idea of how the language changes when in a different area!

As for food, Osaka is known particularly for its food: octopus is a delight there, and so takoyaki is thought of as a stereotypically Osakan style food. Okonomiyaki is also considered an Osakan style food, even though you can get it readily in the Kansai region in general: it’s a sort of savory pancake made with eggs, batter, and sliced cabbage, and you can put all sorts of toppings on it (seafood is a popular choice, but sausage or pretty much whatever you like works too!) – in fact, the name “okonomiyaki” is from “whatever you like” and “frying”, so think of it as a way to use up all that cabbage you may have gotten after watching Persona 4 The Animation! There are more foods, such as kitsune-udon and hako-sushi, but takoyaki and okonomiyaki are seen in plenty of anime and manga and often used as a shorthand for Osakan style food. You also see these foods mentioned along with the mercantile focus of Osaka in the series of Kill la Kill.

Kyoto food is known for being a bit more traditional and delicate – for example, many traditional sweets shops started in Kyoto, and the seasonal kaiseki cuisine comes from the elaborate aesthetics of the old imperial and noble courts as well as whatever was in season. Speaking of aesthetics and art, Kyoto is historically more known for fashion and aesthetics more than food: this comes from the days of Kyoto as being the imperial city for at least a thousand years, and as such, traditional arts and crafts flourished for a long time. In Kyoto also, there are many shrines and temples, which lead to talk about spirits, folklore, and sacred culture that you can spot in series ranging from Yu Yu Hakusho (the sacred mountains of Mt. Kurama and Mt. Hiei are where the characters of Kurama and Hiei get their names), to the newer series Eccentric Family or even Inari Kon Kon.

This just touches a little bit on the subject of regional diversity in Japan – there are of course, other regions such as the Tohoku region with the beautiful “city of trees” of Sendai, and the historic Tono, located mainly in modern day Gifu Prefecture (which you can see echoes of in Pokémon X/Y and in Princess Mononoke) – so here are some more resources for you to find out more about the various cities and regions of Japan!

  • Kansai Cool, by Christal Whelan, available at Kinokuniya and other bookstores

Waku Waku +NYC is a new Japanese Pop Culture Festival in Brooklyn, NY that’s going to be bringing anime, fashion, music, games, and delectable delights from Japan, including takoyaki by master chefs from Osaka! Curious? Tickets are on sale now.

Japanese Culture in New York City is a Train Ride Away

This is a guest article by Linda, a Writer and Contributer at Anime Diet

Spring_Street_Mosaic-small

“Spring Street Mosaic” by HorsePunchKid – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spring_Street_Mosaic.jpg#/media/File:Spring_Street_Mosaic.jpg

Similar to Japan’s vibrant array of trains and buses, one feature of New York City is its public transportation system. New York City’s subway has the distinction of being the second oldest running subway system in the world, and is one of the few that runs on a twenty four hour schedule.

Waku Waku +NYC is located near the G train, which is the only train line in New York currently connecting the borough of Brooklyn to Queens. With the exception of the G and the Staten Island train system, nearly every other train line has to run through Manhattan for travel between the five boroughs. There is a shuttle running between the convention locations (http://wakuwakunyc.com/locations.html), but for visitors who want to also see more of New York City before or after Waku Waku +NYC, the subway and bus are great options.

The base fare for the subway is $2.75 and there would be a $1 surcharge for a new Metro Card. While there is no unlimited day pass, there is a weekly pass for $31. Savvy riders should know that you can make one free transfer between bus and subway within a two hour period.

Have a subway map either in paper or electronically, and be aware that on the weekend, New York City has the weekender service (http://web.mta.info/weekender.html) in effect. The subway system is generally under repair overnight or during the weekend to repair an aging transportation system that sustains six million+ residents and visitors.

If you’re visiting beyond this weekend, and may not want to head to the regular tourist spots, consider these other Japanese/Asian interest spots that entertain the locals.

Lower East Side

Meow Parlour: This is New York City’s first cat café. This place very often does not allow walk-ins, but you can pass by and take a peek in at the cute kitties that reside here. Closest subway station is either F train, East Broadway or D train to Grand Street.

Baby, the Stars Shine Bright/Tokyo Rebel: This is the New York City Location for this sweet Lolita and gothic Lolita boutique. The closest subway to this location is either the F train to Delancey Street or the J, M, Z to Essex Street. If you’re okay to walking, the East Village is within the area. Don’t forget, Baby, the Stars Shine Bright will be holding a fashion show at Waku Waku +NYC!

Around St. Marks, there are plenty of Japanese eateries and ramen spots that include restaurants like Ippudo NY and Spot Dessert Bar.  The closest stop is Astor Place on the 6 train. This area is often referred to as Little Tokyo.

Midtown

Many places of interest can be accessed by either N, Q, R, 1, 2, 3, A, C, E, 7, and S (the S stands for Shuttle) lines to Time Square, the B, D, F, M, and 7 lines to 42nd Street Bryant Park, or the 4, 5, 6, 7, and S lines to 42nd street Grand Central station. In addition to Midtown Comics (http://www.midtowncomics.com/), there’s Muji (http://www.muji.com/us/) which is a Japanese lifestyle store.

Across the street from Bryant Park, there is Kinokuniya Bookstore, the world’s premiere Japanese bookstore, and within walking distance is Lady M, noted for their lovely Mille Crepes cakes. A couple of blocks away, there’s BookOff, Japan’s largest used bookstore, and walking further north there’s Nintendo World and Uniqlo around Rockefeller Center. Down south in Times Square, there’s a Sanrio Popup store (http://ny.racked.com/2015/8/5/9100287/hello-kitty-pop-up-times-square) around 47nd street as well as the Disney Store, where you are bound to find Tsum Tsum products.

While this list of places is focused more specifically on lovers of Japanese culture, this is only the tip of the iceberg to what New York City has to offer. So enjoy Waku Waku +NYC and travel a bit around New York City if you have the time!

Waku Waku +NYC is a brand-new Japanese pop culture festival in Brooklyn, NY this August 29th to 30th that celebrates video games, anime, manga, music, food, art, and more. Tickets are on sale now!

IPPUDO’s Ramen King on What It Takes to Run a Ramen Restaurant

If you’re interested in trying out IPPUDO ramen, they’re going to be at Waku Waku +NYC! While the average anime convention can’t provide more than overpriced hot dogs for reasons beyond their control, at Waku Waku +NYC you’ll get to eat ramen so authentic you’ll make Naruto jealous. Buy your tickets today!

Shigemi Kawahara, also known as the “Ramen King,” is one of the prime players in the global popularization of the Japanese noodle soup dish, pushing its reputation beyond the “cheap eats” image of instant ramen. His restaurant chain, IPPUDO, has stores in Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, Thailand, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Philippines, and New York City.

In this video, Kawahara not only shows his method for cooking delicious ramen, but also dispenses with some advice for living and pursuing your dreams.

Some choice quotes:

There are plenty of hopefuls who say, “I don’t have the money so I can’t start my own restaurant.” Well you can start a restaurant without money. What’s important is to think, “Let’s do it!” I think what’s most vital is how hard you’re willing to work to fulfill your dreams. That’s why, when people like that talk, I don’t even listen to half of what they say.

 

The starting point for my business was like this: “I want to eat the ramen I make! I want to create a particular space for my restaurant! I want to be the proprietor! I want to welcome customers in! I want to talk with them, have live discussions with them! About the universe, about family, about anything… that’s the kind of space I wanted.

Though ramen likely has its origins as an adaptation of a Chinese dish, ramen has over the decades become a distinctly Japanese food. There are countless variations, with different broths, ingredients, and even noodle types. Anyone who’s tried the real deal will tell you that instant ramen, while perhaps still delicious, pales in comparison.

 

In Japan, Ketchup is Not a Crime

Ketchup is as controversial a condiment as they come in the United States. While it’s as ubiquitous as it is red, ketchup also has a reputation for appealing to unrefined palates. It’s virtually considered blasphemy to use ketchup with a Chicago dog, and while the rules are more lax in New York City, mustard is the go-to standard at the Original Nathan’s Famous hot dog stand in Coney Island.

Given this contempt for ketchup, I find it rather fascinating that the stuff has been embraced by Japan as both a topping and as a key ingredient in a variety of dishes. While many of the foods that incorporate ketchup in Japanese cuisine aren’t the most refined, the following examples show just how far ketchup can go.

Spaghetti Napolitan

While spaghetti with ketchup was a staple of US Depression-era cooking, today it’s reviled as an affront to all that’s good in the world, and an easy way to offend Italians. However, ketchup on spaghetti continues to be popular in Japan. Spaghetti napolitan consists of onion, button mushrooms, green peppers, sausage, bacon, Tabasco sauce, and often uses tomato ketchup. It works partly because the ketchup is used in moderation and doesn’t overpower the rest of the flavors, a valuable lesson for just about any open-minded chef.

Omurice

Ketchup on rice almost sounds like an accident, but in Japan it takes the form of “omelet rice,” a bed of rice enveloped by delicious egg. You may have come across it in anime and manga, often served in maid cafes with a giant ketchup heart or messages on top. One thing that’s not as obvious is that ketchup is mixed into the rice, and much like spaghetti napolitan it is anything but excessive.

Ebi chili (Prawns/Shrimp in Chili Sauce)

Anyone who’s watched Iron Chef knows that prawns in chili sauce is Iron Chef Chinese Chen Kenichi’s signature dish. It’s also one of the most common Chinese dishes in Japan, alongside mapo tofu and chaahan, or Chinese fried rice. As revealed in the show, ebi chili was originally a Sichuan dish that Chen’s father, Chen Kenmin, introduced to Japan. However, Japanese people generally do not like spicy foods, so in order to mellow out the strong Sichuan spices, he used ketchup, and it’s been a part of the dish ever since. Again, we can see how ketchup was viewed as an ingredient deserving of respect, and that something unique and flavorful came out of it.

If you’re a fan of ketchup already, does this make Japanese food sound even better? If ketchup isn’t your thing, would you still give these dishes a chance?

And if you’re looking to try a wide variety of Japanese dishes, come to Waku Waku +NYC, an even that celebrates not just food but also anime, manga, film, fashion, and all aspects of Japanese popular culture! Tickets are on sale now.

-Carl

 

Sailor Moon Was My Gateway into Japanese Food

I grew up with Sailor Moon. I remember waking up at 6:30am in the morning just to catch episodes, and increasingly found myself drawn into its world and its characters.

If I were to list my top 3 nostalgic Sailor Moon moments, they would be…

  1. The final battle against Queen Metallia
  2. Usagi (Serena back then) revealing herself to be Sailor Moon to Tuxedo Mask
  3. The curry episode

That last one might have you scratching your head, so let me explain.

Titled “Usagi’s Parental Love? A Curry Triangle Relationship” in Japanese and “A Curried Favor” in English, the episode was mostly just a self-contained bit of hijinks that ends with Usagi making a rather grotesque-looking curry that somehow turns out to be quite delicious. It was the first time I’d heard of curry in a Japanese context, and though that might not seem like much, I think it put me on a path towards wanting to try more Japanese food.

sailormooncurry

Japanese food in cartoons did not always get the best reputation. Sushi is now a big deal, but back in the days of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon, for example, most kids followed the Turtles in expressing disgust towards “raw fish.” Perhaps one significant factor is that the sushi seen in TMNT looked nothing like the real thing. If anything, it appeared to be drawn by aliens who had only heard of sushi through satellite transmissions.

Even if Usagi’s curry didn’t look like “proper” curry, just the idea that it could bring such joy and was not contrasted with pizza or another familiar dish in the US left an impression on me. Looking back, it was also impressive that the old English dub translated it to “curry” instead of calling it “beef stew,” like how the Pokémon anime would call onigiri rice balls “donuts” and “popcorn balls.”

While curry isn’t exclusive to Japanese culture, Japanese curry is its own unique thing compared to, say, Indian or Thai curry. It’s more like a stew, tends to be much less spicy, and has a reputation as a real comfort food. I think that last aspect might epitomize Usagi’s curry: much like a favorite pair of jeans it might not look worn down, but you know that it just makes you feel at home.

By the way, in the past you could actually buy “Sailor Moon Curry.” I doubt it properly reflected that “disaster on a plate” look, though.

sailormooncurrybox

You can watch the curry episode of Sailor Moon available on Hulu. Check it out and see if it fills you with the desire to eat curry that’s ugly on the outside but wonderful on the inside.

And if you want to try some delicious Japanese food while enjoying some of the best that Japanese anime and manga, film, fashion, and more, check out Waku Waku +NYC this August 29-30th! Tickets are on sale now.

-Carl