Japan is my jam. I’ve been intrigued by this fascinating, dichotomous culture since high school and borderline obsessed since college. I studied the language from my freshman year of college through my first year of law school (running from Japanese to civil procedure several mornings a week, trying desperately to switch my head back into English before Elena Kagan started in on us with her uniquely brilliant approach to the Socratic method). I’d taken the language since college and hadn’t been able to envision an academic environment where I wasn’t *also* taking Japanese. It hadn’t crossed my mind that adding Japanese classes three mornings a week across campus to the load of a 1L at Harvard Law might not be a great idea. But I digress…
In college I’d delved into the language head first. Poured over the history of each Kanji. I spent an embarrassing number of my nights watching Neon Genesis Evangelion (“fly me to the moon…”), picked up onigiri and adzuki bean cakes from a spot near campus for too many meals, and watched as my political science major slowly morphed into comparative politics with a focus on the far east. That last snippet got me in with an incredible Japanese government specialist who got my foot in the door of a program that allowed me to spend about 6 months stationed in Bumblef$%# Japan working on my thesis, doing widespread community outreach. and eating copious amounts of the best sushi I’ve had in my life – made by an old woman in a hut by the river at 2 a.m.
So there’s your long winded way of learning that, while my hardcore Japan days have been been behind me for a decade or two, pushed aside by such excitement as merger agreements and laundry, I dig Japan and all things Japanese and would happily sit around a low table with friends and family eating Japanese food and drinking tea and sake for the rest of my days.
As such, I’m always excited to see what Japan has concocted for Epcot’s various festivals. It was one of the first booths that I hit at Food & Wine this year and I’ve been back a few times since.
- Wasabi Shumai Steamed Pork Dumplings ($6.95)
I wish I had a better picture of these things but oh well…they’re dumplings. And sadly (because I have been craving some dumplings like nobody’s business) they probably wowed me less than anything else that Japan is offering this year. Don’t get me wrong – they’re solid shumai and tasty enough. But I wanted something to dip them in, they fell apart a little too easily, and for the $6.95 price tag I just wanted something more.
- Salmon BLT Sushi Roll: Futomaki Roll with Lettuce, Cucumber, Cabbage, and Carrots topped with Yuzu Miso Salmon, Tomato, and Bacon Chips
I have such mixed feelings about this thing. I want to hate it. Bacon, lettuce, and tomato have no place in my sushi. My sushi should be simple and full of good tuna. It tastes very good though. I’ll give it that. The rice is cooked perfectly and the lettuce adds a refreshing crunch that’s more than welcome in this lingering heat. And there’s the everything is better with bacon argument – but here it wants to take over too much. I almost wish they’d ditched the BLT schtick and gone inventive with a little something softer and milder, like a prosciutto. All that said, it tastes good and I’ve gotten it more than once. So I guess I should stop complaining.
- Teriyaki Ginger Pork: Marinated Pork with Sweet Chili and Teriyaki Sauce
This is without a doubt one of my biggest winners (and biggest surprises, since I’m not typically a huge fan of pork) of F&W this year. I cannot do this thing justice on paper. The meat is incredibly mild and falls off of the bone and the sauce is perfectly sweet and not overly spicy at all. To date I think I’ve had this more often than any other food item at F&W, perhaps only tied with China’s duck dish. At $8.25 it’s one of the pricier items that you’ll find on the promenade this year, but it’s worth it.
- Pom Pineapple Sake Cocktail ($7.25)
Tragically tiny like most F&W beverages, but so, so good. If sake and sangria had a baby, it would be this drink. Grab yourself one if you’re in the mood to spend more than $7 on a delicious little something to wash down your dumplings.