A few years ago, I was hanging out with a friend in Tokyo. Being recently married meant that for the first time in several years I was living in an apartment more spacious and comfortable than a bunker, and I invited my buddy back to my place for a beer.
I called my wife to give her a heads-up that I was bringing home a guest, and when we arrived, I was surprised to see she’d gone down the block to the store and picked up a selection of snacks for our impromptu drinking session. In hindsight, this really shouldn’t have been so unexpected, as beer is almost always accompanied by food in Japan.
Our memories are a little hazy, but we seem to remember being taught, “When in Rome, drink as the Romans.” Taking this to heart, recently a group of foreign residents in Japan shared their favorite munchies to pair with Japanese beer.
While most people who relocate to Japan eventually adapt to the local cuisine, some dishes can be an acquired taste, such as spicy cod roe or chicken cartilage (both are outstanding, by the way). Japanese beer has no such learning curve, however, and you’d be hard-pressed to find an expat here who likes a drink now and then but doesn’t appreciate the local brews.
▼ It’s always seemed fitting that Ebisu beer shares its name with a full-fledged god.
Japanese beer received kind praise in general from the 20 foreign residents polled, with fans citing its smooth, rich flavor. Brewers in Japan often roll out limited-time versions of their products with the change of seasons, such as amber beers in the fall and whites in winter, which participants also said they enjoyed.
▼ Asahi’s packaging asserts that it is “the beer for all seasons,” however.
Still, the focus group did have a few quibbles about Japanese beers. One American male lamented the lack of Japanese-produced ales, likely a byproduct of the country’s relative lack of the hard water preferred for their brewing process. An arrival from Tunisia grumbled that Japanese beer’s alcohol content wasn’t quite as high as he’d like.
▼ This is an extremely simple problem to rectify.
But when foreigners in Japan are pounding down a few cold ones, what do they chow down on? One man from Brazil said he goes for either umeboshi (pickled plums) or chocolate. Actually, neither of these are completely unheard of in Japan, with umeboshi being a popular at-home snack for older men, and chocolate often being on the menu at bars, particularly upscale ones.
▼ Umeboshi and Premium Malt’s: affordable luxuries.
If neither sour nor sweet is what you’re looking for, you could follow the lead of the Greek man who suggested Pote Long, a popular brand of crispy potato chip-like snack sticks. Regular potato chips are also a common beer partner, and Japan has a ton of unique flavors.
Of course, sometimes you crave a little protein, in which case there’s no better choice than meat. Respondents mentioned the Japanese-style fried chicken karaage, which is usually seasoned with garlic, soy, and/or ginger, as well as the chicken skewers known as yakitori. And if it’s right after payday, you could take the advice of the Taiwanese man who gave his answer as yakiniku, or Korean barbeque.
▼ We’re sort of blurring the line between “snack” and “meal” here, though.
By far the group’s favorite snack to have with beer, though, was edamame, also known as soybeans. Yes, the same edamame that get recommended by nutritionists and show up in vegetarian eating guides. Toss a little salt on them, chill before serving if it’s summer, and you’ve got a light, tasty, healthy snack that you can eat with your fingers.
▼ Edamame are essentially the Japanese version of crunchy mini pretzels. You don’t have to be drinking a beer to enjoy their flavor, but the combination is highly recommended.
Source: Nico Nico News
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