Think about your most favorite food. The food that makes your mouth water at the thought of it, even though you already ate a full meal. The kind of food that is readily available, is fairly easy to make and does not cost an arm and a leg. That is the kind of food I want to talk about today. We are not talking about food like foix gras or kobe beef at a fancy restaurant here.
Have you ever been at a fancy restaurant, eating kobe beef, foix gras, salad grown in the Emperor’s private garden all the while drinking (most expensive wine in the world) and all you can think is “oh, I could really go for some takoyaki right now”?
If you think about food that makes the brain spring to life and explode with delight and excitement, more often than not it is B-kyu gurume.
The term “B-kyu gurume” itself is pretty vague. From what I can gather, the term centers around food that is “common”, “not luxurious” and “cheap”. If a food can check off all these, then it can be classified as B-kyu gurume. And let me tell you, there is a LOT of food that goes into this category. Cheap, delicious ramen? B-kyu. Takoyaki at a festival booth? Definitely B-kyu. Mom’s home cooked omuraisu? Oh yes! Burritos from a converted WV van in an alleyway somewhere deep within Demachiyanagi in Kyoto? That one is a definite yes. In fact, I would be eternally grateful if someone could find this place for me again, I went there five years ago and I had the best burritos I have ever tasted, but I the place disappeared after that like some sort of magical destiny burrito place.
What can be said about B-kyu gurume anyway. We have entire magazines and TV shows that pride themselves on making the most luxurious, fancy and, let’s be honest, ridiculous looking dishes, only to be yelled at by Gordon Ramsay by not using the right kind of garnish for this specific plate.
So I love the term B-kyu gurume, since it is a kind of a stubborn challenge to the luxurious food that gets all the praise. Sure, it IS delicious most of the time, hence the price, but the term A-kyu gurume does not really exist, except when contrasting the B-kyu variety. (Am I making sense here?)
Anyway, here are my top three B-kyu gurume dishes in Japan that deserve all my praises.
This dish has a special place in my heart. You cook some carrots, onions and whatever vegetables you like on a pan. Once those are thoroughly cooked, you dump a bunch of freshly cooked rice on top. Slather as much ketchup on the whole mess until you can’t take it anymore. Pile it on a plate. Then take some eggs, mix a little cream, stir and put it on a pan for a few seconds. When the bottom seems cooked, but the top is still a bit runny, gather up the pancake and dump it on top of the rice mountain like a little blanket. Draw some creepy eyes with the rest of the ketchup (mandatory) and serve.
Or if you don’t feel like cooking, you can go to POM (Restaurant link)
In Osaka, I hear that a family will be violently evicted from their house, never to set foot again in the city if they fail to purchase a takoyaki cooking machine within 2 months of their arrival. ...Ok, maybe not, but it IS a staple for a family in Osaka nonetheless. Or so I’ve heard anyway.
And it is not surprising. Takoyaki is delicious. Take some cut octopus, put it in dough, cook it in one of those half-ball shaped hot plates and you are good to go. Slather some sauce on top and maybe some green seaweed dust if you are feeling adventurous and you are good to go!
This one surprised me when I first saw it, but DAMN if it isn’t one of my favorite dishes ever. Mostly because it is so easy to make, even I can do it.
Just cut some chicken, fry whatever vegetables you have laying around the fridge, mix the sauce and pour the whole stew on top of dry noodles (I think they are fried, but who knows). The resulting goop has to be illegal, it is so delicious. And I feel good for getting a week’s worth of vegetable into my body in one go.
Of course we are aware of the food called B-kyu gurume. We consume it almost every day, since we are stingy bastards who don’t go to fancy restaurants every day. But the fact that there’s a specific term for it, and not just “cheap food” or something, makes me want to appreciate B-kyu gurume for what it is.
And whatever you do, don’t google it on an empty stomach.