I’m home in NYC, safe and sound. The past 24 hours have been a bit of a weird time warp, but such are the hazards of overseas travel. I’ll live.
My parents and I took a side trip to Kyushu during my time in Japan. Kyushu is the southernmost large island of Japan, perhaps best known to us gaijin (foreigners) as home to Nagasaki, the site of the second atomic bombing on Japan by the USA during WWII.
It is unfortunate that Nagasaki has gained its fame for being bombed (and unfortunate that it happened in the first place, of course), because it actually is one of the more interesting places I’ve visited in Japan, in terms of its history. In the Edo period, it was basically the only open port in Japan, meaning it received a number of foreign visitors, Portuguese and Dutch chief among them (or at least that’s the impression one gets from the tourist attractions!). There is a man-made island called Dejima where such would-be colonists were more or less quarantined by the Japanese in order to minimize foreign influence on Nagasaki’s inhabitants.
The Chinese, on the other hand, established a thriving Chinatown nearby, (imagine that!), and as is wont to happen in Chinatown, Chinese restaurants proliferated.
I had a chance to sample a couple of dishes that are apparently native to Nagasaki’s Chinatown. The first was champon, a noodle dish served in a rich, sesame-flavored broth. It was amazing!
Toppings included bean sprouts, spring onions, the ubiquitous pink-and-white Japanese fish cake stuff, various seafood, and a lone pork meatball. It’s quite a random hodge-podge, but it tasted delicious (and it was no big deal to pick out the bits with tentacles, tee-hee).
Word on the street is that it’s very hard to find champon outside Nagasaki, so I’m glad I got to try it!
Another concoction found only in this region is saraudon, another noodle dish. The main difference between saraudon and champon is that the noodles in saraudon are thin vermicelli fried until very crispy.
The pile of noodles is covered with a thick gravy containing much of the same ingredients as champon. It’s a big mix of meat, seafood and vegetables, mostly mushrooms and bean sprouts.
I drilled a little hole through the gravy with my chopsticks before taking these pictures so that you could see the noodles below.
This was yummy to be sure, but it pretty much tasted just like it looks…if it looks like anything you’ve ever had, that is… Mom and I both agreed that the champon tasted far more unique and unlike anything you’d ever see on a standard take-out menu.
Great lover of both Chinese and Japanese food that I am, my meetings with Japanese-Chinese food were seriously delicious indeed! You don’t have to travel much to realize that Chinese food can be found most anywhere in the world. It’s fascinating to me to observe how it adapts itself to the local taste. Clearly, Japanese taste is a wee bit different from North American taste!
I suppose the challenge now is to recreate champon at home so you can taste it too, eh? Just for you, though, I’ll leave out the fish cake and tentacles. :)