How could I resist a line like that?
It's from a Japanese comic ("manga" for you cool kids) called Oishinbo.
I have zero experience with manga. But wow. The American publisher gave me a review copy (disclosure alert) and it was such fun to read. So here I am, telling you to buy it. I promise I wouldn't do that unless I thought the product was stupendous.
The volume that they sent--Japanese Cuisine--is the first edition of highlights from the series, which ran to 100+ volumes. Next up? The "Gyoza and Ramen" edition. Come ON! [Gob Bluth voice.] That one is going to be devoured as well.
The story goes like this: Yamaoka Shiro is a writer working for the Tozai News. His dad Kaibara Yuzan founded The Gourmet Club, an exclusive society that serves sophisticated meals to a select group of power brokers of Japanese society. He's also a total jerk. Yamaoka--lazy, unmotivated, slouchy--has absorbed all of his father's incredible culinary knowledge but none of his fearsome rage.
In Japanese Cuisine, Yamaoka and his co-workers begin work on an Ultimate Menu project for their paper that requires them to investigate all the most esteemed products, cooks, and craftsmen in Japan. Along the way they have several scary encounters with Yamaoka's father and participate in a series of food challenges that test the breadth of Yamaoka's knowledge.
As you follow the Tozai News crew, you learn why it takes incredible skill to make sashimi well, what temperature water is best to brew a particularly refined variety of green tea (gyokuro), how cedar chopsticks are made in Yoshino, and just what katsura muki entails. (Here's a hint.) There's even a glossary.
Reading Oishinbo made me jones for Japan. We only went a few months ago, but I already want to return. I fantasize about our incredible lunch at Tofuya Ukai in Tokyo, the scratchy song of the sweet potato truck on the streets of Kappabashi at dusk, the view of the mountains from a pavilion at the top of Okochi Sanso.
We're tentatively planning a trip to India this winter, but I keep muttering to Randy, "What if we just went back to Japan? Remember how good the katsu was? It's waiting for you ..." There is also the matter of a plate of pappardelle I ordered in Roppongi at a place called Rigoletto--tossed with Japanese leeks and ham--that unexpectedly blew my mind.* I think about it at least once a day. I suspect the sauce was made with dashi. It was so utterly good, so umami-licious. I would unhesitatingly fly 13 hours to have it again.
But if I can't have Japan, at least I have Oishinbo. And Elizabeth Andoh's Washoku, but that's for another post.
*Rigoletto describes itself as "A Factory-like Restaurant for Grown-ups". And while I was there, I could not resist the cocktail named Kitty Honey. KITTY HONEY! It was delicious.