Classic Post: Fabricating Controversy (or Why do we call Asian ingredients by Japanese names?)

People who opinionate loud and often tend to have the least informed opinions.

Take this fake vitriol at National Review Online based on a menu printed in USA Today. It’s the menu of a state dinner with South Korea’s president Lee Myung-bak.

The White House has released the menu for tonight’s state dinner for South Korean President Lee Myung Bak, and the main course comes from Japanese cattle bred in Texas. The Texas Wagyu Beef will be served with orange-ginger fondue, sauteed kale, and roasted kabocha squash, according to the White House. The full dinner menu: First Course Butternut Squash Bisque, Honey Poached Cranberries, Virginia Cured Ham, Pumpkin Seed Praline, Crème Fraiche Second Course Early Fall Harvest Salad on Daikon Sheets, Masago Rice Pearl Crispies, Rice Wine Vinaigrette Main Course Texas Wagyu Beef, Orange-Ginger Fondue, Sauteed Kale, Roasted Kabocha Squash Dessert Chocolate Malt Devils Food Layers With Pear and Almond Brittle An American wine will be paired with each course. . .

What’s next? German beer for when Netanyahu visits? Does the President of the U.S. not know the history of Japanese atrocities in WWII? Koreans in all 57 states would like an explanation. — Greg Pollowitz

Let’s break this down a little more.

The big issue these pundits have is with the Texas Wagyu Beef. Oooh, “Wagyu!” It’s JAPANESE!!

Wagyu is a breed that is always associated with Japan but was a mix of Asian and European lines. Texan Wagyu is no more Japanese than Texan Black Angus is Scottish. The commenters complained that the White House didn’t serve Korean Han-u. Yet they forgot that state dinners primarily showcase American produced foods. Han-u doesn’t exist outside of Korea. And even though I love Han-u, it’s not much more than a marketing ploy from the Park Chung-hee administration. (More on that in a later post.)

Or to use that beer analogy, it’s like Obama having an American wheat beer (weissen) with Netanyahu and screaming that they’re drinking German beer.

So, let’s investigate these other Japanese ingredients.

Daikon. Ah, you mean Mu? Daikon is just the Japanese name that English speakers adopted for the radish that Koreans, Chinese and much of East Asia uses.

Masago–Nalchi Al. Used in Korean cuisine in dishes like Hui DeopBap.

Kabocha Squash–Dan Hobak. Heavily used in Korea. Not exclusive to the Japanese.

So, no. The complainers said that even though Koreans eat Japanese cuisine, the White House shouldn’t have served Japanese cuisine.

But it didn’t.

Aside from the American Wagyu, those other dishes were just as Korean as they were Japanese. What this post unintentionally points out is America’s fetish for all things Japanese. The English world has attached Japanese names to products that aren’t exclusive to the Japanese. So the big question is, “Why do we call so many Asian products by their Japanese names?”

But these guys heard Japanese-sounding names and thought that Obama was serving Japanese food to a Korean president.

Guys, come on. When you are fabricating controversy, try to learn a little about the topic you’re complaining about before embarrassing yourselves.

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1 thought on “Classic Post: Fabricating Controversy (or Why do we call Asian ingredients by Japanese names?)”

  1. “Wagyu is a breed that is always associated with Japan but was a mix of Asian and European lines. Texan Wagyu is no more Japanese than Texan Black Angus is Scottish.”
    Wagyu IS Japanese as it was they who created this breed. But American ranchers can’t use the term ‘kobe’ for American-raised beef bred in the same way due to trade restrictions.

    “And even though I love Han-u, it’s not much more than a marketing ploy from the Park Chung-hee administration. (More on that in a later post.)”

    It’s not just the flavor, but how the cows are raised that makes hanu what it is. 

    “Daikon. Ah, you mean Mu? Daikon is just the Japanese name that English speakers adopted for the radish that Koreans, Chinese and much of East Asia uses.”

    No, daikon and mu are different varieties of the white radish. 

    “Mild in flavor, with just a hint of heat, the mu-giant Korean radish is the short and plump version of the Japanese daikon radish. The mu is hardier and stands up better to stewing, braising, and kimchi-ing. Resilient, this calcium, fiber, and vitamin C rich root can keep in a root cellar for up to 4 or 5 months. Look for unblemished skin with even color grading. Mu is used in a variety of dishes, from it’s starring role in Kkakduki kimchi, to stews, and braised dishes.” http://maryeats.com/the-korean-pantry/

    Daikon (Giant White Radish): http://www.kitazawaseed.com/seeds_giant_white_radish.html
    Mu (Korean Radish): http://www.kitazawaseed.com/seeds_korean_radish.html

    “Masago–Nalchi Al. Used in Korean cuisine in dishes like Hui DeopBap.”

    Masago is not the same as Nalchi Al. Masago comes from the capelin. Nalchi Al comes from the flying fish. 
    http://www.sustainablesushi.net/the-fish/masago/

    “Kabocha Squash–Dan Hobak. Heavily used in Korea. Not exclusive to the Japanese.”

    According to this blogger, kabocha squash is drier and has softer fiber and a more elaborate structure. http://blog.naver.com/PostView.nhn?blogId=rfiennes&logNo=30095007337

    Reply

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