Squid ink, fish, and you'll never believe what else - Japan's crazy pizza toppings!
If you travel just about anywhere, you'll see different local interpretations of foods from around the world. For instance, in the United States, "sushi" includes things like California Rolls and Dragon Rolls - which aren't at all like traditional Japanese sushi. You also have cuisine like Tex-Mex, which is different from what you'd actually find in Mexico. Same goes for pizza in Japan - there are some unique ingredients used as pizza toppings here that might make your mouth water, or raise your eyebrows (or let's be honest, possibly make you feel nauseous!) but they certainly buck traditional pizza topping conventions! Here are a few of the more unusual toppings you may find across the course of your travels - give them a whirl if you dare!
Teriyaki Chicken is quite a popular pizza topping in Japan - and it's one that I would highly recommend! You can find it quite easily across the country, especially because chains like Dominos offer it. The Dominos Charcoal Grilled Chiki-Teri as they call it, is topped with cheese, onion, spinach, corn and mayonnaise as well as the teriyaki chicken pieces. Quick Note: You'll find that corn sneaks onto a lot of pizzas here - some people love it, some people hate it, and some people fall into the "how did this corn end up on here?" category (I would say I'm the latter!)
Domino's EXTREME Meatlovers (or meat 12)
Have you ever thought to yourself "ugh...this pizza just doesn't have quite enough meat on it?" Well - Japan has you covered, going about as next level as you possibly can when it comes to a carnivorous concoction. 12 different types of meat are on this thing. "12 types of meat?" I hear you ask. Well, there's chicken nuggets, teriyaki chicken, two additional types of roast chicken, pork sausage, beef ribs, bacon, pepperoni, Italian sausage, pancetta, ham, and charcoal grilled beef. This is a limited time offering at Domino's Japan, until September 18th. Whatever you do though, don't tell your vegetarian and vegan friends!
Mayonnaise is a popular condiment in Japan - you'll see it drizzled on all manner of foods, from okonomiyaki to yakisoba noodles, through to salads and french fries. It also gets a nod on a lot of pizzas here, giving them an interesting zingy flavor and often just making them look that extra bit fancy.
If you don't mind your dinner looking back at you, shirasu pizza might be a good choice for you to try. Elsewhere in the world shirasu is often known as whitebait - and in many places it's seen as a delicacy. The teeny tiny fish are eaten in their entirety - head, fins, guts, the lot. It's a good choice if you're a more adventurous eater, but to me it's an acquired taste (and one I don't plan to acquire anytime soon!) Side note: Japan also has shirasu ice cream at some places, if you're really after a mind and taste bud trip.
In some places, goya goes by the name bitter gourd or bitter melon - and they definitely got the bitter part of the name right. Goya is quite popular down in Okinawa, and since they have one of the longest life expectancies in the world they must be doing something right when it comes to what they're eating. For me though, the bitterness is just not right for a pizza - but hey, if you're game, go for it!
No, the base of the pizza isn't burned beyond comprehension - it's the squid ink in lieu of your typical tomato sauce that is coloring it that way! It definitely gives some bonus points to the quirky eats scale, and makes for some interesting pictures...but it does add a saltiness that can be a little overpowering.
I like to call pizza with mentaiko "the stealth mode pizza" because from a distance the reddish orange base just looks like your typical tomato sauce, right? Wrong. Mentaiko are fish roe (eggs), and they are essentially small gelatinous textured balls with salty liquid inside. Since the roe are so small, if you spread them out they seem to act well as a sauce-type condiment. As well as being on a lot of pizzas here in Japan, you'll commonly see it served on pasta at a lot of Japanese/Italian style restaurants.
I still remember the first (and only) time I tried natto. Fermented soybeans don't sound all that bad, right? I mean fermented foods are all the rage these days - people are always talking about things like kimchi and kombucha and how good they are for your health. My thoughts were that at least if it tastes a bit weird, it would be good for me. Or so I thought! According to Wikipedia, A 2009 internet survey in Japan indicated 70.2% of respondents like natto and 29.8% don't - I say props to all of those who like it, because to me it's unbearable. It smells god awful (if you're going to try it, don't sniff it before you do - that's my public service announcement for the day) and it's stringy and goopy (think a mucus consistency - if you're gagging at the thought you're at the right spot). Adding natto to pizza to me is wrong on so many different levels - if you're game enough to try it then you're a braver human than I am!
Ooooh, shirako - that sounds exotic and interesting, doesn't it? Until you look up what it actually is...yup, none other than codfish sperm. I can't say that I've tried this one personally myself (and I have no intention to - not even for the sake of research!) but many people say it's quite the delicacy across Japan. This isn't one that you see on all that many menus, but if you are seeking it (or seeking to avoid it) the characters to be on the lookout for on the pizza menu are 白子.
Whether you're an adventurous eater or not, there are certainly some interesting options on Japanese pizza menus which can make for some unique travel tales - but don't worry, most places will still be able to hook you up with a regular pepperoni, Hawaiian or margherita if you'd prefer to play it safe!
Enjoy Japan, and Happy Eating!
this is japan
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