Avoid or indulge in?

Good morning everyone,

It's going to be another grey, rainy day today and tomorrow and the next day and the next day and...well, you get the picture. I might have to go to a tanning salon just to get some sun...ha ha!

Despite its healthy holier-than-thou image, Japanese food has more than a few calorific goodies/evil temptations.

Coming from a land where fries with cheese and gravy (poutine) or deep fried cake dough (beaver tails) are viable dinner choices, and hangovers are washed away with a fry-up from the local greasy spoon, I am more than reasonably well acquainted with high-calorie foods. It may surprise some people to learn that Japan has plenty of waistline exploding dining options (often in common-sense challenging o-mori extra large size) too, despite its carefully maintained image of being a land of simple, healthy fare.

Here is my  selection of dishes that dieters may wish to avoid like the plague or non-dieters can indulge in life-enhancing/shortening gluttony with.

1. Curry rice

Not to be confused with Indian or Thai curry, this gravy-like gift from the British may contain spices (and therefore capsaicin, which can temporarily raise your fat-burning metabolism) but the roux it’s made from is horrifically high in fat. Add to that the starchy root vegetables and the mountainous piles of sugar-ridden white rice it’s usually ladled over and the result can derail one’s dietary plans in a single serving. If you find yourself unable to resist, you’re probably best going for a non-deep-fried seafood variety or a Hokkaido-style soup curry.

2. Tonkatsu

A pork steak covered in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. Despite being model-approved, served with a generous helping of high-calorie sauce and yet more white rice, Tonkatsu is best avoided if you’re counting calories. To make it slightly healthier, you can limit the calories by going for a leaner fillet cut (hirekatsu) over the usual loin steak (rosukatsu) and fill up on the shredded cabbage.

3. Tempura

Meat, seafood and vegetables deep-fried in tempura batter. While more expensive tempura restaurants will (or should) use higher quality and fresher oil, cheaper places are less picky and the calorie count rises accordingly. Go for a tempura on a bowl of rice (tendon) and you have enough fat and carbohydrates in one bowl to blow a whole day's worth.

4. Ramen

This noodle-filled bowl of broth also manages to pack the double whammy of fat and sugars that most of the foods on this list have, especially if you favour the tonkotsu (pork broth) variety. Go for the oh-so-tempting second serving of noodles and you might as well start ordering elasticated waists for all your clothes. If you absolutely must eat ramen, stock up on vegetables and try not to slurp up down all of the soup.

5. Kushikatsu

Not unlike tempura, but with breadcrumbs, and usually cheaper, kushi katsu are pieces of meat, seafood and vegetables covered in breadcrumbs, skewered and then deep-fried (a pattern may be beginning to emerge). Add to this that kushi katsu can often be found in all-you-can-eat style restaurants and it’s a delicious recipe for disaster.

6. Kashi pan

While bread may not be originally Japanese, kashi pan, sweetened breads and buns on the shelves of supermarkets and convenience stores across Japan, aren’t really found elsewhere. Take, for instance, an pan, bread with a sweet red bean filling (featured in the photo above) or melon bread. Even savoury convenience store sandwiches that are, in theory savoury ,will make use of this unnaturally soft and sugary bread so be warned.

7. Age-manju

Similar to a filled doughnut, age-manju are steamed buns deep-fried and eaten hot with a variety of delicious fillings to choose from.

While of course most Japanese foods are fairly healthy, and Japan has very low obesity levels that reflect this, there is plenty of fat and sugar-laden junk food out there. Foods that the health-conscious are best to avoid or eat in moderation, but for those less worried about such concerns, there is also plenty to pig-out on.

Now, I'm starting to feel a little hungry...

Have a great day!

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