food

Grand Finale Anime Food Project

insight

After a month of anime exploration, Japanese history lessons, kitchen decimation, and editing mishaps the illustrious Anime Food project has finally come to a close. This project which came about from my desire to learn more about Japanese food and pop culture was riddled with failures and minor successes. None the less the research project still resulted in what Ellis et al.(2011) would hopefully describe as an ‘aesthetic and evocative thick description’ of my own personal experience with the field site – or at least my attempt at doing so.

The process of conducting this project far outweighed my original expectations, as the time and effort needed to holistically research and interact with my field site quickly overcome what I had originally planned. After days of researching and watching anime, I then needed to conduct further research into the specific Japanese dishes and how they would realistically

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Going Out With a (Muk) Bang

Mukbang, Korean for ‘eating broadcast’, first arrived to the internet 10 years ago – and no one could predict the popularity it would garner. The mukbang has been defined as a ‘new and unique phenomenon developed in a specific socio-historical context of Korea’ which ‘breaks the norms of traditional food culture and challenges the social norms governing the body and subjectivity’ (Destefanis, p. 112).

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The Overzealous World of Anime Food

insight

As a connoisseur of fine – although technically take away – food I can safely say I have had my fair share of experiencing different foods from a number of varying cultures. All be it the often-watered-down western version of these traditional dishes that are either delivered along a sushi train or in a paper bag in a takeaway container. Never the less I’ve always been open to a wide array of different foods and open to trying new dishes despite my stereotypical Australian tastebuds that would often take a glass of milo over most other drinks or actual food.

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One particular facet of international cuisine that I take a particular interest in is traditional Japanese food. Growing up out west over the blue mountains there were never any Japanese restaurants or small sushi hubs – or really anything other than old Jaza’s bakery and pie shop – for me…

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Iron chef ethnographic

Iron Chef is a Japanese cooking competition where guest chefs battle one of the three Iron Chefs in a timed cooking battle which is built around one specific ingredient. The series premiered on October 10, 1993 and ended on September 24, 1999. Iron Chef is regularly broadcasted on SBS.The host of the show is the flamboyant Takeshi Kaga. The Japanese version of Iron Chef has a back story, which is recounted at the beginning of every episode.

  • A title card, with a quote from famed French food author Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin first appears: “Tell me what you eat, and I’ll tell you what you are.” Then, it is said that Kaga “realized his dream in a form never seen before” and specially constructed a cooking arena called “Kitchen Stadium” in his castle. There, visiting chefs from “around the world” would compete against his Gourmet Academy, led by his three (later four) Iron Chefs.

Chairman Kaga himself is a showpiece, always dressed in outlandish examples of men’s formal attire. This brings me to my first point. The costume details in the Japanese Iron Chef is something I have never witnessed or experienced before. For a typical cooking show, the hosts are often dressed conservatively. However, the Japanese have dramatic costuming which can be seen as crazy for people who have never experienced it before. Comparing this to italian cooking shows which I watched growing up, they are more similar to Australian shows costume-wise. So, watching this show was a shock to me.

Moving onto the actual ingredients which Iron Chef uses, they were crazy and nothing that I had experienced before. Ingredients like whale and river eel are common on the Japanese version, something that I never plan to eat in my whole life.  But these foods are common and not unusual for people from the Japanese culture, which is the same concept for Australian cooking shows. We tend to use basic proteins like chicken, beef and pork and incorporate vegetables which are considered unusual. This is the basis of each challenge.

Iron chef has a lack of dramatisation through music, and utilises the ambient sounds well. This makes the show more enjoyable because the dramatic sound effects constantly playing over in the show can be annoying over time. I really enjoyed how you could hear what the chefs were doing, particularly when they were cutting things and you could actually hear it without some obnoxious squelching sound interrupting it. This is a major difference to the Australian and American shows. The sound effects are used to build unnecessary drama and create tense moments when they aren’t even needed.

Overall, Iron Chef has provided a large comparison to western television shows, which showcases the rare aspects which we aren’t commonly exposed to. For example, the crazy key ingredients are something i’ve never thought about eating, yet this is a common practice in the Japanese culture. The costumes are outlandish in the show, as well as the unrelated backstory, and is an interesting way to provide something interesting. However, this is considered to be something ‘normal’ and sometimes traditional. The differences between the shows and from what i’m used to is vast, however i’m excited to continue exploring the Japanese culture, whether it be through television, food or music.

 

 

 

Korean Food Phenomenon // MUKBANG

mukbang

I love food as much as the next person and growing up in as a Vietnamese-Australian I was brought up with quite a wide scope in terms of food culture –  such as diverse flavours, etiquette and perhaps the ability to use chopsticks more competently than a fork.

As I entered the subject of Digital Asia I slowly began to recognise on social media the growing rate and popularity of a different kind videos online. These videos were depicting people, from what I was seeing, mainly petite females, eating large quantities of food whilst talking to a camera and ultimately their internet audiences simultaneously. This triggered my curiosity and put me in a state of awe as I began to look into it’s country of origin, South Korea and dig a little deeper into the industry phenomenon of ‘Mukbang‘.

Mukbang, or 먹방, is an abbreviation and addition of two words:  먹다 (sound: “Muk-Dah” / meaning: to eat) + 방송 (sound “Bang-Song” / meaning: (TV) broadcast).

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Okashi

I have to start by saying that any assessment where I get to integrate food is always going to be a good one, especially ‘okashi’, which is the Japanese word for treats and snacks. For my individual autoethnographic research, I decided to purchase a basket full of treats from Wan Long Supermarket Wollongong. This is the closest location to where I live to gain access to Asian groceries without physically having to go to an Asian country. With the guidance of my partner Jon, who has previously lived in Japan, we filled a basket full of primarily Japanese based treats. All of the items chosen were a new taste, not ever having tried them before. I filmed the whole experience of the first taste test which made it very easy to watch over and reflect.

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(Source: Cubit, A 2016)

Firstly, it is worth noting the initial selection process of the Japanese based candy at the supermarket. I struggled to identify the difference of Chinese based packaging to Japanese. Most products did have English translated words, such as “strawberry flavour”. However, without the guidance of Jon, I would have got a largely mixed bag of candy and drinks from all over the Asian region. This brings to light the major barrier that language has on interpreting what it is you are buying. Without English translations that are available on imported goods, or the further guidance of Jon who has tried those foods, speaks Japanese and lived in Japan for over a year, I would have not been able to have had the experience that I did, of trying Japanese candy in Australia.

Similarly, it was evident throughout the whole 20 minutes of taste testing, I was critically referencing what I was trying, back to an Australian based taste. For example, “this biscuit reminds me of tiny teddies”. This could mean one of two things. The first is that it could be me trying to understand Japanese culture through my Australian context. For me to grasp and take in what It was I was trying, I was searching for the Australian equivalent. Similarly, it could also have meant that I understood that the video was going to be watched by an Australian audience, thus I could have been referring to the Australian context, to ensure my audience could connect with the foods I was trying.

Moreover, the packaging was something that really stood out to me. The colours were all very bright and most included images of the flavour for example. The candy also largely had a cartoon character of some sort, which I believe was to connect the target market of children, with the product. A cross-cultural study on the affects of advertising in US, Japanese and English families outlined how “Japanese children have a significantly lower level of television viewing that the US and British children” (Robertson et al., 1989). Perhaps this is why the packaging is so bold and colourful, as marketers are focusing on the need to gain attention of children in-store as television advertising targeted towards children is absent or minimal in Japan? Such packaging also could fit with the Kawaii or “cute” culture in Japan.

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(Source: Dreamstime.com)

The reoccurring theme in my above deconstruction of my initial post is how my Australian context not only forms my opinion of product selection, tastes, and packaging, it also informed my method of recording as well as the factors I chose to analyse. Living in metropolitan Australia, I am lucky enough to have access to a range of groceries from Asia, with the closest Asian grocer only 5 minutes away. This is a central factor to my research as I was able to gain access to the treats quite easily. It wasn’t a huge event in tracking down such foods. Thus making my experience of accessing Japanese culture and foods straight forward, even though I am almost 8000km away from Japan.

Sources:

Dreamstime, 2016, Kawaii Foods, retrieved from <https://thumbs.dreamstime.com/z/cute-kawaii-dessert-cake-macaroon-ice-cream-icons-vector-set-food-isolated-white-54668595.jpg.&gt;

Free Map Tools, 2016, Tokyo to Sydney, retrieved from < https://www.freemaptools.com/how-far-is-it-between-sydney_-australia-and-tokyo_-japan.htm>

Robertson, T, Ward, S, Gatignon, H, & Klees, D 1989, ‘Advertising and Children: A Cross-Cultural Study’,Communication Research, 16, 4, p. 459, Education Research Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 25 September 2016.