When It Comes to Japan v Korea, Eating Is Believing

The fact that most sushi restaurants in the US these days is run by Koreans reinforces my thesis that food provides the ultimate insight into their relative competitiveness in the global economy.

More than any other well-known Asian dish, sushi crystalizes my thesis. A piece of classic sushi comprises a translucent spear of fish overlaying a shaped mound of vinegared rice dabbed with a charge of wasabi. As typically served, it presents me with the choice of cramming whole an oversized mouthful or trying to bite off half and have the rice fall apart, leaving me to reassemble the remaining half of the fish with the broken rice mound.

I don’t want to look like a pig, even for the ten seconds it would take to chew and gulp the sushi, but I also don’t want to undertake the impossible task of reassembling half a piece of sushi. So I usually bite the sushi so that I get all the rice but leave almost half the fish. That gives me an almost civilized mouthful while leaving half the fish to be eaten like a piece of sashimi — which is why I almost never order sushi when there’s sashimi or some other dish.

What does this tell me about Japanese culture? That it puts a higher priority on the artistic and aesthetic satisfaction of the chef than on the convenience of the diner. A properly garnished platter of sushi is a feast for the eyes, something in which a chef can take satisfaction with each plate.

Why not make each piece of sushi bite-sized? It would not only look less aesthetic but would be more difficult and time consuming for the chef. In Japan the producer is king and the consumer is a mere accessory. Which is why Japanese live in tiny homes and work in absurdly cramped offices so obsolete traditional rice farmers can continue to impose their ridiculously overpriced rice and produce on urban consumers.

Korean food, on the other hand, puts the focus entirely on the consumer. For one thing, most Korean meals are ridiculously time consuming and tedious to prepare, with myriad side dishes comprising a dozen distinct textures and flavors. Compared with western fare, a typical traditional Korean meal is equivalent to a four- or five-course meal, with appetizers, a soup, a casserole or two, salads, a couple or three main dishes and a dessert. It takes a skilled home cook at least a couple of hours to prepare a typical dinner compared with say about 40 minutes for a typical American or Japanese meal. A Korean meal gives the diner complete latitude over what and how much to eat.

This explains why so many Korean restaurateurs have taken to opening sushi restaurants which are far less work and far more profitable. Some offer a discrete Korean dish or two, like kalbi or soondubu — neither of which are anywhere as demanding to prepare, serve or clean up after, as Korean dinners with all those side dishes.

This difference in attitudes toward the relationship between the producer and the consumer may also explain why Korea is inexorably gaining an upper hand over Japan in everything from smartphones to cars to pop music. To a large extent it’s that culture-based economic advantage that has forced Japan to go down the treacherous road toward printing massive amounts of yen in hopes of breaking the back of the yen and making exports more competitive against Korean rivals.



Ed · Apr 9, 02:40 AM · #

Wow, I can’t believe how crazy this article is. It’s trying to pass off fiction as fact. Just the line that says “most sushi restaurants in the US these days are run by Koreans”, where’d the author get this info from?

Korean electronics success has nothing to do with the food comparisons the author suggests. What the author is trying to link is just a far fetched opinion, and a poor one in my belief.

Sinopuppy · Apr 9, 09:16 AM · #

I’m told people returning from Beijing and Northern China experienced Barbeque style grill of all sorts of meat thru out Northern China. Grilled marianated lamb,pork & mutton very popular in the winter months. Along with ForGuor Hotpot. They see some common korean Bon Chon mixed with Chinese Dim Sum served as evening meal. In Shanghai and Hong Kong you can get a wide assortment of Sushi. Sushi is pretty ubiqious. The famed California Dragon Roll can be readily eaten in Shanghai & Hong Kong. There are 12 different versions of the Maki Roll experienced in Shenzen China with mango,papaya and avacodo. Shrimp & Eel is de riguer.

In Hawaii Sushi is been made by Chinese “Pake” and eaten with Curry Coconut Mein for generations.

korean_guy · Apr 9, 10:40 AM · #

Chinese made sushi is horrendous. I don’t trust Chinese with food in general let alone with raw fish. Chinese don’t even trust other Chinese.

powerof1 · Apr 9, 12:27 PM · #

As if Korean version of Chinese food not eaten by those Koreans all the time…

But this articles is a pretty funny opinion piece in line with the rise of South Korea over Japan in consumer retail.

But what happens when China eclipse South Korean and Japan in the next decade or two. Strange opinion pieces that both Korean and Japan are just some strange isolated perversion of Chinese culture…lol

Sinopuppy · Apr 9, 01:49 PM · #

Funny ironic thing:
The Japanese stole & copied mirin receipe from Chinese Miechou during Meji period. Essential in Sushi rice preparation and aging it for 1 hr. Chinese developed honey rice ball & sweet bean bun which Japanese also stole and copy.

korean_guy · Apr 9, 05:15 PM · #

“As if Korean version of Chinese food not eaten by those Koreans all the time…”

Chinese in Korea have been civilized, unlike Chinese in China.

“But what happens when China eclipse South Korean and Japan in the next decade or two.”

What makes you think they inevitably will? China is a nation about to implode. There is not moral foundation in China.

“Strange opinion pieces that both Korean and Japan are just some strange isolated perversion of Chinese culture…lol”

Actually its the other way around. Chinese culture,esp. food, is some perverted concoction. Other than Chinese food made in Korean style by Chinese in Korea there are no Chinese culture in China. FYI, Hanzi is used by Koreans in more efficient manner than the way Chinese use it. Otherwise Chinese language is one of the most inefficient and unfit for modern world language there is.

Ed · Apr 9, 05:34 PM · #

Why does praising one culture have to come at the expense of denouncing another culture? All the cultures mentioned are rich in history, cuisine, and social norms. But this stupid bickering is what I believe helped the west colonize and manipulate the region during the late 19th and early 20th century. Well, and the west was militarily superior as well… Lol

Sinopuppy · Apr 9, 07:16 PM · #

Well we’ve eaten “imperial” japanese cusine with our stays at kyoto on a couple of occassions. Haughty and pretensious. What can I say. It was very pretty and well presented externally. Very small portions and the flavor was supposedly so subtle to border on bland. Not very satisfying.

Qing Dynasty China in 1840 Opium War 1 did beat the British at the strategic battle of Tianzunmiao in Zhejiang Province, the onslaught of British invaders were repelled leaving 4200 dead Brits.

Battle of Jiangsu Province, 1,500 Eight Bannermen yielded no ground in defiance of an Brit enemy force of 10,500 and beat the Brits where upon the Brits withdraw. Retook control of Yangtze River.

Unfortunately the Battle of Canton was meet with treachery as ships from the Beiyang Fleet were sabataged by Cantonese collaborators who sabatage the ships ammunition and plugged the cannons with mud. Cantonese merchants collaborated with the British to traffick Opium against the decree of the Qing Imperial government. Brits stole gold held in Guangdong Province. Gee Hong Kong was ceded to Britain and taken back 1997.

Russia attacked in 1856 and stole the massive Manchurian Maritime Provinces and Khaborsk Oblast Territories. China weakened by Opium Wars.

Japan attacked in 1895 Taking Chosun/korea from Qing Dynasty China Protectorate. Took Taiwan as loot. Republic of China reclaime Taiwan. Diaoyu Islands taken by U.S Allied Forces was given to Japan by U.S in Anti-China policy.
By the way treachery again occured. Qing Dynasty China had signed a Mutual Peace Treaty with Meji Japan regime.

Cleo · Apr 10, 04:45 AM · #

that must be why my mother always told me that the Cantonese are unconsidered unpatriotic unlike the Fujianese and Eileen Chang’s ancestors who waged war.

wow, that really sucks that the Cantonese are like that and the problem is that they have history to show that they ALWAYS get away with it – even if there are show trials so the government can claim that they did something about criminals – they ALWAYS get away with it along with their impartial third party cronies greasing the way for them.

I guess Yip Man was definitely in the minority. What a pity.

korean_guy · Apr 11, 10:23 AM · #

Cleo ate too much food with mercury in it.

Sinopuppy · Apr 11, 12:06 PM · #

A Banner Strike Force of the “Silver Wolves” Manchu Regiment of 10,000 attacked the British armada of 8 ships at Xiamen Fujian. Oil was laid out in the ocean waters between Fujian mainland and Kinmen Bay where the British had used as a resupply base. Manchu Archers set the ocean on fire as the British armada burned. One ship escaped to Canton while British seamen reached the shores of Fukien. The “Silver Wolves” calvary division charged the Brits on the beaches and killed the Brits. Battle of Kinmen & Fujian left the Brits with Canton as their only port of operations in China.

Qing Dynasty Imperial Forces were stretched to thin and deployed in the South when Russia attacked in 1856. Only 250,000 Qing Imperial Calvary engaged Russian Forces. They limited Russian Forces to land North of Amur River. Unfortunately Manchurian Maritime Proovinces and Khaborsk Oblast territory taken by Russia. Qing Imperial artillery was south of Amur River to protect the Manchurian Passage leading to the Shenyang and Beijing.

Qing Imperial Forces won the Battle of Shandong against the Japanese marine Forces. The Qing Beiyang Fleet engaged the Imperial Japanese fleet and did damage to the Japanese Imperial Navy. But Japanese had fresh troops landing on the Chosun/korea pennisula at Pusan and Wonchon. Again Qing Imperial Forces were stretched too thin. Chosun/Korea was a Qing Dynasty protectorate of China. Pro-Japan Korean faction did not reinforce China forces at Wonchon. A 10,000 man Chosun/korea reinforcement would have helped Qing China forces beat the Japanese and cut the Imperial Japanese navy access to Wonchon port for logistics resupply. Japan subsequently conquered Chosun/Korea and took it away from Qing Dynasty China.

Hopefully this abstract was of interest.

Cleo · Apr 22, 06:44 AM · #

so traditional formal warfare is hard for China because we have too many areas to protect, too many of the population are not ready for war (unlike the Japanese) and the Japanese tactics favor subterfuge …. so we have to lie to Japan A LOT in order to defeat them? It can never be open warfare? What happens if it is open warfare? China will be expected (by Japan) to answer to every outside whinge about its defensive strategy?

It doesn’t make any sense that there are all these weird rapes going on in New Delhi.

Cleo · Apr 30, 08:09 AM · #

Why don’t forget about relocating en masse to Korea just because you are so jealous.

I think you need to stay away from the Asians and stay in Luxembourg with the other Huns where you belong, where you can pretend to be white. It will be safer for you than trying to stop the Koreans from cutting your throats.

You do anything like encroach on the Koreans, they will kill you. And you will invite a wikileak upon you for making the Koreans break their consistent courtesy and diplomacy.

Cleo · Apr 30, 08:34 AM · #

they forced Chinese to ingest mercury to watch our skin come off in one piece

Cleo · May 8, 05:38 AM · #

Korea also made the CUTEST baby in the entire world:

haha, I really loved when John Travolta squeezed her baby face – it was so insane that she was cast as an FBI agent in that movie.

Margaret Cho’s baby photos could SELL cars. I would buy something that had her baby photo advertising it.

Cleo · Jun 13, 10:09 AM · #

We were so happy to discover BCD Tofu yesterday but when I googled, I found that the House Foods logo prominently displayed on their paper menu placemat is Japanese. If they are using the House Foods logo then maybe House Foods is giving them FREE tofu to glom onto BCD Tofu’s fame and goodwill in which case I totally understand the Korean owner for allowing that logo on the menu – Koreans deserve to be bribed by the Japanese after what Japan did to them – that doesn’t mean we will be choosing House Foods at the local supermarket.

But now I worry that maybe House Foods’ organic soybeans are sourced from Japan! I know they have tofu plants in Cali and New Jersey so we are not eating Fukushima irradiated water but where are the beans from?

I think I would rather BCD Tofu used Vitasoy or a Korean brand even if it is GMO because people with soybean allergies are okay if the tofu is cooked even if they can’t drink soy milk anymore.

Cleo · Jun 20, 11:59 AM · #

too stingy to let foreigners have tempura:

I guess they save all their money to spend on themselves on such things that no one else gets to have like TRUFFLE BURGERS:

Jiue · Nov 6, 05:30 AM · #

Do not forget about Taiwan and Taiwanese food. Taiwan is an independent and sovereign country. Support Taiwan for UN at

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