Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Oishinbo (The Gourmet)

Recently, a friend introduced me to something that combines two of my favorite things, comic books and food. The fine people at Viz Media have imported one of the most popular and long-running mangas of all time, and selected some choice chapters to translate into English. Each chapter reflects on and gives insight into the overarching theme of each volume, ranging from Japanese cuisine as a whole, sake, sashimi, all the way to Japanese pubs. Its dorky I suppose, but I'm Asian and I'm totally into it, for whatever thats worth.

Oishinbo follows Yamaoka Shiro, a slacker journalist for the Tozai News, as he attempts to put together a story on the 'Ultimate Menu', representing all that is great about Japanese cuisine. Yamaoka also happens to have a very refined palate and a strong all-around knowledge of cuisine. His rival in this endeavor is his very own father and mentor, Kaibara Yuzan, who has been hired by a competing newspaper to create their own 'Supreme Menu'. While the premise might seem a bit silly, the author does a great job of illustrating the complexities of Japanese cuisine and the exquisite care that goes into its preparation while infusing humor into each scene. Within each battle or challenge, Yamaoka explains the techniques required to cook each dish, discusses the quality of the ingredients going into the dish, and generally makes me incredibly hungry for whatever the characters are eating.

I've just finished the 1st volume and, other than an extreme craving for sushi, I already feel like I have a much higher comprehension of Japanese cuisine. Definitely incredibly psyched to start the 2nd volume: Sake. Finally I will understand what my Japanese pal Yuya is jabbering about when he gets drunk. Check out the series if you get a chance!

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