Eating Habit & Longevity

Wow, I am amazed by how my body, especially my leg muscles, has adjusted to this new & more rigorous fitness regime! In spite of the last practice being a lot harder than the previous ones, I felt much easier during the session and a lot less achy afterward. A prolonged stick-handling drill was a real killer for me. I could feel lactic acid building up in my arms. Still, the practice will definitely guarantee me to tone the upper arms and lift my butt by this summer. Therefore, I shall swear that I will attend it every week. Besides, seeing all the friendly faces at the ice rink is definitely worth a 45 minutes car drive across London…

Recent London seems to have stepped back into the mini-winter again. The sky has been overcast and swept by chilly wind. And it makes me crave for a bowl of steamy ramen noodle!
While mum & I were in Tokyo in last January, the city was grasped by a very cold weather system. It was exceptionally chilly by Tokyo’s standard and in spite of a hotel staff cranking up our room’s A/C to the maximum, we still felt not enough warmth.
‘Shouldn’t we line our stomach with something hot?’ So we grabbed our coats and paid a visit to a noodle bar in Hacchobori…

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Ta-dah, behold my Kimchi Miso ramen. It was certainly fiery and spicy as the colour of the broth suggested and helped me to feel toasty from the inside. The only minor complaint was the seasoning for being too salty? Since I hardly used any additional flavouring, especially salt, on my food usually when I was in the UK, I found some of the foods in Japan a little too salty for my liking.

The prefecture of Nagano, where my mum lives, is well-known for its residents’ longevity. The average life expectancy for both male and female, are well into their 80s. As a daughter, I am very glad that my mum lives in an environment where it encourages its residents to lead a healthy & long life. However, the majority of her generation, born between the 30s and 40s, went through the post war hardship which has resulted in their frugal attitude as well as discipline towards food and lifestyle…

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My mum’s Kenchinjiru (建長汁) – hearty vegetables soup with salmon roe on top – is one of my favourites. Diced Satoimo (里芋) – taro root, carrot, Daikon radish, Konjac, thinly sliced burdock (牛蒡gobo) & tofu were stirfried with sesami oil first, then shimmered in the pot with water and seasoned with soy sauce, mirin, sake and salt. Mum was extra careful not to season the soup too strongly so it was packed with “umami” from the vegetables alone.

While my 3 weeks holiday in Japan, I had a glimpse of modern Japanese eating habit. Comparing it with that of my mum’s generation’s, the younger Japanese’s diet seemed to be far more westernised and consisted of more commercially processed foods rather than home-cooking.
It is purely my private observation and therefore not a general consensus but the recession in which the Japanese are trapped since the early 90’s has changed the way they behave towards food. The immediacy of pleasure tasty foods provide has shifted the general public’s attention from what they own to what they eat. It’s almost like the drabness of recession fades or forgotten while one’s sensory system locks on a tasty morsel in the mouth – the solace sought in comfort eating. Whatever the reason the Japanese diners queue up for plates of towering pancakes or bowls of noodle large enough for 3 portions or tables for “eat as much as you can” style buffet, the eating habit as the rest of the world perceive to be the Japanese way of healthy lifestyle is changing.
While the materialistic obsession in the 80’s only hurt the individual’s bank balance, the present OTT comfort eating tendency will sure to develop to future general health problem. Already, a part of the Japanese children is reported to have diabetic conditions due to a diet heavy on carb and sugar. Comparing my mum’s generation who grew up with not enough food around, an environment in which the present younger generation exists is saturated with an insanely plentiful amount of tasty food. This reality makes me wonder how long the Japanese can flaunt their top place in a worldwide longevity table. Not only that, I am concerned that they will develop serious health problems in future if the present overindulgence continues.

Today’s lunch at my beloved Shoreditch Grind. A bowl of Feta & Falafel salad…

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The salad contained rocket, crumbly feta cheese, balls of falafel, red & yellow cherry tomatoes and pomegranate. The dressing was sweet with a hint of chilli. It was delicious.

And my flat white…

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Who can leave Shoreditch Grind without tasting their celebrated roast?

I feel much less tired now so try my best to update the blog more often and regularly…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

13 thoughts on “Eating Habit & Longevity

  1. Ooh, I’d love a bowl of those noodles! I’m trying to maintain a low starchy-carb diet for the majority of the week and allow myself cheat days for some hearty soup noodles or a tiny bit of rice. I also noticed on our recent visit to Japan that the modern Japanese diet has changed drastically over time, especially with the introduction of Western food. But in general, a lot of Japanese food itself has become more processed — although very easy for those on a busy schedule.

    • Yes, the Kimchi ramen was good. I wish if we could have more noodle bars with a variety of ramens other than tonkotsu, shio, miso and shoyu. About the saltiness of the soup, I imagined it was seasoned to go better with beer. The customers there were all salary men except us. They were drinking beer, eating noodle and smoking (which we hated).
      They do eat awfully lots of westernized foods, don’t they? Even though I don’t eat Japanese menu that often in London, I eat simpler foods, such as baked potatos or pasta with homemade tomato sauce and etc, never pizza or cheese burger or pancake. Simple foods never take very long to cook. However, I may be doing it by myself because I have no Lawson or 7/11 with shelves full of ready meals in London!

  2. That Kimchi Miso ramen looks absolutely delicious – I’m so hungry. Would that be vegetarian or has some pork stock been used to cook the ramen? Your so right about salt. I think chefs should be gradually weaned off it altogether as they are always going on about amateur dishes being under-seasoned when actually they have a raised tolerance to saltiness. It’s a case of what you get used to.

    • Yes, it was really suitable for a cold day! Being vegetarian or vegan is still uncommon among the Japanese and therefore stocks for ramens must be a mixture of meat stock & fish stock, never vegetable stock alone. I prefer a light stock but some ramen joints offer a stock so thick, it resembles dense mud! I found my ramen was seasoned a little too strong but it would have been perfect with beer. I would have eaten it with a glass of beer like my mum did if I didn’t have to rise early to catch my return flight next morning… 😦

  3. I am shocked too by the amount of processed food in Japan, especially the convenience stores – row upon row of pot noodles. However, it is vaguely swinging the other way. The salads they offer have become more adventurous and now they have home style cooking which is v. healthy.

    Shocked also by the amount of salt there is!

    Your salad looks delicious. Here we have Sozai and recently Takano who produce scrummy bento boxes. Heaven!

    • Me too! I didn’t complain much to mum because I didn’t want her to feel uncomfortable. But all those factory-made foods, “Trouble” was written on every one of them!! Especially those cakes and rolls, they looked really artificial. 😦
      So Sozai & Takano are selling healthier lunch boxes now? Great. I shall look for them next time I am in Tokyo. Thank you for the info! 🙂

  4. It is a real shame that Western influences have corrupted the Japanese diet – with speed, quantity and retail therapy taking over. There’s no doubt that all the salt, sugar, fat and carbs are leading to health problems too. But all the more reason to hunt out good wholesome food like that lovely salad. It’s lunchtime here in Australia and I’m having homemade beetroot soup today!

    • Indeed! I was shocked by the amount of western foods consumed by the Japanese. About all those Japanese children being awash with donuts, cakes, pizza, burgers, etc, I am very concerned if they gonna develop serious health problems in future. In Japan, unless one visits an expensive eatery, a plate of well made salad will never be available for lunch. So most of the diners end up stuffing themselves with cheap noodle, rice with curry or bento box with deep-fried meat – carb & fat heavy menus. At least in Europe, salad for lunch is normal and I am very happy about it. Beetroot soup? Sounds delicious! I may make it myself for this weekend 🙂

  5. The Kimchi Miso Ramen looks so spicy. I don’t think I can handle that. But the Salmon roe looks sooo good. I like the size and the amount on the dish! It looks very yummy!

    The shift in the diet of children has happened for too long already and in our country, schools are actually trying to ban drinks with high sugar content from the schools, and this involves drinks other than sodas as well. Hopefully this would continue and involve other “bad” food items as well, for their sake.

    • Yes, it was spicy and made my nose runny!! And you love my mum’s soup? It tasted the best in the world 😉
      I was shocked to see how the Japanese children eat nowadays. They seemed to eat too much suger & fat! And so did their parents. High blood pressure related illness used to be a No.1 killer among the Japanese in old days. But heart disease and diabetes will sure to replace it in near future if they don’t curb their appetite to westernised diet… 😦

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