A Taste of Japanese Culture
From ramen to Pokémon Go, Orlando has fallen for all things Japanese.
Americans are embracing Japanese culture like never before, with Pokémon Go, retro Nintendo games and cravings for ramen and sake. We sat down with Morimoto Asia’s chef Yuhi Fujinaga, who works for the Iron Chef himself, to find out why.
Have you noticed Orlando has an increased affinity to Japanese culture?
Definitely. It’s a trend now, with anime, Japanese grocery products, and more modernized things that have trickled down from New York and California, and it’s just started to hit here, very much so, and the food scene has definitely grown so much more.
What’s the most authentic Japanese cuisine on your menu?
Our sushi is as traditional as it can get to Japan. We encourage the guests to come in early (6 or 7 pm), and sit at the sushi bar and see what fish is there. They’ll actually prepare one piece of sushi for you at a time. I also recommend the cold sake off Chef Morimoto’s signature line. It’s amazing sake. The rice has been polished further, and the flavor develops a lot more strongly. Sake is such a versatile beverage. It pairs well with a lot of Asian ingredients, as spicy as Korean, as savory as Chinese cuisine or as delicate as sushi, and it will still marry together.
Other than your own restaurant, where else to you recommend getting Japanese cuisine?
One of my favorite go-to restaurants is Hanamizuki on I- Drive. It’s more traditional Japanese they do over there.
Tell me about the rise in ramen.
Ramen is comfort food in the Japanese culture. It’s a nice good closer. After you’ve gone out to a good meal, have a couple of drinks with friends, in Japan you stop by a ramen shop on the way home, it’s like fast food, a late-night snack. For us chefs who eat late, nine out of 10 times, it’s ramen for us, too. In New York, the trend has been blowing up, and we’re seeing that buzz and that trend here now.
What makes good ramen?
Good ramen takes a lot of passion incorporated in all the ingredients. You might just think it’s soup and noodles but behind the scenes, there’s so much that goes into making sure you get the full flavor out of it. We leave the pork bone broth simmering for 36 hours and stir it every hour. It’s so meticulous. We’re open until midnight Sunday through Thursday and until 1 [am] Friday and Saturday, so you can definitely go out or see a show, and it’s very affordable to come in for ramen and a beer.
Is it okay to slurp?
A lot of times, people are embarrassed to slurp, but in traditional Japan, you slurp it so the noodles don’t overcook in your broth and the texture changes. You want to blow on it as you slurp it to cool it down before it reaches your palate.
What do you recommend to visitors who might be shy about Japanese—and Asian— cuisine?
Don’t be afraid of trying it out. Everything we serve here is an easy approach on all the items and not beyond your comfort level. Our menu is accessible, even if it’s your first time. We do have many new kinds of fish, but the flavor profiles are similar to say salmon, snapper, or tuna, that you’ve had before. And, try the Japanese beef.