Tuesday, March 09, 2010
Nanishi Togareshi, I Love You
I never use to like hot food. It wasn’t until I joined the Army that I discovered, hot sauce and chili powder. I ended up using the stuff not because the military cooks put it in to the food, I ended up using it because often the food was so bland.
Even the meals in the field were incredibly horrible. We were lucky in that we had a combat field kitchen attached to our unit and that we were able to receive hot “A’s” delivered to us out in some of the most remote conditions. Logistics and location aside, the military has never really been known for their culinary expertise. And not matter what you do, you can just never deliver a world-class meal in below freezing conditions or in the middle of the German forrest at night.
One day I finally got sick of MRE’s or Meal, Ready to Eat (the author Tom Clancy referred to them as three lies in one). At the time the regimen within the MRE menu was limited to 12 different meals. In my opinion at least three of them were completely inedible. Chicken a al King or affectionately known as Chicken a la Sling (because as soon as that meal was received it was immediately thrown out). The Meatballs in BBQ Sauce was another that was not digestible. Most people agreed that the sauce or baby gravy (referring to the contents of a diaper) was disgusting. Hot or cold both of these meals were inedible.
The Chicken loaf was the worst of them all. A 4” x4” cake of compressed meat, the chicken cake was quite literally thrown out. Contests among the soldiers were held for distance or the ability to hit the occasional stray dog, iguana, errant monkey or Turkish child from a moving military vehicle were frequently held.
It hit me one day while on leave and having a meal at a local diner. I was never a fan of condiments, I being a somewhat moral person never stole anything in my life. But for some reason the bottle of tabasco bottle on table called me. As I paid the bill I pocketed the bottle of of Illians Tabasco and headed back to North Carolina.
In my normal field gear there were few places that made sense to put a bottle of tabasco sauce. My cargo pocket was too dangerous. I didn’t want it to break in the field and have a pocket full of broken glass and tabasco running down my BDUs.
One day while at the range I noticed that the bottle fit perfectly into my magazine pouch. If I took out one of the magazines and put it into the weapon I could keep the bottle stored in a protected place that was readily available. For the next two years I carried a bottle of tabasco on every jump and every field exercise, and the ever infamous Army chow became just a little more tolerable. Unfortunately I had nowhere else to put the spare magazine so I would just lock it into the magazine much to the displeasure of the company NCO’s.
After the military I discovered Nanashi Togareshi. There was a small teriyaki restaurant called Yoshiz that specialized in bento box style meals near by work in downtown Pasadena, California. I noticed that on each of the tables were the requisite bottles of soy sauce. What I did not recognize were the small red capped bottles of chili powder at each of the tables. Seeing everyone give a small shake of the powder onto their dishes I decided to do as the Romans do at the moment. The result was an incredibly pleasant surprise. Spicy but not hot with a pleasant tang and the lack of vinegar overtone that you get from tobacco. The great think about it is that you can take it pretty much anywhere and not have to worry about breaking the bottle.
I went to a local restaurant shop and got one of those large dispensers that you see at your local pizza parlor that dispenses either Parmesan cheese or the red flake chili pepper. I went to Lee Lee’s Asian Supermarket and got a 2 pound bag of the stuff. At the table whenever we are having asian food I bring my large shaker of Nanashi Togareshi and spice things up a bit. It always adds a bit of flavor whether it be stir fry, udon or egg tacos for breakfast.
Posted by Elvis McFatPants at 10:38 PM