Monday, May 11, 2009

Ebi Odori (ay-bee oh-doe-lee)

After work one night, my Japanese friends and I go to a sushi restaurant. Aiko selects a "non-touristy" place located about an hour's train ride out of Tokyo -- into the suburbs.

I am brave when it comes to experimenting with Japanese cuisine unless, of course, it is plastic-like and chewy (squid and octopus come to mind).

Aiko asserts herself as the group leader and orders ebi (shrimp) for me because IT is one of my favorite food groups!

I am slowly sipping the sake that has been placed before me (YUCK) - but a few sips I will take to kill off any harmful bacteria that may be lurking in the sashimi or sushi. And then I will switch to green tea to further kill off any lingering bacteria (and who says diet coke is bad for you??).

My order of shrimp arrives. The chef delicately carries the platter and ceremoniously sets a tiny plate bearing ONE single shrimp before me with a deep bow. I feel special ... perhaps, because I am the only foreigner here and, oh, I am a teacher. The Japanese people love their teachers!

I rudely stare at this particular shrimp. It appears to be different. Than what? Seeing that I am a non-cook at this point in my life ... the shrimp just looks different from the shrimp that I eat back in the USA.

Aiko declares with happiness, "Ebi desu!" (Translation: it's shrimp!)

"Oh!" I proclaim back. "That explains the color, GRAY! It is Gray! Did someone forget to feed this farm-raised shrimp the stuff that turns them pink??" I am still staring at this shrimp. Where have I seen gray shrimp in my lifetime? Thankfully, the head (which includes the eyes) is removed prior to arriving at my seat.

I continue to ponder the Gray color. It is still Gray. No chameleon like changes going on here. The lone shrimp lays on a bed of rice adhered with wasabi. Resembles typical sushi.

All fourteen eyes are on me. Why? I know I need to eat this seemingly expensive gift shrimp.

I grasp my chopsticks.
And I place a stick on each side of the sushi.
I hold the tail with my left hand.
I pull the tail.

The tail did not come off?

I try again to remove the tail.

And just then, HOLY SHRIMP! The grayness jumps out of my grasp, off the rice, up into the air, performs an incredible aerial stunt, and lands back on my plate.

I fall off my stool.

"Shinjidarenai!" I scream. (Translation: I don't believe it! Honest, it is not holy shit or any other four-letter word residing on the tip of my tongue.)

"It is EBI ODORI!" Aiko shouts at me. I know what it is called but what is it?

It's dancing shrimp! (Translation: IT's ALIVE!!)

I am NOT eating that shrimp. I think I am going to vomit.

"Dozo," I offer Aiko the shrimp.

Aiko expertly takes the ebi odori into her chopsticks, places the shrimp into her mouth, pulls off the tail, and places the tail back onto the plate -- where it continues to dance (flipping all around the plate)!

I am going to vomit.

Aiko swallows the shrimp WHOLE.

I know I see the shrimp dance its way down Aiko's throat.

I do vomit.

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