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The Biggest Eating Challenges in Japan

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While many Japanese dishes come paired with tradition, rules and etiquette designed to respect the food and those who cooked it, other dishes are served purely with the goal of completing an eating challenge, of which there are many in Japan. With the belief that leaving food behind on your plate is rude in Japan, these challenges certainly present even more of a struggle for those attempting them! We take a look at some of the most famous competitive eating dishes.

 

Image Credit: masakiimi | Instagram

Wanko Soba

With a bowl (“wanko”) in hand, a server adds a small portion of soba noodles to be immediately slurped back. Before the noodles have even been swallowed, the bowl will have been refilled with one of the many dishes on the server’s tray, as she enthusiastically yells ‘jan jan!’ (‘more more’), in a relentless stream of noodles. The goal is to eat at least a hundred servings of soba noodles, to complete the challenge that several Japanese restaurants have on offer. Fifteen servings of wanko soba is roughly equivalent to a normal, average portion of soba noodles that you would receive if ordering the dish from a standard menu, so reaching 100 is certainly going to stretch your stomach. While 100 may seem like a lot, it is not uncommon amongst those attempting the challenge, and competitive eaters have been known to rack up numbers in the 500-bowlful range!

To partake in this challenge, the noodles have to be eaten continuously, meaning there are no breaks to allow the noodles to settle and make room for more. Advice for competitive hopefuls suggests that you don’t even bother chewing each scoop of soba as it is served, rather, swallowing them whole, and disposing of the soup they are dished up with into a separate bowl to avoid filling up your stomach on the liquid. When you have reached the point of bursting and cannot handle another noodle, you must quickly place the lid onto the bowl to prevent the server from refilling it. Alongside the noodles in this challenge come various side dishes, such as watermelon slices or tuna sashimi, intended to be used as palate cleansers if the taste of noodles begins to get a little too much.

 

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Gyoza

One of the most renowned eating challenges in Japan involves the humble gyoza, a pan-fried dumpling, transformed into a jumbo version and presented to the brave to eat within an hour. With the promise of the dish being free, provided you can eat it all, many have attempted this super-sized challenge. Unlike a normal gyoza, which has a thin and crispy dumpling casing, the giant version has a thicker, bread-like exterior, which soaks up the oils it is cooked in, to keep all of the filling within it. This makes the process even more challenging, as the thicker, oilier casing proves quite filling.

An alternate version of this challenge sees the competitive eater attempting to force down a hundred normal sized gyoza within an hour. Those who manage to finish the full challenge will eat for free. Some restaurants offering such a challenge also have additions to this challenge, with 30,000 yen up for grabs if you keep on eating gyoza and manage to beat the previous record.

 

Image Credit: Abroad in Japan | Youtube

Ramen

As one of the most iconic Japanese dishes, ramen is already supposed to be a filling dish, with its generous portions of noodles, boiled egg and meat slices. Yet, in true Japanese competitive eating style, this comfort food dish has been transformed into something monstrous. Different restaurants throughout Japan host variations on this challenge, with some daring diners to consume three or more bowls of the dish within an hour to eat for free, while others serve up a dish of bigger proportions in exchange for a cash prize. This particular test of stomach capacity sees a large bowl packed full of noodles and broth before a mountain of bean sprouts, large slices of meat and eggs are piled on top. The contents of the dish weigh over a kilogram, so you probably won’t need breakfast if you want to beat this challenge!

 

If you would like to attempt your own eating challenge at home, or just fancy some regular sized Japanese foods in the UK, check out the range of oriental cuisine available at Oriental Mart.

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