Jack's Book Blog: Japanese Pizza

Alison Bing, Lonely Planet’s roving food, wine and travel writer and author of forty guidebooks, spoke at the Left Coast Writers Literary Salon last night at Book Passage. She talked about food and travel—what a magnificent combo!

Both are things I enjoy quite a bit, and can say I’ve dabbled in. I have been to Nepal, Japan, Mexico, England, Scotland, Ireland and France and have had some very interesting food experiences in all of these places.

Miso PizzaOne of the most interesting meals I have ever had the pleasure of partaking in had to have been at a small restaurant in Tokyo. I believe it was in the Shinjuku district in the northeastern part of the city that I found this place while wandering around one night looking for a bite to eat. I went in and ordered a dish with potatoes that were dyed bright red with hot pepper and covered with a delicious sauce, somewhat similar to patatas bravas, a Spanish specialty generally found in tapas bars, only these were less chunky, neater, almost meticulously cut and arranged—a distinctly Japanese twist.  But what I decided to order for my main course was the really interesting dish. I got one of the best pizzas I have ever had and certainly one of the strangest: a miso pizza with eggplant. It was just like a regular pizza, except instead of tomato sauce they used a mixture of mayonnaise and red miso, the Japanese seasoning created by combining a grain or soybeans with salt and the fungus called kojikin. The pizza was creamy and delicious, and upon the server’s recommendation, I garnished it with Cholula hot sauce, which they had at the restaurant. This brought it to a level of taste I have only been able to fantasize about since then. Sadly, I do not remember the name of that little restaurant, only the distinctive tomato logo on their sign.

The best writing, just like the best food, has elements of surprise and unusual contrast. These things create interest and excitement. They are imaginative and lead to new experiences. That miso and eggplant pizza was one of the best pizza-eating experiences in my life … well except for the one with fermented soybeans(natto).

—Jack Betterly-Kohn

Photo Courtesy of Marianne Betterly, © Marianne Betterly