151 - Customizing Food Orders in Japan

After living in Japan for a while, I'm always amazed at how much people customize their orders at restaurants in the U.S.

Can I get the blah blah blah? Only, instead of blah blah, can I get blah blah? And I'd like the blah blah extra crispy. And please put the blah on the side.

Is this how you order food at restaurants?

Because if it is, you're going to hate Japan. People simply don't customize their orders all that much here. And even if you try to, the odds that a restaurant will actually change something for you are pretty low.

I remember this one time, I was at ガスト ("Gusto!"), which is what they call a ファミリーレストラン ("family restaurant") in Japan. To give another example, the Japanese version of Denny's also falls under this category. It's not a breakfast restaurant--something that doesn't really exist in Japan--it's a family restaurant.

Anyways, all of these restaurants have "morning menus."

Don't get excited--the morning menus suck. The scrambled eggs are like water. The non-scrambled eggs are pretty much raw. And the "toast" is this puffy white thing that deflates when you bite into it:

Here's ガスト's current morning menu, which features such classics as the "Full of Corn Pizza Toast Set:"

Anyways, I'm getting sidetracked.

So I was at ガスト with Rei this one time. I think we were in Sapporo. And I wanted to order eggs. If you look at the menu, you'll see they have eggs that more or less resemble "sunny side up." Which I'm fine with... except for every time I get those eggs at a restaurant like ガスト, they're not fully cooked. As in, a large percentage of the egg whites are still clear. Not really my favorite way to eat eggs. *_*

As such, I tried to tell the server that I wanted the eggs cooked a little bit extra.

What a disaster.

I was reminded that day that you should never try to customize orders at restaurants.

At least, don't try to customize them too much. You can probably get away with any of the following requests...

からく して ください。
Please make it spicy.
Literally: "spicy + do + please."
Note: Rei and I use this one all the time in Japan. We love spicy food!

ポテト あげたて ください。
Please make the fries fresh.
Literally: "french fries + just fried + please."
Note: You can say this at McDonald's, for example, and they will fry a fresh batch of french fries for you. You have to wait a few extra minutes, but I'd say the payoff is worth it. I didn't even know that you could order fries like this at McDonald's in Japan until Rei's friend told me.

On a side note, you'll see this word 揚げたて(あげたて // freshly fried; just cooked)quite a bit in Japan. Although I don't love the breakfast selection in Japan, I do love that they prefer their food to be 熱々(あつあつ // piping hot). I can't count how many times I've burned my tongue in Japan. It probably doesn't help that I'm 猫舌(ねこじた // Lit. "cat tongue"). What's "cat tongue," you ask? Cassy just taught us this in her recent cat lesson.

セロリ ぬいて もらえます か?
Can I get that without celery?
Literally: "celery + omit + can I receive?"
Note: Feel free to replace セロリ with whatever food you want left out of your order.

By the way, in my years of teaching English, I often asked Japanese students what foods they absolutely cannot eat. Generally speaking, I always got one of these three answers:

1. セロリ // "celery"
2. パクチー // "cilantro" (or "coriander" if you're in the U.K.)
3. ブルーチーズ // "blue cheese"

I can see why Japanese people don't like blue cheese, as it's got quite a strong flavor. The widespread loathing of celery and cilantro seemed a little strange to me, though. Go figure. (Oh, by the way, Rei loves both celery and cilantro. Nice!)

チーズ おおめ に おねがいします。
With extra cheese, please.
Literally: "cheese + large portion + に + please."
Note: Switch out チーズ with whatever you want extra of.

うすめ に つくって ください。
Please don't make it too strong.
Literally: "on the weak side + に + make + please."
Note: This is how you tell them not to put too much alcohol in your mixed drink.

こいめ に つくって ください。
Please make it strong.
Literally: "on the strong side + に + make + please."
Note: This is how you tell them to make your alcoholic beverage strong.

Did you notice the pattern with these last three?

We didn't use the kanji for all of them, but if we had, then it would have been:

多目(おおめ) = many + eye = larger portion; somewhat larger quantity
薄目(うすめ) = thin + eye = on the weak side; somewhat weak
濃い目(こいめ) = thick + eye = on the strong side; somewhat strong

Gotta love kanji.

...or hate them, I guess...

Anyways, good luck fellow diners!

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