Seattle is drawing ever closer to having a bigger street food scene. With kimchi quesadillas, gumbo, and poutine coming out of carts, we’ve come a long way from hot dogs.
But let’s not forget the lovely hot dog, and its potential for greatness.
Modeled after the popular Japadog carts in Vancouver, Shinsuke Nikaido opened his own place in Pike Place Market, as well as a stand at 2nd & Pike, and called his enterprise Gourmet Dog Japon–bringing a little French flair to the name. Both eateries are open for lunch, but after the market closes, it’s just the cart for dinner, which does booming business nights and weekends with the drinking crowd.
To the uninitiated, these can look like alien dogs, so you need to study the menu carefully, ask questions, and figure out what you’d really like. On a recent occasion, I chose the Kabuki dog, featuring sausage, bonito flakes, katsu sauce, Kewpie mayonnaise, grilled cabbage and beni shoga (red pickled ginger). Sweet, salty, acidic, and fishy, boosted by the umami of bonito, it reminded me of the takoyaki my partner and I like to cook at home–only in hot dog version.
So what does Gourmet Dog Japon’s Kabuki Dog teach us about sex?
It’s all about covering up the wiener.
On the surface, Japan is a sexually quiet country. Look closer, though, and sex is seemingly everywhere: love hotels, manga, used panty vending machines, etc. And then there’s the booming porn business. Yet the penal code still imposes one odd censorship standard: filmmakers must mosaic out the genitals, covering the clitoris (indeed, the whole vulva) and pixelating the penis. (The law has loosened a bit regarding public hair.)
Mosaic-mania goes back to the Meiji period, when porn was considered “injurious to public morals.” Some say that the mosaic makes Japanese porn less “penetration-focused” than Western porn, resulting in more camera angles, tantalizing techniques, and overall creative approaches to porn. In other words, wacky things like bukkake, which originally meant a different way of saucing noodles.
While there’s something refreshing about the non-genital focus and the creativity it probably inspires, the mosaic also makes me think of shame about our genitals and sexual behavior. And it just piques my curiosity, reminding me of childhood days when I first discovered sex scenes on HBO and then tried to catch the rare seconds of clarity amidst the scrambled signals of adult cable channels. We called that “Picasso Porn,” and I was suddenly an art lover, of sorts.
Now, with the Internet, we can all get our wieners and more, whenever we want, fully undressed. Same at Gourmet Dog Japon, though in true Japanese style, you can get those wieners dressed up in wacky ways.
Note: If you like the idea of food on human bodies, go to this weekend’s Seattle Erotic Art Festival where chef Tiberio Simone and photographer Matt Freedman will be debuting their provocative new book La Figa: Visions of Food and Form.
First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on May 19, 2011.