Why do Japanese people like wieners so much?
I often like to peruse the excellent Japanese cooking site Cookpad. Cookpad is a unique cooking community site. The bulk of it consists of cooking blogs, where people post recipes and pictures. People can post short responses to the recipes called tsukurepo, where they show a photo of their attempt making the recipe. A lot of recipes also note which other recipe on the site inspired the poster to come up with theirs. This is what makes the site unique - you can follow a complete genealogy of a recipe, and keep on discovering new variations on themes. The recipes themselves are nothing fancy, and that’s another reason I like the site. It gives a look into what real Japanese people, mostly ‘housewives’, are making for their families at home.
Now you might think that Japanese home cooking means fresh, seasonal food, lots of fish and the like. In part that is true, but that’s not the whole story. One thing that seems a bit odd to me as a Japanese person who has lived outside of the country for years is how popular wieners and franks are in Japan. I have nothing at all against a good sausage, but I can’t say I have them all the time either. Once a month is about the limit. But Japanese people seem to put wieners into everything. Kids in particular love them, as epitomized by the famous octopus-shaped wiener for which there are even special cutters.
Take this stew recipe which was featured in a recent Cookpad newsletter. A perfectly healthy stew with lots of vegetables…with the somewhat jarring addition of 5 wieners.
The reason for the popularity of finely ground sausages could be that they have a similar mouthfeel to traditional fish-paste products like kamaboko and chikuwa. (Rough-textured sausages are barely seen in Japan.) It could be because they cook so quickly. Or it could be down to marketing. I remember growing up with ads for Ito Ham Parukii wieners, which specifically targeted kids. Of course, I wanted them badly, but my mother was a bit anti-wiener, and would only buy the ‘purer’ (I guess the forerunner of organic) wieners from the farm coop store. One day she caved into the kids’ pleadings and got a packet of Parukii wieners, and served them up in a “Napolitan” spaghetti (which has nothing remotely to do with Naples but is a purely Japanese invention, except for the spaghetti). That night my sister Mayumi broke out all over her body in hives, reacting badly to whatever chemicals or additives were in the Parukii. I believe they no longer make Parukii, but they do still make wieners, including ‘high-end’ ones with the nicely Germanic name of Alt Bayern.
Wieners and franks are popular in other countries too of course - Germany/Austria/Switzerland naturally, as well as the U.S. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the per capita consumption was the highest in Japan.
[Edit: more wiener recipes!]