Friday, 7 May 2010

Sakura ebi

Does deep fried shrimp taste any different than usual when eaten on Monday, 3rd May? The queue I'm in seems to think so. Today, the masses, mainly locals, I'm told, have descended upon this fishing port to binge on pink prawn fritters. It's the day of Yui's annual matsuri, a festival which signals the beginning of the sakura ebi season. 

The queue stretches out before us. Even by 9 a.m., the sun is beating down. Naively, I had not anticipated such a wait but it comes as no surprise for Snow and her family, who split into two groups, with her mother and sister lining up for the fresh, uncooked catch.


In the intense sunlight, without a hat, I'm at risk of becoming a pink prawn too. But no pain, no gain. (Is this karma for my Krispy Kreme post?)

"They better taste good", I say, give or take a few moody expletives. Snow seems to think it's worth the wait though. "Here, they're fresh" she says. I'm unconvinced, and can well imagine there's some restaurant in the vicinity of Shizuoka where, with a little planning, one could sit down to eat the same in less time than we spend waiting in line. But here, only I think such thoughts. They're into queueing, and don't reason in terms of wasted time.

A whopping ninety minutes later, and we're in. It's a frying frenzy of industrial proportions, with the fishermens' wives hard at work.

At 200 yen apiece, Snow buys five fritters. Between the two of us, that's a total of 30 minutes' waiting time per tenpura. "They better taste good", I say, give or take even more expletives, which her mother and sister - having now rendezvous-ed with us - won't understand. We eat in the railway underpass, sheltered from the sun.

Surprised that we hadn't raided the stall and bought as much as we could carry, I'm a little confused. Is this all we came for? Snow then explains that a limit of six fritters per group is in place. So why didn't we each purchase six? I suggest the long wait justified the maximum return. But she doesn't think like this. The calculating gaijin, with eyes larger than his stomach, inhabits a different world.

That evening, Snow's mother fries the raw ebi she bought at Yui. It tastes just as good. And here we get to eat them with wasabi mayonnaise. Washed down with a beer. Without queueing.

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