Who gives a (fresh) fig!

I've eaten a lot of "firsts" since coming to Japan--wagyu (Japanese beef), fish sperm, horse (raw and grilled--hey, hey, hey...I cheered for Seabiscuit. AND I read and sobbed through every horse story there ever was as a child, so I'm not a horse hater...but I won't say no if there are slices of Flicka sizzling on a grill in front of me. Sorry, have I offended?)--which was to be expected since the only other time I'd previously been to this country was when I was about six, which for some reason left me with only a single memory: eating escargots--a buttery, garlicky memory, for sure.

Incidentally, this post is about another food I never would have connected with Japan: fresh figs. Usually when I think figs I think of places like Egypt, and I think dried figs--kind of, well, dry, lumpy things.

Well, it was just this year that I started noticing fresh figs. Of course my curiosity was caught. My first impression was that the shape was delightful--curvaceous and plump,
nothing like it's dried counterpart, and how sad that such a voluptuous fruit would be reduced to something so...shrunken and brown. Ah well.

There is something delightful about slicing into a fresh fig. After that first tear into the thin, furry-ish skin, your knife just glides neatly through, no annoying pits (as with peaches) to deter your halving efforts. And then inside... gorgeous and fun. There is a round rosy center with darker pink striations fanning outward, and teeny pink seeds at the heart of the fruit. Awww, cute and kind of sexy.
(Apologies for the painfully detestable photography)

The smell: vegetable. Well, the scent is a delicate cross between cucumbers and watermelons. NOT exactly mouthwatering, in my opinion. But doesn't mean I don't like cucumbers and watermelons.

The texture: very soft, like an extremely ripe peach, but minus all the drippy juice.

The taste: nguh... Okay, so maybe this won't be my favorite new fruit. That's okay since they're kind of expensive anyway (700 yen for a pack of five). It's NOT bad. Moderately sweet. No hint of tartness--which, unfortunately, does not appeal, as I like fruit that have a bit of sour mixed in with the sweet. The most interesting thing about the fig is that it has quite literally a smoky taste. I have heard of recipes that pair fresh figs with parma ham. This makes absolute sense to me. I think figs would work better in cold savory dishes, likes salads, as its flavor is not likely to clash violently with the other ingredients.

To make up for its low pucker power--and to quickly expend my pack of five before they are overripe--I've been having a diced fig topped with plain, unsweetened yogurt for breakfast every morning this week. Fairly good stuff. My favorite is still kiwis and plain yogurt though, mmm, zingy.

Haven't had any time to cook this past week so could not get a little more creative with the (poor, unwanted) figs. Since the number of comments on this blog has been less than overwhelming, I don't expect I will suddenly receive suggestions about what to do with figs that would change my currently lukewarm position on them... anyone? Anyone?

...Again with the crickets.

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fish sperm? interesting... was it cooked in something?

9/28/2004 12:17:00 AM  

Wei Yeen! I never thought you'd be the one to zero in on the fish sperm and completely disregard my fig review... which is what I *would* say if I wasn't so delighted to see a comment!

Let's see. The fish sperm was raw, which is I think the only way the Japanese feel that fish sperm should be eaten. It looks like a white brain--and a pretty damn big one. I mean, since human sperm is microscopic, you'd just assume... and fish... But I suppose this is a whole coil(?) of sperm, a whole sack of sperm, so there's a lot of it.

The texture is smooth, almost like those cheesecakes that aren't baked and have gelatin mixed in to lighten them up. It's extremely creamy and rich, and I can't eat too much of it. The taste...salty, but without any real discernable flavor. Quite honestly, I could happily never eat it again, which is fortunate for me cause it's a delicacy and pretty expensive.

9/28/2004 08:06:00 PM  

CORRECTION! Bad me. Sorry, I just assumed that eating the sperm sacs--which by the way are called shirako--raw was the "only way" because it is prized for that creamy, delicate texture and cooking it might alter that. But I just remembered that it sometimes goes into a hot pot dish, usually with lots of other fish parts. Never tried that. Could be good.

9/28/2004 08:14:00 PM  

It's not my fault. You wrote right at the beginning and all I could think about when I was reading the rest of it was "she ate fish sperm?" *grin* That's kinda interesting. I wouldn't mind trying it. I actually do read your blog everyday when I get in to work (it's my warm up session before I actually start working, or more like the 1/2 hr when my bosses haven't gotten in yet).... so keep writing, I promise to leave more comments.. oo.. and my other question was, the figs do look like dragonfruits, they're not the same, right? i haven't tasted either.

9/29/2004 01:01:00 AM  

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