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Are the Japanese really obsessed with mayonnaise?

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I stumbled upon an old article about the use of mayonnaise in Japanese cuisine.

http://www.japanprobe.com/?p=576

I have never been to Japan and would like to know if it's true that mayonnaise is used on anything and everything in Japan...i.e. mayo on pizza...really?

Does Japanese mayonnaise taste better than Western mayonnaise?

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  1. I can't speak authoritatively on the subject, as I haven't been to Japan, but from my Japanese friends and language classes here in Canada, it does seem like the Japanese are quite fond of mayonnaise. I think that the article might be exaggerating somewhat, but mayonnaise is quite prevalent in many dishes.

    Japanese mayo is quite different, in my opinion, from your standard North American mayo. The brand depicted in the article (Kewpie) is one of the common ones, I believe, and comes in a plastic bag out of which you squeeze it. Interestingly, Japanese mayo is loaded with MSG, which may explain the lure: certainly more flavourful / umami enhancing than our MSG-free stuff.

    As I can't eat more than a modicum of MSG without triggering a health condition I have, my experiences with Japanese MSG are minimal. It is really good on sushi pizzas, though (toasted rice, salmon, mayo, etc).

    1. I had a friend from Osaka tell me that Osakans in particular are obsessed with mayo. He also said the favorite brand was Kewpie.

      3 Replies
      1. re: luckyfatima

        Been tempted many times to pick up a bottle of that Kewpie mayo, but it looks so weird I can't get up the nerve.

        1. re: monku

          yep, the japanese are pretty keen on mayo.

          often goes on Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki, which are osaka specialities. The magic combo of Kewpie Mayo, with the thick okonomiyaki sauce ((like a thicker version or worcester sauce), seaweed and bonito flakes is sublime...

          1. re: monku

            When it is on sale in the Asian/Japanese markets, the shelves seem to empty very fast-that was the reason I tried it- and now am hooked on it.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kewpie_doll

            It has a kewpie doll embossed on the container...soft and pliable...

        2. I wouldn't call it an obsession, but the popularity of mayonnaise in Japan might be up there with, say, Spain (where mayonnaise was invented). The creamy texture plus umami delivery has made it a popular condiment, and it's something I've always had in the house since I was a kid. But since Kewpie wasn't available in the US when I was a kid, it was always Hellman's/Best Foods, and the biggest difference I can tell between that and Kewpie is that Hellmans/Best Foods finishes with a slightly sour tang, while Kewpie is simply smooth and mellow. It's most similar to Belgian style mayonnaise you get with frites. Looking back among the variety of mayonnaise of the world, what's weird is the American made mayonnaise with its whipped texture. And yes, mayonnaise on pizza is fairly common at the popular American-style delivery/mall pizza places and izakayas, along with corn as a topping. But don't knock it till you try it. It has its place. But the Japanese know not to cross the line with real Neapolitan pizza. It's kind of similar to cheez-wiz as the accepted cheese-food on Philly cheesesteaks. Don't others find that weird? That seems as weird as all the French kids who complain about the foil wrapped cheese product in their school cafeteria lunches.

          1 Reply
          1. re: E Eto

            Don't you find American mayo too sweet? To me, that's the biggest difference. Of course, in Japan, too, Ajinomoto and other brands of mayo are sweet. Most people in Japan stick to one brand in their entire lives. My American SO doesn't eat American mayo, but likes Kewpie.

            Also, this trend to put mayo on everything (esp. in Osaka) is rather new, developed probaly over the 10-15 yrs or so. Mayo wasn't put on takoyaki when I was a kid (or even a young adult 20 yrs ago). I still can't accept that--mayo on Okonomiyaki, yes, but not on Takoyaki! (I'm from Osaka.)

          2. I was in Bangkok for 3 weeks and was craving western food. I go to a Pizza Hut stand in a food court order a small pizza, take a bite, FML it was covered in mayo lol....

            1. a Japanese student stayed with us for a few weeks about 12 years ago and offered to make sushi for dinner one night. She told me what ingredients to get and one of them was mayo (which of course I already had). I asked why and she said for the tuna rolls. She said it was a common sushi filling in Japan! My neighbour who thinks he is the world's sushi know-it-all did not believe her.

              1. Huh, I've seen the little plastic squeezie bottle of Kewpie in asian groceries for years, I thought it was for westerners in the orient. Learn something every day!

                1 Reply
                1. re: mrbigshotno.1

                  hehe well I don't understand why some people are obsessed with mayo, so I'm going to pick up a bottle of Kewpie and see for myself. =)

                2. Yes, I think they love mayo. I was in Tokyo last month and had a lot of dishes 'garnished' with mayo. We walked by a Shakee's and many of the pics of pizza were topped with corn and mayo!

                  Yes, foreignmuck, we had both Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki and they were both covered in mayo and other sauces and were fabulous! Now if I could only find some Okonmiyaki sauce - our local (HUGE) asian market doesn't carry it.

                  1. Yes, Japanese people enjoy mayo quite a bit. It can be found in many types of onigiri, on pizza, as a salad dressing, on okonomiyaki, or even as a sauce on cooked dishes like prawns or the like. They even have soy-mayo flavored potato chips and other mayo flavored snacks. I loathe mayo, so I can't really tell you if it tastes better.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: queencru

                      What do you think?
                      http://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/foo...

                      Here is the actual restaurant website if anyone here can read Japanese:
                      http://www.mayokichi.com/

                      1. re: lost squirrel

                        Ugh- sounds like my personal hell. My Japanese is terrible, but the dinner menu has a mayo omelet, mayo/bacon/onion pie, mayo mashed potatoes, french fries with powder mayo, shrimp/mayo garlic toast, a few not-so-mayo oriented salads (Caesar and avocado something). Thankfully the mayogarita looks like the only mayo-oriented cocktail on the menu. You can also have parties there.

                        1. re: lost squirrel

                          Andrew Zimmerman ate at a mayo restaurant in Tokyo in one episode of Bizarre Food. Maybe the one the OP was talking about?

                          One of the dishes was a mayo milkshake. I don't mind mayo but most of what he ate there looked disgusting.

                          1. re: rosepoint

                            Mayo milkshake? no comment. =)

                      2. Wow, I'm not sure if I could handle the mayo restaurant! But... it's definitely a necessity for Okonomiyaki, as mentioned above, and Kewpie is the way to go. If anyone is interested in learning more about making Okonomiyaki, check out http://okonomiyakiworld.com for lots of info and recipes. Also, here's a photo of the Kewpie if anyone has not seen it on the shelves.