Occasionally, I'll watch the syndicated japanese programs from Fuji TV (Fujisankei) on the international channel at 10pm on cable (ch. 63 on Time Warner cable in NYC, ch.14 for those w/o a box) to catch up on some japanese soaps, variety shows and such. On Monday night, however, I was treated to something that I found totally enthralling: a program called Kuishimbo Banzai (I think). Kuishimbo is a term to describe someone who eats anything/everything (a la Steingarten), not in the most flattering way either. This show was part slap-stick comedy, cooking show, variety show, travel show, all wrapped up in one program. I caught it mid-show, so I didn't quite figure out the format but let me see if I could describe it.
I was first drawn by the man who was in someone's home kitchen (somewhere in Hokkaido) sampling these dumplings that were filled with fresh uni. The man had to guess what was inside the dumpling-like thing, but he couldn't figure it out. The scenes were taken almost as outtakes, with the man being so dim as to the ingredient (though thoroughly enjoying it), "is it crab?", he'd ask. The motherly women who have obviously made the item say "no, it's uni, stupid." The next segment had this man sampling a stew made from sea snake from somewhere in southern japan (a specialty we're led to believe), except the big joke was that he has a phobia of snakes that keeps him from even trying it. The woman who made it for him becomes angry with him for being such a chicken.
Another segment had another man who would eat everything hot from the grill or pan and struggle to cool his mouth. Scenes with this guy had him at sampling BBQ in australia, sneaking bites from the grill, or sticking his hand in a boiling cauldron for a piece of potato or something and putting it in his mouth. There were other segments with this guy doing the fire in the mouth bit. What looked amazing were these freshly grilled bamboo shoots, that he, of course, put straight into his mouth.
Then there's the segment with the slap-stick duo who are invited to restaurants and served in some strange manners. There was the extra spicy food at a thai place, where everything they were served was ultra hot as we watch them struggle with the spice, and another segment with them eating at a chowhoundy chinese place, but they were served outside in the alley behind the restaurant. A lot of figuring out mystery ingredients with passersby and ingratiating themselves to the restaurant workers and falling over with delight or agony from the spiciness was how this segment went.
The show was all pulled together with two pretty hostesses talking with the first two in a studio set questioning them about their adventures, and at the end, they were served a very elegant clear nabe dish.
I wonder if anyone has seen this show and knows anything more about it. I can't imagine better quality television -- it's one of the funniest things I've seen, and very informative about regional japanese food. I plan to set my VCR on monday nights to catch it. Unfortunately, the program isn't subtitled so non-japanese speakers will be lost, though I'm sure there's plenty of entertainment to be had still.