Site Ranks Japan’s Naporitan One of “World’s Worst Foods”

Site Ranks Japan’s Naporitan One of “World’s Worst Foods”

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Naporitan with meatballs
Picture: オクケン / PIXTA(ピクスタ)
You'd expect to find things like natto in an English language ranking of the world's worst foods. So what's naporitan doing here?!

It’s a judgment that’s ruffling some feathers on Japanese social media. An English Web site ranked the top 100 worst foods in the world. Two Japanese dishes made the cut – including one surprising choice. But perhaps what’s more surprising is what Japanese food didn’t make the list.

The Taste Atlas Ranking

Hákarl: The world’s worst dish?! (Picture: Taste Atlas)

The controversial ranking comes from the site Taste Atlas. TA’s list includes a truly impressive list of foods that will either make your mouth water or make you wretch in disgust.

The rankings come from site user feedback. Highlights include something called Spotted Dick (99), a British dish made with suet (mutton fat) pastry; Canada’s Pizza Cake (4), which is just a bunch of pizzas arranged in cake-like layers; and the Scandinavian delicacy lutefisk (51), whitefish soaked in lye.

At the top of the list? Iceland’s Hákarl, cured shark flesh with a gag-inducing ammonia taste. I’ve never had hákarl and nothing in that description makes me want to try.

Kaminari Okoshi: The world’s least favorite Rice Krispies treat?

Kaminari okoshi candy
Snap crackle ポップ. (Picture: Ayleeds / PIXTA(ピクスタ))

Two Japanese dishes also made the cut. The first is Kaminari Okoshi (雷おこし), a traditional Japanese candy (和菓子; wagashi) that’s basically the Asian Rice Krispies treat. It’s made of rice steamed into a mochi and roasted until it takes on a puffy texture. The sweet treat’s named after Kaminari Gate (雷門), a nod to its origins around Sensoji Temple in Tokyo’s Asakusa.

While people in Japan Japan might enjoy it, the dish doesn’t seem to garner much applause in the English-speaking world. Zero reviewers on Taste Atlas report liking it. However, only 12% said they hate it. A majority – 88% – ranked themselves as “indifferent”.


Naporitan? Really?!

Naporitan pasta from Japan
Picture: ゴスペル / PIXTA(ピクスタ)

The other – and more controversial take – is naporitan.

Naporitan falls under the general rubric of “yoshoku” or “Western” food (洋食; youshoku) in Japan. Yoshoku is a fairly nebulous category (my ex-wife declared it was “anything you eat with a fork”). But generally, it comprises dishes that are inspired or influenced by similar Western dishes. A good example is doria (ドリア), a cheese and rice casserole in a bechamel sauce.

Naporitan is one of several “Italian-influenced” dishes popular in Japan. I say “influenced” because the most common way to make naporitan is using an ingredient no Italian would be caught dead adding to pasta: ketchup. (Check out the top-ranked recipe for naporitan on Japanese recipe site Cookpad if you don’t believe me.)

The dish, the invention of chef Irie Shigetada at the Yokohama New Grand Hotel, also contains green peppers, onions, sausage, and bacon. It’s a staple of both family restaurants (ファミレス; famiresu) in Japan as well as junkissa (準喫茶), cafes that serve simple dishes and desserts.

However, while extremely popular in Japan, the dish ranked poorly enough to earn spot #24 on the Taste Atlas ranking. While the dish ranked a pitiable 2.5 stars, no one who tasted it disliked it. In fact, 33% of users said they dig it. But the dish’s 67% “indifferent” rating was enough to push it into the top 25 of disliked foods.

Natto-ku dekinai the naporitan hate

So what do Japanese users think about these choices?

Several Twitter users were surprised by the choice of naporitan. Many expected natto – fermented soybeans with a pungent odor and stringy, cheese-like texture – to make the worst list, especially with similarly stinky items from other cultures making the cut.

Taste Atlas does have an entry for natto. And a good 23% of users say they’ll never touch the stuff again. However, a healthy 50% of users approve of the healthy if odorous cuisine.

As for okoshi, some were perplexed that other, more disgusting confections from the wagashi category didn’t make the list.

There’s no accounting for taste, particularly when foods cross cultural boundaries. But when it comes to naporitan, I’d urge our readers to ignore the haters and give it a try for yourself. It’s true comfort food.

Unique Japanese Food: Cuisine You’ll Only Find in Japan


Worst Rated Dishes in the World. Taste Atlas

「世界マズイ料理」ワースト100発表、日本の意外な定番料理がランクインしてしまう. MyNavi News

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Jay Allen

Jay manages the technical writing practice for ercule, an SEO, content strategy and analytics firm. A lifelong geek, wordsmith, and language fanatic, he has level N1 certification in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).

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