Tebasaki Snacks

Brand: Yama-chan (?)

Cost: 149 yen

Found At: Lawsons

The second graders did a school play in English this year. It was an ambitious production, seeing as only one of the three second-grade teachers is comfortable in English, but they managed to pull it off – to the delight of all the English-speaking teachers and families. The theme for the class was “Welcome to Nagoya,” and while my two classes tackled such hard-hitting topics as the local neighborhood and Nagoya’s sightseeing attractions, the third class, taught by my coworker, went with a culinary theme. And this was how I learned about the specialty foods in Nagoya.

“We are Taiwan ramen!” screamed a pair of second-graders, each wearing a red Chinese-style dress and a noodle-inspired hat. “We are miso katsu!” screamed the second pair, in matching brown tracksuits, meant to imitate the color of the fried meat cutlet. “And we are tebasaki chicken wings!” said the third pair, with pictures of chicken wings taped to their foreheads.

The story of tebasaki chicken wings, as told by second graders, is extremely uninteresting. There was once a restaurant that ran out of chicken legs, so they just served chicken wings instead. I suspect that this tale had been heavily doctored to fit their English level, but regardless of their uninspiring origins, tebasaki chicken wings are a staple local Nagoya dish. Sweet and peppery, you can buy a mountain of them at the local Yama-chan (Little Mountain Buddy) restaurant chain. They are cheap and tasty and the perfect food for a group of people who can’t decide what to order. Emil once came home, strutting like a rooster and bragging about tackling a mountain with his language-school friends. It’s a great option for timid eaters!

And they transfer into snack form exceedingly well. It’s the same concept as BBQ chips – if the heavy lifting is done by the sauce, you can put the sauce on just about anything and it will be a treat. These are extremely good – supper peppery and spicy and chicken-y. They perfectly replicate the flavor of a tebasaki chicken wing without all the chicken grease. If you never make it out to Nagoya, a bag of these will get you pretty close. And if you live in Nagoya, do not buy them – you will eat them all.

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