I’ve been kickin’ it in Vancouver this week on business, enjoying that “different but strangely familiar” sensation that’s part of being an American on. I romanticize this city — it has got to be the most beautiful, functional metropolis in North America. What’s not to like? Walk along Cordova and watch the seaplanes crisscross Coal Harbor on their way to and from North Vancouver. To the west, lush green Stanley Park rises majestically. And the North Shore mountains — Cypress, Grouse, and Seymour — hulk over everything under a brooding pewter sky studded with clouds.
And of course, don’t forget that Vancouver is home to THE JAPADOG.
Sushi-enhanced hot dogs, people. I’m tellin’ you, hybrid cuisine like this can only be found in some kind of crazy wonderful parallel universe.
The enterprise’s signature offering is the Terimayo, an allegedly mouth-watering combination of teriyaki sauce, mayo, and seaweed (see photo at left). Or you can try the Yakisoba, which is arabiki sausage piled high with noodles, or the Kurogoma Kimuchi, turkey sausage topped with kimchi and black sesame, or even the Oroshi, which combines a dog with freshly grated daikon and soy sauce. (My God. The farts that have got to result from these collaborations are frightening to contemplate.)
Noriki Namura and his wife started the phenom that is Japadog when they arrived in Canada in 2005. The business’ website tells the story with a certain Cinderella flair:
“Nothing came easily but the hotdog stand was eventually ready for operation on the streets of Vancouver…In 2006 our first child was born which added more complications to our schedule because our child was with us wherever we went. We had to buy food in large quantities, prepare the hotdogs throughout the day and take care of our child…The hectic schedule of working from morning till night did not change. There were times when we had to close the stand earlier due to the fact our hands would be numb from serving many hot dogs.”
The 2010 Olympics helped catapult the Japadog to international stardom. Stands all over Vancouver were mobbed by hordes of fans willing to wait an hour or more for a Negimiso (turkey sausage and miso sauce topped with shredded cabbage). Now the Namuras have four Japadog stands and one store in Vancouver — as well as a newly-launched outpost in New York City. (Just to further mix things up, in New York a person can get an Ice Age dog — which actually isn’t a hot dog at all but a deep-fried bun filled with your choice of vanilla, mango, strawberry, black sesame, or matcha ice cream.)
Japadog addicts like to wax poetic about their favorite culture-in-a-blender cuisine. Here’s what a couple Yelpers had to say (unedited… any grammatical skank is all theirs):
A two-line system to handle the long crowds. Friendly, smiling asian guys serving up the goods. What can I add to this except that the pig did not die in vain. it is a glorious experience eating one of these fine dogs. I can think of no higher purpose in life.
I love me some tubular meats (OH STOP, with your dirty sick minds). This cart was hustling and bustling upon our visit while in Vancouver. There was only a short line and a short wait to get our DAWGS! Even though they just opened up shop in NYC, I felt like I had to try it in the city of origin. We tried the following two dogs:The Terimayo: JAPADOG’s Signature Hot Dog: Teriyaki sauce, mayo and seaweed. and The Okonomi Juicy Kurobuta sausage topped with bonito flakes. If you like Japanese food and Hot Dogs, this Frankenstein mixture is delicious and not evil at all! Enjoy it!
Delicious or evil? Folks, this jury is still out.* But here’s another factor that might tip the scales: according to the website, Japadogs deliver “Dreams, Excitement, and Happiness!” At about $8 Canadian, that is one heck of a deal.
* Full disclosure: I discovered Japadogs on my way out of town and was unable to fulfill my investigative reporting duty by trying one myself. Am I disappointed? Grateful? Not sure.