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October 27, 2013


Restaurants Drop Shrimp Tempura from Menus




Last week the national fast food chain Tenya (tempura), which specializes in tempura dishes, announced that it was discontinuing two of its most popular menu items effective: jotendon ($5.93) and ebiten soba or udon ($8.08).  Both dishes feature shrimp deep fried in batter.  The former offers two big shrimp on top of a bowl of rice, and the latter one big shrimp in a bowl of either soba or udon noodles.  The reason for the move is the skyrocketing price of shrimp.  As a concession, Tenya will continue serving tendon ($5.12), which only features one fried shrimp on a bowl of rice, and introduce ebi oika tendon ($6.04)— one shrimp and one slab of squid on rice.


Tenya’s parent company, Royal Holdings, said in a statement that the Southeast Asian shrimp farms from which it buys its shrimp have been hit with a disease called early mortality syndrome (EMS) that has decimated stocks, the result being that prices have doubled.  The EMS plague affects shrimp prices all over the world, especially in the USA, which consumes more shrimp than any other country.


That’s a serious problem for Japan, where shrimp, or ebi, has a special place in the national cuisine.  Before the 1980s, tendon using shrimp was considered an extravagant dish for the average Japanese person, and it remains one of the most popular meals to this day, beloved by all classes of people.  Tendon is by far the most popular item on Tenya’s menu, with the now discontinued jotendon in fourth place, according to a recent report on Japan’s TV Asahi.  Moreover, the kaiten sushi (conveyor belt sushi) chain Sushiro has also announced that it will be suspending sales of many dishes that use shrimp due to the “worldwide shortage”.  Family restaurants and convenience stores will also cut back on the number of products they sell that feature ebi.


The shortage has given rise to rumors that some Japanese restaurants and food makers have been using crayfish (zarigani) as a substitute for shrimp without telling customers.  There are sushi restaurants in the USA that serve crayfish openly, but most Japanese people find the freshwater crustacean unappetizing.  The American species of crayfish was brought to Japan by the USA military during the postwar occupation as a protein supplement, and now can be commonly found in rivers and streams.  Japanese tend to be stereotyped as able to eat almost anything, but they’ve never taken to crayfish, which in the USA is normally eaten in the South.


Source: The Japan Times/Yen For Living.  Say Goodbye to Plentiful, Affordable Shrimp.  Philip Brasor and Masako Tsubuku.  October 25, 2013.

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