Daily Archives: 13 June 2006

Wordcatcher Tales: Dekoboko, Kappou

凸凹 dekoboko ‘unevenness, roughness, bumpiness’ – Today I went to my neighborhood barbershop, not so much because my hair was getting too long for the increasingly muggy weather, but because my beard was getting too scraggly. Well, instead of looking up ‘scraggly’ in my electronic dictionary, which would have returned 不揃い fuzoroi ‘uneven, not uniform, irregular, mismatched’, I looked up ‘uneven’ and found the wonderfully graphic 凸凹 dekoboko ‘unevenness, roughness, bumpiness, inequality’.

The barber seemed to understand fine what I meant when I characterized my beard as dekoboko. He might have had more difficulty processing the Sino-Japanese pronunciation of the combination, tatsuou, but someone who works with lenses might have found it more familiar, as 凸 also translates ‘convex’ and 凹 translates ‘concave’.

割烹 kappou ‘fine cuisine’ – To celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, the Far Outliers treated themselves to an elegant dinner at nearby 割烹 懐石 蝶や Kappou Kaiseki Chou-ya ‘fine-cuisine tasting-menu butterfly-shop’. Wikipedia’s “tasting menu” is a good characterization of kaiseki, which has an interesting etymology in its own right, but I want to examine 割烹 kappou, which was new to me. At one level, it’s just a synonym of 料理 ryouri, but the respective etymological ingredients of the two words bring out different flavors.

While 料理 describes cooking in the abstract, as Ingredients Management, 割烹 describes cooking as concrete actions, Slicing and Simmering. You can see the ‘sword’ (刀) radical (刂) down the right side of 割 waru ‘divide, cut, halve; separate; split, rip; break, crack, smash; dilute’ (Sino-Japanese katsu), and the ‘fire’ (火) radical (灬) flickering under 烹 niru ‘boil, cook’ (Sino-Japanese hou). (The usual way to write niru ‘boil, cook’ is with 煮, Sino-Japanese sha.)

Perhaps it’s not too misleading to propose a rough analogy along the lines of 割烹 : 料理 :: cuisine : cooking. At first I suspected kappou was only used for fine Japanese cuisine, but then I found 中華割烹 Chuuka kappou ‘Chinese fine-cuisine’, to label a Chinese-style “tasting menu” approach (to judge from the images).

So here’s how our kaiseki meal progressed. We sampled two local brands of sake as we ate, both served in a small teapot of clear glass with gold trim. Our sake cups were also of glass. Mine had gold flakes on the bottom, and with twelve delicate, alternating green and white vertical lines. My wife’s was slightly smaller, made of cut glass of a purplish hue.

  1. Starter: tiny scallop on half shell, fresh ginger shoot (myoga), and a slice of chicken on fishcake
  2. Hashiarai: clear soup with noodles made of fish cake (surimi) in lacquer bowl
  3. Sashimi: slices of snapper (tai), scallop (hotate), and yellowfin tuna (maguro)
  4. Mushimono: I can remember the dish, but not what was on it!
  5. Nimono: simmered pork kakuni hidden under a scoop of rice in covered lacquer bowl
  6. Yakimono: whole celebratory red snapper (tai, implying mede-tai)
  7. Hassun: clear broth with daikon, shiitake, takenoko, broccoli, green fishcake, and shrimp
  8. Agemono: oily shrimpcake
  9. Sumono: vinegared tomato with sesame-flavored bean threads
  10. Udon: thin Akita noodles and thin chirashi nori
  11. Dessert: fresh local strawberry gelato bursting with flavor, paired with bitter green tea

Our rather unpretentious hostess didn’t describe each dish as she presented it, but was only too happy to answer my questions when I asked. Here‘s a photo gallery of a more elaborate kaiseki dinner.

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