THE POPULARITY OF CILANTRO OR ‘PHAK CHI’ IN JAPAN OVER THE PAST YEAR GOT MANY PEOPLE THINKING THAT PERHAPS THE JAPANESE WERE BORN WITH A STRONGER SENSE OF SMELL THAN MOST OF US. BUT THE REALITY IS THEY ARE THE SAME.
The Japanese, too, find the strong smell of Phak Chi just as problematic as us. The beginning of cilantro or what the Japanese calls Phak Chi by its Thai name as a trend in Japan dates back to nine years ago when the Phak Chi eating competition was held by a restaurant called Pakuchi House. It didn’t take long for the vegetable to become this eccentric trend among Japanese teenagers who view the ability to eat Phak Chi as something that makes them look cool. There is also the middle-high income group of consumers who consider Phak Chi to be an exotic and somewhat luxury food. Then came a handful of research studies that looked at Phak Chi and found it to be this highly nutritious herb, causing the vegetable to become a fashionable food popular among a larger group of consumers, ultimately leading Japan into the ‘Phak Chi Fever’ phenomenon.
RECIPE BOOK OF PHAK CHI is a book that delves into the Phak Chi phenomenon Japan has witnessed over the past several years. The author Eda Jun, food researcher known under the moniker PHAKCHI BOY, put together a good number of recipes with the vegetable as the main ingredient (in other words, he gathers different possibilities where Phak Chi is cooked into actual dishes), and it has taken Phak Chi far beyond the status of a garnish that we Thais are familiar with. The book begins by providing basic information related to Phak Chi before dividing the content into eight different chapters: donburi (rice bowl dish), noodles, bread, hot pot, side dish, salad, dessert (Phak Chi cheesecake, Phak Chi ice cream, Phak Chi berry sauce, etc.) all the way to Phak Chi drinks. Not only does this book make us realize how the garnish vegetable has been developed into actual menus in Japan, but it also takes us on a journey to see all the things that have been created out of Japan’s mad obsession for Phak Chi over the past decades. Because apart from this book, there is also a song called “Phak Chi Heaven,” a bunch of television shows, and many more things that were born out of the Phak Chi craze. It remains to be seen what more wonders the Japanese will do with Phak Chi in the future to come.
TEXT: NAPAT CHARITBUTRA