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LAist Watches: Dotch Cooking Show
There is something at once unnerving and yet addictive about watching a television show broadcast in Japanese with English subtitles, particularly when there is so much left unsaid by the subtitles in terms of cultural context and background information. But we aren't talking about one of the many soap operas, we're talking about a weekly Japanese cooking game show called the New Dotch Cooking Show, which airs Saturday nights at 8:00 on KSCI (channel 18). The premise seems to involve two hosts who represent a yellow and red side, each featuring a chef who is responsible for creating a unique and tantalizing dish. There are six celebrity guests (the degree of celebrity is completely uncertain to us, since we know nothing of Japanse pop-culture) who must choose a side based on their desire to eat the dish being offered on each side. They will have an initial selection of a side, based on gut instinct, then the chance to switch after a preview tasting of some element of the dish.
But it is the food that is the real star of this strange show; each dish contains a speciality ingredient that is presented in a mini-documentary on the production, use, and gathering of the item. This item is hailed as the best, the finest, the most celebrated, the most rare, the most excruciatingly valuable in all of Japan. In addition to this ingredient, the dishes up for selection are far from your basic fare. The dishes typically are stunningly complex, and involve lengthy modes of preparation, the use of obscure ingredients, and with each progressive step the stakes seem to rise. Most recently we watched a match up between Mizuyokan, which is a Red Bean gelatin cake, and Annin Dofu, a creamy pudding-like dish made from apricot seed oil and served over fruit with a sweet sauce. After the guests make their final choices, the side with the most votes wins (the Annin dofu won, by the way). And what do they win? Well, the dish, actually--the winning host, chef, and celebrities are the only ones allowed to eat. And the poor losing chef? He has to eat his dish all alone, offstage.
We could never in a million years imagine cooking the food we see on the show, and they don't actually offer recipes during the episode (possibly on the website, but the whole darn site is in Japanese and won't work in Google translator). What's most enticing about the show is the hyperbolic language (the food's excellence is often called "unbearable" while the team players are referred to as "delicious supporters")), the untamed enthusiasm of the guests, and the quirky novelty of it all. We're guessing by not knowing Japanese we're missing half the point, but know we're not missing any of the fun.