Did you know that some foods like mochi (sticky rice cakes) and jelly snacks have warning labels on them in Japan?
Especially dangerous for Japan’s aging population and those who experience dysphagia or difficulty swallowing, these foods are considered choking hazards. Dysphagia can occur at any age, but is most prominent amongst the elderly. People who experience dysphagia often have to eat pureed or cut-up meals that may look and taste unappetizing.
Engay foods may be the answer to dishes that can be easily choked on. Engay is Japanese for “swallow." The concept behind engay foods is creating dishes that look and feel like a real meal, without the hazards of choking.
Engay foods are made by preparing a dish as normal, then blending it with a variety of thickening and jellying agents before reshaping it into the original dish, such as a hamburger steak or a piece of salmon. Texture details like grill marks and glazing can be added to create a final product that looks like the real dish.
Engay foods are becoming increasingly popular in Japan and some restaurants even offer them on their menus, including choke-free versions of New Year’s Eve delicacies. They have also been featured in some cookbooks and could be on their way to becoming a universal concept.
About the author: Samantha Kwok
Samantha is currently a 5th-year JET in Okinawa, originally from Hawaii. She has been somewhat connected to Japanese culture her whole life despite being Chinese American. She's had the privilege of traveling to Japan and experiencing Japanese culture at a young age. She loves food and is always looking to try new places. When she is not working or out eating, she is an avid baker at home and has been known to feed her colleagues an excessive amount of baked goods.