“Every time I’m downtown I stop in and get one,” the young twenty-something woman told me. She had a small silver nose ring indicating she was cool and trendy. If she was eating one I knew it was the hip thing to do. “They’re so good!”
The “one” she was referring is a Japadog, a popular street food that debuted in Vancouver, B.C., in 2006. In plain English, it’s a Japanese-style hot dog.
Think of it as a Chicago dog living in Tokyo and embracing Japan’s favorite foods. Rather than toppings of sliced tomato, chopped onions and pickled sport peppers atop a beef frankfurter in a poppy seed bun, Japadogs can have seaweed, edamame, and teriyaki sauce snuggling around a turkey hot dog.
Noriki Tamura is the owner of Japa Dog, the vendor who took the concept of a basic hot dog and wrapped it in a kimono, so to say. He and his wife migrated from Japan in 2005 with dreams of opening some sort of culinary business. Today, Japa Dog has expanded from one hot dog cart to three carts and one shop. More will be opening in British Columbia and if Tamura has his way, Japa Dog will soon have a green card to be seen in the United States.
While visiting Vancouver for a conference, I stopped off at the Robson Street shop (530 Robson) Sunday night for dinner. Seats were full in the tiny shop and the line to order a seaweed-topped dog seemed never ending. I ordered the Terimayo Japadog which had teriyaki sauce, Japanese mayo, fried onions, and julienned nori (seaweed) on an all-beef frank. Seasoned fries came with the combo but honestly, I couldn’t taste any seasoning. Throw in a soda and for just under $8, I had a filling meal.
The previous day, I visited a Japa Dog stand somewhere downtown and grabbed a Miso Turkey dog. I’m pretty sure the dog was resting atop shredded daikon radish and topped with sliced green onions. I’m guessing miso soup made an appearance on my dog, too. I cautiously added a pale green sauce in the event it was spicy wasabi. Turned out it was some sort of mild tasting mayonnaise.
This fancy Asian hot dog is quite a treat especially for the unusual combination of toppings and bragging rights. Who else at a dinner party will be able to say they ate a hot dog with seaweed and wasabi?
Where to Find Japa Dog in Vancouver
Japa Dog has stands at the corners of Burrad and Smithe Street and Burrad and Pender Street, in front of Waterfront Station and a shop at 530 Robson Street, between Seymour and Richards Streets. Japa Dog will open another store on No. 3 Road in Richmond, B.C., across the street from Canadian Tire. Each Japa Dog location features a different menu. Visit their website (www.japadog.com) for additional information or follow them on Twitter @japadog.