When talking about Japan, the topic of Japanese cuisines becomes a prominent topic that you cannot be ignored. Japan is very unique in its food. From the traditional to the modern, from the quick to the drawn-out, and from the haute to the street it uses both the Japanese dishes and so do the western dishes and within those, the Chinese dishes too become very popular. Japan is the home of some of the world’s most exquisite beef, certainly its most exquisite fish. When it comes to the Japanese cuisines or washoku, raw fish and pickled vegetables, sea weeds and tempura sculptures become the most prominent food. Japan is a place where you can eat blowfish sashimi, octopus balls and cow rectum in one evening and then follows it all up the next day with a 15-course meal that might qualify as one of the truly greatest eating experiences of your life.
In Japan, the dining experience is not only about the actual food consumed, but also the presentation, the design, the sheer beauty of what you’re eating. Japanese cuisine the color and the hope of a certain food plays a major role and it becomes the major point in attraction.
Kome, white rice
The Japanese have a long tradition of agriculture handed down from generation to generation since the pre historic Jomon period and from then onwards. Until now, kome or the rice has being the staple food of Japanese. There are several varieties of Japanese rice:
- Uruchimai or non glutinous rice which is not too sticky and used mainly for boiled rice
- Mochigome or glutinous rice which is sticky and used to make sekihan or red beans rice
- Okowa or steamed sticky rice mixed with all kinds of vegetables and meat.
Tsukemono, pickled vegetables
The most basic kind of tsukemono are the vegetables and the other ingredients pickled in salt or bride. Japanese seem to be able to pickle just about anything and everything that grows. And they make it all taste good. Tsukemono doesn’t play the role of a main dish, but only play the role as a side dish. The main ingredients for tsukemono includes cucumber, egg plant, and Japanese radish. Asazuke or shallow pickling is made by pickling the ingredients in salt or brine whereas nakazuke or rice bran pickles are made by fermenting vegetables in rice barn or komenuka.
Miso soup is considered as a fundamental unit of Japanese home cuisine and together with osuimono or Japanese clear soup it constitute the soup of the Japanese common meal called ichijuu-sansai or one soup three side dishes. This soup is made by cooking such ingredients as tofu or soy bean curd, kelp or wakame, shijimi or clam in a shimmering broth made from niboshi or dried baby sardines, dried bonito flakes, or dried kelp and then by mixing miso into the broth.
More than 80% of Japan’s total annual production of miso goes into miso soup, and 75% of all Japanese consume miso soup at least once a day. This miso soup is considered as a very nutritious food containing protein from miso and vitamins and minerals from other vegetables.
Japanese wagyu meat and fish
Japan is an island, so it’s not surprising that fish is abundant and the go-to source of protein. Raw is the chosen method of preparation, but in multi-course meals you’ll find an occasional piece of steamed fish topped with a light sauce.
However, a perfectly marbled beef such as Kobe beef (or the new king, Hida beef) will be served beautifully raw with the expectation that you’ll cook it to taste on your own individual tabletop hibachi grill.
Sushi, vinegar rice topped with fish, meat or vegetables
It is said that sushi was introduced to japan during Heiyan period and was originally made mainly to preserve fish and today sushi has become a very famous Japanese within Japan and even outside japan. The origin of Nigirisushi or Edomae sushi is traced back to Edo period. Back then, it was made with freshly caught fish or other sea food from Tokyo bay, over a ball of vinegar rice, and was served in street stalls as an early form of fast food. In addition to Nigirisushi, there are other forms of sushi known as Norimaki or rolled sushi wrapped in nori or Japanese dried sea weeds, a cylindrical piece of sushi with various ingredients rolled inside the rice and then wrapped in nori or dried seaweeds. Inarisuhi or stuffed sushi, Chirashi sushi or scattered sushi are other forms of sushi.
Each sushi represents the unique characteristics of the region where it originated. Sushi is often eaten by dipping into soy sauce and mixing a little Japanese wasabi.
Kaiten sushi, conveyor belt sushi
At kaiten sushi restaurants, the plates of sushi are placed on rotating conveyor belt that passes every table and a counter seats. Customers only have to select what they need and they should pay according to the number of plates that they ate and they can tell the price of the sushi by the color or the pattern of the sushi plate.
Conveyor belt sushi is usually costs more casual than sushi restaurant. It is popularly enjoyed wide variety of generations in Japan, from children to elderly.
Sashimi, fresh raw seafood
This is a dish in which fresh raw fish or sea food is sliced into bite-size pieces and then eaten in raw. This is a unique eating habit for the Japanese reflecting the fact that japan is an island, which is totally surrounded by the sea. Sashimi is sliced raw fish and it is eaten with soy sauce and wasabi or Japanese horse radish. Japanese also eat raw beef liver, horse meat, yuba, konnyaku as sashimi.
Okonomiyaki, Japanese pancake
Okonomiyaki, roughly, is a savory pancake stuffed with sliced vegetables, seafood and other bits, cooked on a big griddle and top with hanakatsuo — dried, fermented, and outrageously thin bonito (skipjack tuna) flakes that curl like mad when you place them atop hot food.This is little similar to the Italian dish of pizza.
Takoyaki, hot octopus and herbed dough balls
Takoyaki is ping pong ball-sized dumpling snacks made by grilling the takoyaki octopus balls and turning them with a pick.
Made by mixing wheat flour with water, bite-size pieces of octopus red ginger and and tenkasu or a crunchy bits of deep fried flour dough. This can be basically seen in street stalls and it is in Kansai region in japan that it has become much popular.
Find out best Takoyaki in Tokyo: 5 Best Takoyaki places in Tokyo, experience local food of Japan
Tempura, deep fried battered vegetables or sea food
Tempura always struck us as an odd Japanese food — it is fried, whereas most Japanese food is light on oil. Dig into the history of tempura and you’ll find out why: thank the Portuguese influence for tempura in Japan. This can be known as a Japanese fritter like dish made by cutting sea food and vegetables into proper sizes and dipping them in a batter made out of water and wheat flour to give them a thin coating and cooking them in sesame oil…etc
The exterior of excellent tempura is just slightly crunchy, protecting the tenderly cooked interior. And there’s no better way to appreciate the skill behind perfectly prepared tempura than by eating at a bar where you can watch tempura masters at work.
Kaiseki Dinner, traditional Japanese cuisine at its best
We often sing the praises of cheap eating as we travel, but we are making an exception here for a traditional kaiseki meal. If you plan to splurge somewhere in Japan, consider doing it for this. Because it will become one of the most memorable and unique meals of our lives.
Kaiseki is a multi-course (6-15 courses) traditional dinner, served in the manner of samurai, but it is more than just a meal, it’s an entire cultural experience. All dish are taken extra care for its visual aesthetics. Also the ingredients are chosen based on what it is fresh depending on seasons.
Sake, Japanese rice wine
Rice wine or Japanese alcoholic beverages often known as nihonshu,a traditional Japanese beverage produced by fermenting rice. Obviously, not all sake is created equally. There are many varieties of flavor and aroma in sake, differing in rice, water brewing method and skills of or master sake brewers among others.
This pairs nicely with sushi, grilled oysters and other bits of traditional Japanese fare.
In Japan, however green tea is everywhere and it is often exceptionally good. Sometimes known as nihoncha or Japanese tea. There is a smooth, smoky flavor, a bitter and an astringent taste that is to be appreciated without any sugar or additives.
Meanwhile, if it is possible, take the opportunity to attend a Japanese tea ceremony and you’ll appreciate the culture behind tea drinking even more. Because Japanese tea ceremony is an important aspect in Japanese culture.
Find out more about Tea Ceremony in this article: Japanese Tea: Matcha in culture and everyday life