Japanese Food (An Introduction)

There’s no denying the popularity of Japanese food. Influenced by both the Chinese and Koreans, the Japanese have since then refined and created their own cooking style over the years and have introduced the world to its delightful cuisine.

The words “natural” and “fresh” would probably the first things one would think of when asked to describe Japanese food. They are known to use ingredients that are of premium quality and that are in-season. Japanese cuisine is also known to have an artistic way of delicately displaying and arranging food.

If you want to try getting into Japanese food as well, here is a list of their most popular ones:

Rice

Short-grained, sticky white rice is considered a staple food in Japan and the heart of its cuisine, because of its connections to Japanese history and culture. Rice in Japanese is called gohan, which can also stand for “meal.” They incorporate rice in every meal of the day that the word gohan is present in the Japanese terms asagohan, hirugohan, and bangohan, meaning breakfast, lunch, and dinner, respectively.

A Japanese meal typically contains rice, a main dish of fish or meat, some side dishes, pickled vegetables, and a bowl of soup. This is called ichiju sansai, or “one soup, three dishes.”

Other popular products made from rice are sake (rice wine), and mochi (rice cakes).

Sushi & Sashimi

Sushi is a traditional dish in Japan that is made with rice soaked in vinegar, accompanied by a wide variety of fillings and toppings. It is normally presented on a platter but is also commonly served in Japan through plates that go around on conveyor belts.

Sashimi, on the other hand, is thinly sliced raw fish or meat. It is served on its own, unlike sushi, which has rice. The usual size of the fish (or meat) is similar to that of a domino, but it still depends on the kind of fish.

Both sushi and sashimi can be enjoyed by dipping them in soy sauce to enhance the flavor. A small amount of wasabi can also be put on each piece for some heat.

Miso Soup

Miso soup is typically served at the beginning of the meal and is made primarily with broth, and miso paste derived from fermented soybeans. Other ingredients like vegetables can also be added in, and the result is a smooth and savory soup. Aside from the comfort that this combination of ingredients brings in, miso soup also has health benefits as it is rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Conveniently, instant miso packets are also commonly used and available inside and outside Japan. These packets just need to be emptied into a bowl, and mixed with boiling water.

Ramen

Japan has various noodle dishes, but ramen is quite possibly the most famous kind. While Japan is the ramen capital of the world and is responsible for its popularity, the dish actually originated in China.

Ramen consists of wheat noodles, flavored broth, and different toppings such as nori (seaweed), and chashu (sliced pork). There is a wide variety of ramen in Japan because almost every region has its own version of the dish.

Instant ramen was invented in Japan and was first launched in 1958. Since then, it has gained popularity all over the world with flavors modified to tailor different tastes.

Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is a savory Japanese pancake. It is cooked by grilling batter and cabbage on a griddle, along with a whole lot of other ingredients that can go from meat, to seafood like squid and octopus, and topped with condiments like mayonnaise. After all, the name okonomiyaki is derived from the word okonomi which means “what you like” or “how you like it”, and yaki, which means “grilled.”

In Japan, restaurants that serve okonomiyaki have iron griddles in each table, allowing customers to grill their own. There are, of course, some restaurants that can serve them ready- to-eat.

Tempura

Another well-known Japanese food is the tempura, which is meat, seafood, or vegetable, that has been coated lightly in batter, and then deep-fried. The most popular kind is made of shrimp, called “ebi tempura.”

This fried and crispy dish is served and eaten with a dipping sauce called tentsuyu, as well as grated white radish. It can be eaten on its own, but can also sometimes be served as a topping on a bowl of soba or udon noodles, or on a bowl of rice.

There are hundreds of different restaurants in Japan that offer a range of dishes from food stalls along streets, to izakaya or pubs that serve yakitori (skewered chicken) and finger foods, to Kaiseki Ryori that serve multi-course haute cuisine.

This list includes only a few of their wondrous gastronomical delights. Japanese food is known for its elaborate presentation and fresh ingredients, and there really is a wide variety to be explored and that are worth a try.

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