Japanese food is renowned for its wide variety of ingredients used and its quality. Special attention is also given to the presentation of dishes served. The perfect blend of traditional and Western cuisines makes Japanese food special and the best part is that they are known to be very healthy. Japanese dishes are cooked in less oil and lots of vegetables are used. Lots of green and comparatively less meat makes food from the Japanese cuisine a healthy option.
Classification of Japanese Food
Japanese food can be broadly classified into Kanto and Kansai regions. In Kanto region people prefer food that tastes strong, so dark soy sauce is often used. However, Japanese in the Kansai region are generally seasoned mildly and soy sauce is used in lesser quantity.
History and Cultural Influences on Japanese Cuisine
Japanese history mainly consists of two phases: Ancient era or Heian period and Kamakura period. During the ancient era people gradually started cultivating crops instead of hunting for their daily meals. Apart from millets, Gohan or meshi (rice) became the main staple. Major socio-political changes took place during the Kamakura period. Food common during this period included rice, dried abalone, jellyfish aemono, and pickled ume.
Commonly Used Ingredients and Cooking Methods Adopted by Japanese Cuisine
Ingredients that are used normally in Japanese food include rice, flour, eggs, beans, fruits, Fu (wheat gluten), meats, mushrooms, vegetables, noodles, and soy products. Apart from seafood, Japanese cuisine also includes freshwater fishes and seaweed.
Cooking styles prevalent in Japan include Tempura or Tendon, where cleaned cut or sliced foods in a light batter are fried with very little vegetable oil. Noodles or rice are served along with these main dishes. Sauces are also used as accompaniments. In Sushi and sashimi styles a lot of seafood including raw lobster, shrimp, or clams is used and they are eaten with light sauces seasoned with shoyu or horse radish. Other popular Japanese cooking styles include Sukiyaki, Yakitori, Nimono and Mushimono.
Globally Popular Japanese Foods
- Ochazuke – also known as chazuke, or cha cha gohan or bubuzuke( in Kyoto) it is a rice dish made by pouring a hot liquid like hot water, green tea or dashi over boiled rice and serving it with pickles ( seafood or vegetable) as toppings. The dish is usually savored as a brief snack.
- Onigiri - alternatively known as omisabi, round or oval rice ball made of white rice, wrapped in seaweed and filled with seafood or fish, and sweet or salty fillings which preserve the dish. as it satiates hunger well, it is carried conveniently to any convenient place by the travelling Japanese and savored as a quick meal there.
- Hayashi rice – also known as hashed beef rice, this is a Western influenced rice dish consisting of plain white rice served with an accompaniment sauce usually made of tomato, button mushroom, and beef with onion seasonings.
- Kayu or Okayu – is a Japanese congee( rice porridge) made by cooking rice in water. The gooey rice dish is served salted with salmon, vegetables, or ginger toppings. Chicken stock is also used in place of water and egg may be added to this porridge which is one of the Japanese dishes served to old people and infants for its easily digestibility.
- Makizushi - is a sushi seaweed roll filled with rice seasoned with vinegar and garnished with fish and seafood toppings.
- Chirashizushi - a sushi rice dish with toppings
- Okinawa soba – Also known as soba or suba, it is a noodle soup made with Katsubushi(tuna preparation), pork or konbu( seaweed) toppings. Kamaboko ( a fish cake) is also used as a topping for the dish along with scallions.
- Okonomiyaki - This is a Kansai –styled or Hiroshima –styled Japanese cooked or grilled pancake made with a number of ingredients
- Shabu-shabu - Ideally a winter dish, closely associated with sukiyaki is a Japanese version of the hot pot consisting of an assortment of meat and vegetable slices.
Traditional Japanese Food
Sushi is a world-famous dish, which is also one of the most-preferred traditional Japanese foods. Sushi dishes in Japan use sushi rice which is seasoned with a sweet vinegar mixture. There is a wide variety of sushi dishes that are now served in various restaurants across the world.
Special/ Festival Japanese Food
Osechi-ryori meal is served during the Japanese New Year. During this occasion foods that are enjoyed include. During weddings the Japanese enjoy grand meals that include Tai (sea bream), Kombu (kelp), Kazunoko (herring roe) and Sekihan (red azuki beans rice). Kabocha Pumpkin recipes are prepared during Haloween in Japan.
Gourmet Japanese Food
Japanese Gourmet food includes delicacies like Sushi Specials, Edamame, Gyoza, Aspara Maki, Yakitori, and Japanese Masago Caviar. Tempura Appetizer is also a part of the specials.
Japanese McDonald's offers unique menus like Teriyaki Burger and Chicken-Tatuta Burger, which is marinated in sake and soy sauce.