Ah, Japanese culture is just astonishingly appetizing and amazing!
Discovering Japanese food is like taking a roller-coaster with lots of flavors and spices. If we take a ride through the history of Japanese food, we’ll notice that there has been a change over the centuries. The richness in unique tradition and steady customs seem extraordinary and unusual to most of us, but the beauty of this cuisine is that it takes you into the depth of the Japanese culture.
History And Evolution Of Japanese Cuisine
With an influence from the food customs of other nations, Japan has adopted most of them and refined it according to its culture, be it the cooking style or eating habits! China, being the first foreign influence, the Japanese learned the cultivation of rice and the use of chopsticks and the consumption of soy sauce and soybean curb, aka, tofu from them. As Buddhism prevailed as one of the two main religions, it had an effect on the dietary chain. As a result, meat was banned with the rise of Buddhism. In the 1800s, raw fish and rice, now known as sushi came into creation and the cooking styles became simpler. A wide variety of vegetarian foods were served in portions. All foods were divided into five color groups (green, red, yellow, white, and black-purple) and six tastes (bitter, sour, sweet, hot, salty and delicate). Even today, this cooking system is used. The Western influence came from the Dutch who introduced corn, potatoes, and sweet potatoes and the Portuguese introduced tempura (batter frying). The Meiji Period (1866-1912) saw the ban on meat lifted and other Western foods such as bread, coffee, and ice cream became popular. With the time-saving cooking methods introduced, the instant packaged foods made an appearance and were largely accepted by the Japanese. One thing remains the same till date is that they are devoted to their classic cooking traditions.
Japanese Food More Than Just Sushi!
Japanese are the most enthusiastic and passionate of any race when it comes to food. Talking to a friend who just had a trip through Japan, food was the main topic in that conversation, especially the local food! There are many cities that are known for the local specialty, whether it is a type of fish, sweet, noodle, seaweed or tofu. Even on TV, there are endless food shows that have its audience captivated. The culinary adventure has just begun, and it’s sure going to be awesome! From traditional and popular dishes to regional cuisine, Japanese food is a never-ending platter of deliciousness that is going to be etched forever in your mind. Some of the popular dishes are:
A staple in the Japanese diet, this food is processed into several different types of products including alcohol, vinegar, and flour. The common types of rice are white rice (hakumai), brown rice (genmai), multigrain rice, glutinous rice (mochigome). Rice products are rice wine aka sake or nihounshu, rice vinegar, rice flour, rice bran (nuka). Some common rice dishes are rice cakes, rice balls, chazuke, donburi, fried rice (chahan) and omuraisu.
Thick Japanese noodles made of wheat flour, Udon is chewier than Soba noodles. Udon can be eaten both hot or cold depending on the dish you’re having. Dishes like Kake Udon are eaten hot and it is popular in the region of Osaka. Zaru Udon is served on a bamboo mat and is eaten cold.
A noodle soup that was originally imported from China, ramen is one of the most popular dishes. Inexpensive and widely available, ramen is categorized according to their soup base and the toppings. Tonkotsu is made of pork bone which is boiled and served as a creamy soup. Chashu is a topping of fatty slices of roasted or braised pork. There are different variations of ramen both available in instant and fresh.
Tonkatsu is a Japanese style breaded and fried pork cutlet served with a sweet and savory fruit sauce. Fried in the German way like a schnitzel, tonkatsu is a thick slice of pork breaded and deep fried. There are other variations of tonkatsu, like the chicken and beef versions. Tonkatsu is served as a set meal with cabbage, rice, miso soup, and pickles.
Grilled chicken skewers made from bite-sized pieces of chicken meat. It is commonly enjoyed over a glass of beer. Yakitori is a common street food.
Japanese pickles aka Tsukemono are an important part of the Japanese diet. Served with practically every traditional meal alongside miso soup and rice, pickles are enjoyed for their unique flavors and are commonly used as a garnish, relish, condiment or more. Whether it is cucumber or plums, these vegetables and fruits are used to make the pickles.
Wagashi or the Traditional Japanese Sweets are enjoyed with a cup of green tea. Made in a wide variety of shapes and consistencies, wagashi are popular all around the year and are available regionally and seasonally. Sweet azuki bean paste (anko) is a central ingredient in a large number of Japanese sweets. Some of the most popular wagashi are namagashi, daifuku and monaka.
As inspiring and unique as it is, Japanese cuisine is just an amazing experience that you would want to have once in your lifetime!