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An overview of Japanese cuisine

A UNESCO committee added traditional Japanese cuisine to cultural heritage list. This prized designation had been given only to French cooking before. Why is Japanese national culinary tradition so valuable? One of the defining hallmarks of Japanese cuisine is its connection with nature. Food is consumed in a natural state – all products should be necessarily as fresh as possible. When cooking is required, the meal is only lightly cooked. The Japanese try to preserve the original taste of products and their original appearance. That makes Japanese cuisine unique compared to other Asian cuisines where the taste of products in a prepared dish differs considerably.

The staples of Japanese cuisine is rice, miso soup, noodles (soba, udon) and dishes of seasonal ingredients. The side dishes frequently include fish and vegetables, which can be either pickled or prepared in broth. Japan is located on the island so fish and seafood takes the main place in it. Wide selection of seafood available in Japan defines the Japanese cuisine. Usually, fish is grilled but can be served raw when it is an ingredient in sushi and sachimi. The seafood and vegetables are often deep-fried in butter.

Japanese cuisine stands apart from all others as it features specific rules for decoration of dishes, dinner etiquette and way to serve dishes. The portions are small. The Japanese prefer to eat many different dishes in small portions so the menu is versatile. The spoons are used seldom, while knives and forks are not used at all. The Japanese serve the dishes cut in small pieces, which can be easily taken with chopsticks. The inedible tree leaves (maple, haran, bamboo) and branches are often used for decoration of dishes.

Only high quality ingredients are used for cooking. Freshness is a priority in Japanese cuisine that tends to be seasonal, as it was mentioned earlier. The first crop (or the first catch) is called hashiri. The ingredients, which are stored long, are avoided with exception of rice and sauces.

The Japanese do not use much red meat, oil, dairy products and fats in cooking. The dishes include much salt, as a rule, because the soy sauce, umeboshi and miso are widely used.

Wagashi are traditional Japanese sweets prepared usually of mochi, fruits and bean paste. Kakigori is an ice dessert eaten mostly in summer. Dorayaki are sweet pancakes with sweet bean paste. The dish is liked by kids.

The popular beverages include green tea, beer, sake – brewed rice beverage with 15-17% of alcohol.

Other popular Japanese dishes are:

  • Yakitori (grilled chicken skewers).
  • Sushi that are divided into nigiri (rice balls with fish), gunkan (dried seaweed filled with seafood), norimaki (sushi rolls), temaki (cones of nori seaweed with filling), oshizushi (pressed sushi), inari (rice in tofu bags), chirashi (dish with seafood, vegetables and mushrooms spread on the rice).
  • Sashimi – raw food served finely sliced, usually made of seafood but not necessarily.

 

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This article was written on 15 Sep 2015.

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