Japanese cooking and cuisine is easy-except for its’ tongue twisting pronunciations that is. When we speak of Japanese Cuisine, we are not only talking about the food by itself, but the totality of the experience, its taste and its appearance, how it is prepared, and how it is harvested from its natural source.
Exploring a Japanese restaurant may well be a strange experience for the first time, since, as expected all of the recipes on the menu list is in Japanese. Well, maybe not in native Japanese handwriting, but hey, you wouldn’t’ recognize a ramen from a tonkatsu if need be, right?
Rice based Japanese Meal
First, you have to remember that a Japanese meal, if you ever go venturing into a Japanese Restaurant, always include steamed rice. All of the Japanese meals are based on rice, with Japan being an agricultural country, and fish, being a country whose fishing industry accounts for almost eight percent of the worlds’ total fishing endeavors. So, basically, you get rice, fish, and vegetable, on a Japanese meal table, also check this cocktail bar central in Hong Kong.
Japanese Cuisine and Its Influences
While Japan boasts of its exotic culinary creations, much of its cuisine has an external influence. Japanese cuisine is an evolved cuisine from other countries, cooked and prepared in a different way, making it into an entirely different recipe with a food base from outside Japan-strange, flavored, and mouth-watering. Take for example the consumption and use of “soy sauce” which is usually used as flavoring for Japanese food. Japanese sushi and sashimi would not be the same without soy sauce as a dip right? Soy sauce is a Chinese influence, together with tofu (soybean curd), and ramen (Chinese noodles).
The Fish Diet
Religion is also a major influence in Japanese cuisine. During the advent of Buddhism in 700 AD, meat was prohibited as part of the dining table experience, thus, people turned towards fish as a side dish. Sushi is a result of this. What is sushi? It’s raw fish eaten with a dip, eaten as a side dish with steamed rice. Vegetable as a side dish (meatless of course) went into a variety of culinary changes. The vegetables were cooked and classified according to color which included black and white, yellow, then green and of course, red. They were also sub-divided according to the way they tasted- sour and bitter, sweet, hot, then, salty, and delicate. This technique is still being used today as a basis in cooking by Japanese restaurants. Simple, yet effective.
Meat returned in 1868 during the Meiji period, roughly a thousand years after it was prohibited and banned.
Take note that rice (“Gohan” or boiled rice) is not only the staple food of Japan. It also includes noodles. They can either be boiled, or steamed. The people of Japan love to prepare their food fresh. That is one thing that Japanese restaurants boast of. That is probably why the Japanese live longer than most. They eat healthy.