Today I will talk about the food in Japan. As many of you already know, Japan has a wonderful an unique cuisine but mostly when we think about Japanese food automatically comes to our minds fish and rice. This acticle will help you to have a different view about the food culture in Japan, and also will help you to know what to order at the moment you sit at the restaurant.
Here you are my 13 favourite options when I want to feel Japan through its flavors.
I will start with the one that most of us identify Japan with: Sushi and Sashimi. Sushi is known all over the world. It is called sushi to every piece of rice seasoned with a rice vinegar mix (made with sugar and salt) mixed with different ingredients: variety of fishes, vegetables, nori (seaweed), etc.. You grab the pieces of sushi with the chopsticks and dip them into soy sauce or wasabi, or both. It is a mixed of flavors in your mouth! Sushi can be: Nigiri sushi, Maki sushi , Oshi sushi , Temaki sushi, etc.
Depending on the shape an ingredients that are used.
Sashimi is basically raw fish or seafood served with wasabi (a very spicy japanese condiment), soy sauce and generally it comes with slices of radish on the side. The name sashimi comes from the tale of the fish the it used to come with the meal to identify which kind of fish you are eating. Sashimi in kanji it is written like this: 刺身 . The first kanji means spine and the second kanji means body.
Ramen is one of the most popular options at the moment of choosing a place to eat. It is a wheat noodles bowl served in a soy sauce or miso soup mixed with many kinds of ingredients. The most typical ones are slices of pork, green onion, seaweed and egg. I can´t compare the flavor of this dish with anything I have tasted before. The most important part of this dish is the soup. It is the most tasty flavor a ever tried, also strong according on where do you order it. The way the pork is cooked, makes it so soft that sometimes it breaks into pieces as son as you catch it with your chopsticks. With one order of ramen and a side dish of rice, you can be sure that you will be satisfied when you finish your meal... If you can...
Tempura is a Japanese fried snack made mostly from seafood and vegetables but we can find tempura made also from fowl and fish, seasoned with a sauce made with soy sauce, ginger and sugar previously. As vegetables, it can be made by almost every vegetables. The size of the piece has to be able to be eaten in one bite and even when it is fried, it is carefully looked after not to be oily. Tempura is served with Tetsuyu sauce that it is a mix of consomme, sweet sake, soy sauce, ginger, radish and spices.
4.- Kare raisu (rice with curry)
Also a very popular, simple and delicious dish that we can find in Japan. Kare raisu is just rice with curry but the taste is different from the To make the japanese curry, it is used a variety of meats and vegetables. The basics vegetables are onions, carrots and sweet potatos, and the meats used are chicken, pork, beef and sometimes duck. There are different levels of hot spicy: soft, regular and hot are the most common. Which one would you chose???
It is a mixed made with flour, yam and egg, but you can add also anything you like. The most commons are green onion, beef, shrimp, squid, vegetables, mochi and cheese. It is cooked in a griddle. In some restaurants, the chef goes to the table and make it there with the customers who also help in the process adding the ingredients. Because the preparation has to be cooked from both sides, by the time it has to be turned, it is a stressful and also funny moment, specially when it is your first time doing it!!!
6.- Shabu shabu
Shabu shabu is the japanese hot pot. For this dish it is used many kinds of meats and seafood, mostly the soft ones, and sides of vegetables, tofu and sometimes noodles. The way it works: you grab a piece of meat (you can also pick some of the vegetables) and immerse it in the pot with hot water or consomme. Once it is cooked, you dip it in a sesame sauce with some rice as a side dish. Very delicious!
7.- Miso soup
Miso soup it is served as a side dish in mostly every meal and with almost every dish. It is a soup made from a miso paste (fermented soybeans) and dashi (the consomme). Inside this kind of base soup, you will find pieces of tofu, onion wakane seaweed, and sometimes vegetables like sweet potatos, carrots and radish. It is never served as a main dish. It always comes with a bowl of rice and one or 2 more dishes.
It is the Japanese brochette. At the begining the meat used was chicken (tori=bird), but nowadays it is also made with pork, beef and fish. So, this brochette is a mix of vegetables and meat cooked in a grill and dipped in teriaki sauce. It is also a very typical kind of fast food in japanese style.
This is one of the options that foreigner could be more identified with. It has a occidental flavor so if you are not sure about what to taste first or you find out that Japanse flavors are not your thing but you still want to try, I would recommend you to start with Yakitori so you can feel something familiar.
This is the most popular snack in Japan. No matter what time is it, or where you are, if you are hungry and you don´t have time, you will buy an onigiri. Onigiris are rice balls seasoned in many kinds of ways, some of them with some fill like chicken, vegetables, fish, pork, others covered with a seaweed or with a slice of egg, some of them they have just the rice mixed with some sauce, vegetables, beans, furikake... Etc. As you can see, you can find a huge variety of flavors for all the tastes. It is also cheap and you can buy it in any convenience store, supermarket and also you may find some shop that only makes onigiris.
Udon is a thick noodle made from wheat flour. It is commonly served in a consomme with soy sauce and mirin. Most of the times it comes with negi (onion). The shape and the size depends on the prefecture it comes from. Udon can be eaten cold or hot. Soba and Udon are very popular in Japan. It is a common dish for black-coated workers and students when they have lunch time and they need to eat something fast. There are Udon shops everywhere and don´t be surprised if it is always crowdy, but don´t worry, you won´t wait long time to have a seat.
Soba noodles are made by buckwheat flour which gives it the colour. Also known as fast food in Japan because they are cheap and popular. Soba noodles are thin (Udon noodles are thick) and they can be eaten also cold or hot. There are shops in Japan that only cook soba, maybe with some simple side dish as tempura. At the supermarket you can find the fresh noodles to cook at home. This noodles can be also eaten just with a mentsuyu sauce to make it easy the preparation.
Gyudon it is basically a bowl of rice with beef on the top seasoned with different ingredientes and spices. The most famous place to eat gyudon is Sukiya. Besides the simplicity, it is a very delicious dish, and the most important, also cheap. In most of the places, you can order it in a set that comes with a small salad and miso soup. Another important tip about this: the service is very fast!!!! In less than 5 min you have it in your table. Also, the sizes of the dishes are very suitable. You can pick from small, medium and large. For a lunch quick time, gyudon is a very good option.
13.- Green Tea - Flavored sweets
This is the last one for this blog and I can´t leave you without the tea time. Greet tea in Japan is the most famous drink. It is related to history, to Geishas. The Tea Houses are always harmonious and quiet places where you can enjoy a peaceful time through the most typical drink in Japan. Green tea is never alone. Tea in Japan has to be also accompanied with sweets, japanese sweets. The most common sweets in japan are made with beans or sometimes with matcha. Japan has the tastiest sweets and the most beautiful shapes and colors in the world.
Sweets in Japan are Art.