Basics of Japanese Cuisine

Japanese cuisine is renowned worldwide due to its unique taste, texture and visual style. Although every nation or culture are often famous for a certain special type of food, hallmarks of Japanese culture is stamped on its food specialties and makes it a distinct bunch.

The uniqueness of authentic Japanese food lies in its texture and taste. Whether veggies, pork, chicken, fish or noodles, Japanese food engages the various senses: taste, touch, smell and of course, sight. Visual presentation is a core value of Japanese cooking. The Japanese are famous for using ingredients that are ripe and prime during a certain season like using chestnuts during fall. But they also apply that tradition visually. For instance, depending on the season, Japanese meals may be arranged differently. During spring for instance, food may be assembled to resemble cherry blossoms, an ornament which blooms during the season. During summers, food may be arranged to resemble river or waterfalls. The Japanese also use of inedible tree branches or leaves to ornate food with a symbol of the season.

Even colors are vital in how Japanese food appears. Red and yellow symbolize warmth and stimulate your appetite while green and blue communicates stability and safety and are therefore calming colors. White is clean and innocent and black is “the color of health.” For the Japanese, maintaining the balance of these colors is important in preparing their dishes. For instance, without red or yellow a dish may look dull and therefore less appetizing. In terms of content, Japanese food is generally fish or vegetable viands and are therefore rich in protein and is grilled or braised using soy sauce, miso, umeboshi or flavored using a combination of Japanese spices. Generally, Japanese diet lacks meat, oil and dairy contents.

In terms of components, authentic traditional Japanese food is based on rice with miso soup, a hearty soup of combined dashi, miso, tofu and variety of vegetables, seafood and meat, plus side dishes of fish, and pickled vegetables cooked in broth. Among the more popular Japanese food is the sashimi or sushi, a type of seafood is sometimes grilled but more often served raw. Meanwhile, the tempura is a combination of seafood and vegetables deep-fried in a light batter and the tonkatsu are meat-based food items. As an alternative to rice, the soba and udon noodle are popular Japanese staple while oden, sukiyaki and nikujaga are famous side dishes simmered in broth. Ramen, fried dumplings, and gyoza curry and hamburgers are Chinese food with Japanese variants.

In most authentic Japanese restaurants worldwide, the teppanyaki, tempura and chicken teriyaki are also standard dishes commonly served with rice, eggs and finely chopped vegetables. Aside from the teriyaki chicken, the yakitori, a type of chicken skewered in kushi, a bamboo material, and grilled over charcoal is also becoming a new favorite among diners. New yakitori bars and restaurants in Singapore for example, specializes specifically in yakitori meals and offer as many as 50 assorted yakitori meals tori seseri (chicken neck) and hatsu (chicken heart), buta bara (pork belly with onion) and hotate bacon maki (scallop wrapped in bacon), and also gindara (cod fish) served with Japanese sweet potatoes.