4 Key Elements Of The Japanese Food Culture

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By Andrew Black

riceLike many other Asian countries, Japan is a rice eating nation. To the Japanese, a nutritious and healthy diet is not a choice, but a part of their culture. The Japanese cuisine is so intrinsically healthy that some people are campaigning for it to be included in the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. A traditional Japanese meal has twelve parts, not necessarily courses. These are appetizers, clear soup, steamed food, grilled food, simmered food, salad course, miso soup, pickles, rice, sweets, and fruits. The first part of the meal is accompanied by Sake, since the Japanese do not take Sake along with rice. The meal is followed by a leisurely tea.

Rice Centered Food:
Rice cultivation is believed to have begun in Asia about 2000 years ago. Taken in limited quantities, rice provides the essential starch for our bodies. The rice consumed in Japan is particularly rich in starch, and hence, more sticky. Even the national drink of Japan, Sake, is a wine made from rice. Rice is intrinsic to many Japanese dishes, including the world famous sushi, which is rice, and raw fish seasoned and wrapped in Nori.

Japan celebrates healthy food. Japanese food is cooked fresh and consumed right away. Due to the Buddhist influences in the 15th century, most Japanese eat more vegetables and less red meat or fowl.

Freshness of Ingredients:
Japan celebrates healthy food. Japanese food is cooked fresh and consumed right away. Due to the Buddhist influences in the 15th century, most Japanese eat more vegetables and less red meat or fowl. Meals consist of fresh vegetables and sea food, and prepared and presented to be aesthetically appealing. Japanese cuisine is also considered healthy because of its fermented sauces, like Miso and Natto which contain natural yeast. Many ingredients are procured fresh, including sea food. In sushi; the fish goes from the sea to the plate in less than a few hours. Such fresh food brings rich nutrients which are lost in other cultures where food is processed and stored for days and weeks, if not months.

Artistic Presentations:
One of the truly unique characteristics of the Japanese cuisine is the artistic presentation of food. Though most Western cuisines follow the idea of garnishing and presenting food, it is elevated to an art form by the Japanese. The Geisha tea ceremony, with its chakaiseki ryori cuisine, the aristocratic court style called honzen ryori, and the kaiseki ryori. These distinctive styles of cooking each have their own presentation styles and ceremonies. Aesthetic presentation and courteous service are the hallmarks of a Japanese meal. Special tableware, utensils, and silk tablecloths are just essential elements of the visual feast that teases all your senses.

Japanese restaurants typically specialize in a single type of food, like tempura or sushi or sukiyaki or soba or udon or unagi.

Eating Out:
In the recent decades, with Westernization, the Japanese have started eating out at French or Italian restaurants. Japanese restaurants, however, still carry on the traditional methods of serving food, including the conveyor belt style sushi restaurants. Unlike restaurants elsewhere, the Japanese restaurants typically specialize in a single type of food, like tempura or sushi or sukiyaki or soba or udon or unagi. Whatever the style of cooking, the Japanese cuisine is famous for its unique flavor, the ‘umami’.

– Andrew is a passionate advocate of Japanese food culture. After several trips in Japan, where he tried some of Japan’s best food, Andrew started to blog about Japan food. Aside from blogging, Andrew trains Western chefs on how to properly use Japanese ramen noodle machines to achieve the best results.

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