Introduction of Japan: 食文化


Japanese traditionally think of rice as staple food. Many of them say they are satisfied if there are just rice and miso soup in their regular meals. Traditional Japanese side dishes are raw or fresh fish, grilled fish, natto, tsukemoto, tofu, and dried plum. There are many fermented foods in Japan such as miso, natto, dried plum and so on. By the way, Ibaraki Prefecture is well-known for mito-natto. Japanese food culture has much to do with fish because Japan is an island country. Tsukiji Outer Market and Toyosu Market are very popular as fish markets not only among Japanese but also among foreigners. Raw fish called sashimi is one of the most famous Japanese foods. It‘s normally sliced thinly. Typically, we eat it dipped in soy sauce and horseradish.

As you know, sushi has become popular all over the world. Generally, traditional Japanese sushi is made in the way that sushi chefs put raw fish called “neta” on something like rice ball they prepare. Neta includes cooked food such as shrimp, conger eel, egg and so on. There are also sushi rolls. Japanese food is normally eaten with chopsticks, but sushi is okay to eat with our hands.

Compared to the western countries, I think traditional Japanese meals are so simple, but Japan is becoming westernized lately.

Also, in Japan, there are some deep-fried foods covered with several kinds of “koromo” such as tempura, and katsu. Incidentally, Nagoya City is well-known for miso-katsu. Katsu is a pork dish deep-fried with breadcrumbs. Tempura is made with several kinds of vegetables and seafood deep-fried with flour. Also, kara-age is a deep-fried chicken dish covered with a thin layer of flour or potato starch.

Yakitori and okonomiyaki are also the most popular kinds of Japanese food. Yakitori is small chunks of chicken pierced on a wooden skewer and flavored with soy-sauce-based tare or salt. Yakitori is made of many different kinds of chicken meat and also of varieties of seafood. The way of making okonomiyaki is as follows: we add shredded cabbage, pork and seafood to flour dissolved in water and stir them. Also, we fry them on a hotplate. After that, we put okonomiyaki sauce over them and add bonito flakes and “aonori”, dried seaweed flakes, over them.

Takoyaki is a popular type of fast food. It‘s a little dough ball filled with diced octopus and green onion. It is grilled on a special pan with ball-shaped molds.

Traditional Japanese noodles are soba and udon. Udon is made from flour. I heard that soup for udon is based on broth made from konbu, bonito stock, dried sardines and so on in Kansai area, but the soup is almost only based on bonito stock in Kanto area. In my opinion, sanuki udon with chewy noodles is the most delicious. Soba is made from buckwheat flour and normal flour. The proportion of buckwheat flour varies.

Another popular Japanese noodle is ramen. There are several kinds of ramen soups in Japan. For example, soy-sauce-based soup, miso-based soup, pork-bone-based soup and so on.

Gyoza, which comes from China, is one of the most popular foods in Japan. Gyoza is made in the way that shredded cabbage, green onion and pork are covered with gyoza skin, and pan-fried or boiled.

A dish of boiled food called oden is one of the popular foods in Japan, and it is especially liked in winter. There are several kinds of ingredients in oden such as eggs, daikon radish and many kinds of foods made from fish-paste. Broth is made from konbu or bonito stock with salt and sake.

Japanese curry is really popular in Japan. Many Japanese people say that they eat curry more than once a week. Japanese curry is kind of different from Indian curry. Japanese curry is richer and not spicier than Indian curry. We usually eat it with rice.

Mochi is one of the most traditional foods in Japan. Mochi is something like rice cake which is made by mashing a special kind of rice called “mochi-gome”. Usually, you eat it by grilling it or putting it in special soup such as “oshiruko” and “ozouni”. The soup for oshiruko is made from azuki beans and sugar. The soup for ozouni is made from miso or soy-sauce-based broth. We put mochi and some ingredients into this soup and eat them.

Kenchinjiru-soup is well-known as a vegetarian cuisine in Japan. This soup is not made from bonito stock or dried sardines but from kombu and shiitake-based broth because it is a vegetarian cuisine. Also, we put into this some vegetables such as carrot, daikon radish, taro, konjac and so on.

Sake is a traditional alcoholic beverage in Japan. Sake is made by fermenting rice. There are several kinds of grades from the one that includes brewed alcohol to the one that does not. Generally, the alcohol content is relatively high: from 15% to 16%.