The Unique Characteristics of Japanese Cuisine

Japanese cook

Photo by bass_nroll on Flickr

Food is an extremely important component of the Japanese culture. From specific ingredients to the overall meal they create, there are certain and specific traditions that the Japanese still continue to practice today to create distinctive and unique dishes. There are many beliefs and traditions that can still be observed in Japanese cooking today and allow us to enjoy flavorful and delicious dishes.

First, the Japanese believe in creating food according to the season. They use the ingredients that are ripe and prime in the current season in which they are cooking. For instance, they highlight bamboo shoots in the spring and chestnuts in the fall because those are the items that are most apparent in those specific seasons. They also like the season they are cooking in to reflect in the plating of their dishes. The use of inedible tree branches or leaves are also used to present diners with a symbol of the season. Presentation in this regard is also important to the Japanese as Japanese chefs believe that a person should love what they see before they actually consume it.

Japanese kaiseki plate

Photo by wintersweet on Flickr

Secondly, due to the location of the country of Japan and the fact that it is surrounded by water, the protein that is used in a majority of dishes is fish. The Japanese diet lacks in meat and subsequently oil and dairy. In addition to the use of fish, the use of soy sauce, miso and umeboshi are common in Japanese dishes. Traditional Japanese dishes will have specific flavoring made up of a combination of Japanese spices and are typically shown in foods that have been grilled or braised.

With the understanding of the importance of seasonality and plating and the heavy use of fish in Japanese cooking, the fact that Sushi is such a key player in Japanese cuisine can be easily comprehended. A sushi chef traditionally trains for ten years a sushi chef before serving Japanese food in the restaurant.

During their extensive training, they learn the importance of the use of fresh fish (especially those native to the area) and that the blade of a their sushi knives must be resharpened daily similar to that of a samurai.

In addition to much more extensive training, sushi chefs can produce traditional sushi. Sushi itself actually refers to the vinegar rice which is considered an art by sushi chefs and is cooked perfectly when it is only slightly sticky to the touch. Sashimi is the best cut of meat from the fish, is raw and should preferably be eaten without wasabi. A sushi meal is also always presented in the most impeccable form, as sushi masters believe you don’t just eat with your mouth, but also with your eyes.

Japanese sushi chef

Photo by eschipul on Flickr

Other popular Japanese food options include teppanyaki, tempura and chicken teriyaki. Teppanyaki is when an iron griddle is used to cook food including a major meat protein, which is commonly accompanied by rice, eggs and finely chopped vegetables. Tempura refers to a light batter that is made and then poured over a variety of items, mostly vegetables and then fried creating a crisp outer shell while preserving the flavors within. Chicken teriyaki is cuts of chicken that are combined with rice and also include a teriyaki sauce. Most teriyaki sauces are comprised of similar ingredients but each individual chef can add their own additional components to make the sauce unique to their style and cooking.

Japanese teppanyaki chef

Photo by sonson on Flickr

Some of the Japanese food that is viewed in our society is a westernized form from the traditional Japanese dishes. However, many chefs and restaurants still use ingredients, follow traditional steps and guidelines in preparing food and create beautiful and delicious dishes that can be enjoyed by many.

Author Bio

This was a Guest Post by Brenda Panin. Brenda loves traveling and enjoys Vanuatu holiday packages when she wants to relax and spend some quality time with her family. She also enjoys cooking and trying out new recipes.

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