Teaching Japanese Cooking

Japanese cuisine encompasses the regional and traditional foods of Japan, which have developed through centuries of social and economic changes. The traditional cuisine of Japan (和食 washoku) is based on rice with miso soup and other dishes; there is an emphasis on seasonal ingredients. Side dishes often consist of fish, pickled vegetables, and vegetables cooked in broth. Seafood is common, often grilled, but also served raw as sashimi or in sushi. Seafood and vegetables are also deep-fried in a light batter, as tempura. Apart from rice, staples include noodles, such as soba and udon.

Japan also has many simmered dishes such as fish products in broth called oden, or beef in sukiyaki and nikujaga. Dishes inspired by foreign food—in particular Chinese food like ramen, fried dumplings, and gyōza—as well as foods like spaghetti, curry, and hamburgers have become adopted with variants for Japanese tastes and ingredients.

Historically, the Japanese shunned meat, but with the modernization of Japan in the 1880s, meat-based dishes such as tonkatsu became common. Japanese cuisine, particularly sushi, has become popular throughout the world. In 2011, Japan overtook France in number of Michelin-starred restaurants and has maintained the title since.

Traditional Japanese cuisine

Japanese cuisine is based on combining the staple food, which is steamed white rice or gohan (御飯), with one or several okazu or main dishes and side dishes. This may be accompanied by a clear or miso soup and tsukemono (pickles).The phrase ichijū-sansai (一汁三菜, "one soup, three sides") refers to the makeup of a typical meal served, but has roots in classic kaiseki, honzen, and yūsoku cuisine. The term is also used to describe the first course served in standard kaiseki cuisine nowadays.


Rice is served in its own small bowl (chawan), and each course item is placed on its own small plate (sara) or bowl (hachi) for each individual portion. This is done even at home. It contrasts with the Western-style dinners at home, where each individual takes helpings from the large serving dishes of food presented at the middle of the dining table. Japanese style traditionally abhors different flavored dishes touching each other on a single plate, so different dishes are given their own individual plates as mentioned, or are partitioned using leaves, etc. Placing okazu on top of rice and "soiling" it is also frowned upon by old-fashioned etiquette.

Breakfast at a ryokan (Japanese inn), featuring grilled mackerel, Kansai style dashimaki egg, tofu in kaminabe (paper pot)Though this tradition originated from Classical Chinese dining formalities, especially after the adoption of Buddhism with its tea ceremony, and became most popular and common during and after the Kamakura period, such as the Kaiseki. Japanese cuisine keeps such tradition still, whereas in modern times such practice is in sharp contrast to present day Chinese cuisine, where placing food on rice is standard, However the exception is the popular donburi.


The small rice bowl or chawan (lit. "tea bowl") doubles as a word for the large tea bowls in tea ceremonies. Thus in common speech, the drinking cup is referred to as yunomi-jawan or yunomi for the purpose of distinction.In the olden days, among the nobility, each course of a full-course Japanese meal would be brought on serving napkins called zen (膳), which were originally platformed trays or small dining tables. In the modern age, faldstool trays or stackup-type legged trays may still be seen used in zashiki, i.e. tatami-mat rooms, for large banquets or at a ryokan type inn. Some restaurants might use the suffix -zen (膳) as a more sophisticated though dated synonym to the more familiar teishoku (定食), since the latter basically is a term for a combo meal served at a taishū-shokudō, akin to a diner.[3] Teishoku means a meal of fixed menu, a dinner à prix fixe served at shokudō (食堂, "dining hall") or ryōriten (料理店, "restaurant"), which is somewhat vague (shokudō can mean a diner-type restaurant or a corporate lunch hall); but e.g. Ishikawa, Hiroyoshi (石川弘義) (1991). Taishū bunka jiten (snippet). Kōbundō. p. 516. defines it as fare served at teishoku dining hall (定食食堂 teishoku-shokudō), etc., a diner-like establishment.

Regional cuisine

Japanese cuisine offers a vast array of regional specialties known as kyōdo-ryōri (郷土料理), many of them originating from dishes prepared using traditional recipes with local ingredients. Foods from the Kanto region taste very strong. For example, the dashi-based broth for serving udon noodles is heavy on dark soy sauce, similar to soba broth. On the other hand, Kansai region foods are lightly seasoned, with clear udon noodles made with light soy sauce.

Seasonality

Emphasis is placed on seasonality of food or shun (旬), and dishes are designed to herald the arrival of the four seasons or calendar months. Seasonality means taking advantage of the "fruit of the mountains" (山の幸 yama no sachi, alt. "bounty of the mountains") (e.g. bamboo shoots in spring, chestnuts in the autumn) as well as the "fruit of the sea" (海の幸 umi no sachi, alt. "bounty of the sea") as they come into season. Thus the first catch of skipjack tunas (初鰹 hatsu-gatsuo) that arrives with the Kuroshio Current has traditionally been greatly prized.

If something becomes available rather earlier than what is usual for the item in question, the first crop or early catch is called hashiri. Use of (inedible) tree leaves and branches as decor is also characteristic of Japanese cuisine. Maple leaves are often floated on water to exude coolness or ryō (涼), sprigs of nandina are popularly used. The haran (Aspidistra) and sasa bamboo leaves were often cut into shapes, and placed underneath or used as separators.

Traditional ingredients

 

A characteristic of traditional Japanese food is the sparing use of red meat, oils and fats, and dairy products.Use of ingredients such as soy sauce, miso, and umeboshi tends to result in dishes with high salt content, though there are low-sodium versions of these available.

As Japan is an island nation surrounded by an ocean, its people have always taken advantage of the abundant seafood supply. It is the opinion of some food scholars that the Japanese diet always relied mainly on "grains with vegetables or seaweeds as main, with poultry secondary, and red meat in slight amounts" even before the advent of Buddhism which placed an even stronger taboo. The eating of "four-legged creatures" (四足 yotsuashi) was spoken of as taboo, unclean or something to be avoided by personal choice through the Edo period.

The consumption of whale and terrapin meat were not forbidden under this definition. Despite this, the consumption of red meat did not completely disappear in Japan. Eating wild game—as opposed to domesticated livestock—was tolerated; in particular, trapped hare was counted using the measure word wa (羽), a term normally reserved for birds.
Vegetable consumption has dwindled while processed foods have become more prominent in Japanese households due to the rising costs of general foodstuffs. Nonetheless, Kyoto vegetables, or Kyoyasai, are rising in popularity and different varieties of Kyoto vegetables are being revived.[14]

Generally speaking, traditional Japanese cuisine is prepared with little cooking oil. A major exception is the deep-frying of foods. This cooking method was introduced during the Edo period due to influence from Western (formerly called nanban-ryōri (南蛮料理)) and Chinese cuisine, and became commonplace with the availability of cooking oil due to increased productivity.[15] Dishes such as tempura, aburaage, and satsuma age are now part of established traditional Japanese cuisine. Words such as tempura or hiryōzu (synonymous with ganmodoki) are said to be of Portuguese origin.

Also, certain homey or rustic sorts of traditional Japanese foods such as kinpira, hijiki, and kiriboshi daikon usually involve stir-frying in oil before stewing in soy sauce. Some standard osōzai or obanzai dishes feature stir-fried Japanese greens with either age or chirimen-jako[ja], dried sardines.

The use of soy sauce is prevalent in Japanese cuisine. Traditional Japanese food is typically seasoned with a combination of dashi, soy sauce, sake and mirin, vinegar, sugar, and salt. These are typically the only seasonings used when grilling or braising an item. A modest number of herbs and spices may be used during cooking as a hint or accent, or as a means of neutralizing fishy or gamy odors present. Examples of such spices include ginger and takanotsume (鷹の爪) red pepper.[citation needed] This contrasts conceptually with barbecue or stew, where a blend of seasonings is used before and during cooking.

Once a main dish has been cooked, spices such as minced ginger and various pungent herbs may be added as a garnish, called tsuma.[citation needed] With certain milder items, a dollop of wasabi and grated daikon (daikon-oroshi), or Japanese mustard are provided as condiments.[citation needed] A sprig of mitsuba or a piece of yuzu rind floated on soups are called ukimi.[citation needed] Minced shiso leaves and myoga often serve as yakumi, a type of condiment paired with tataki of katsuo or soba.[citation needed] Finally, a dish may be garnished with minced seaweed in the form of crumpled nori or flakes of aonori.[citation needed] Shichimi is also a very popular spice mixture often added to soups, noodles and rice cakes, Shichimi is a chilli based spice mix which containing 7 spices: chilli, sansho, orange peel, black sesame, white sesame, hemp, ginger, and nori.

 

List of dishes

  • grilled and pan-fried dishes (yakimono 焼き物),
  • stewed/simmered/cooked/boiled dishes (nimono 煮物),
  • stir-fried dishes (itamemono 炒め物),
  • steamed dishes (mushimono 蒸し物),
  • deep-fried dishes (agemono 揚げ物),
  • sliced raw fish (sashimi刺身),
  • soups (suimono 吸い物 and shirumono 汁物),
  • pickled/salted vegetables (tsukemono漬け物),
  • dishes dressed with various kinds of sauce (aemono 和え物),
  • vinegared dishes (su-no-mono 酢の物),

Beverages

Green tea may be served to most japanese dishes. It is produced in Japan and prepared in various forms such as matcha, the tea used in the Japanese tea ceremony.

  • Beer production started in Japan in the 1860s. The most commonly consumed beers in Japan are pale-colored light lagers, with an alcohol strength of around 5.0% ABV. Lager beers are the most commonly produced beer style in Japan, but beer-like beverages, made with lower levels of malts called Happoshu (発泡酒, literally, "bubbly alcohol") or non-malt Happousei (発泡性, literally "effervescence") have captured a large part of the market as tax is substantially lower on these products. Beer and its varieties have a market share of almost 2/3 of alcoholic beverages.Small local microbreweries have also gained increasing popularity since the 1990s, supplying distinct tasting beers in a variety of styles that seek to match the emphasis on craftsmanship, quality, and ingredient provenance often associated with Japanese food.
  • Sake is a brewed rice beverage that typically contains 15%–17% alcohol and is made by multiple fermentation of rice. At traditional formal meals, it is considered an equivalent to rice and is not simultaneously taken with other rice-based dishes, although this notion is typically no longer applied to modern, refined, premium ("ginjo") sake, which bear little resemblance to the sakes of even 100 years ago. Side dishes for sake are particularly called sakana or otsumami. Sake is brewed in a highly labor-intensive process more similar to beer production than winemaking, hence, the common description of sake as rice "wine" is misleading. Sake is made with, by legal definition, strictly just four ingredients: special rice, water, koji, and special yeast. As of 2014, Japan has some 1500 registered breweries, which produce thousands of different sakes. Sake characteristics and flavor profiles vary with regionality, ingredients, and the styles (maintained by brewmaster guilds) that brewery leaders want to produce. Sake flavor profiles lend extremely well to pairing with a wide variety of cuisines, including non-Japanese cuisines.
  • Shōchū is a distilled spirit that is typically made from barley, sweet potato, buckwheat, or rice. Shōchū is produced everywhere in Japan, but its production started in Kyushu.[31]
  • Japanese whisky began commercial production in the early 20th century, and is now extremely popular, primarily consumed in highballs (ハイボール haibōru). It is produced in the Scottish style, with malt whisky produced since the 1980s, and has since won top international awards, since the 2000s.