食 – Food

Japanese main staple food has been the rice. ‘Gohan’, meaning cooked rice in Japanese, also means ‘meal’. Rice, grilled fish and miso soup compose 一汁一菜, simple yet well-balanced menu. It often accompanied by simmered or pickled vegetables. Although consumption of rice has decreased towards 2/3 in two decades to date, gohan continues to stand in the center of our diet.

In the Meiji era (1868-1912), a spate of exotic foreign foods has come onto our table. American-/European-style dishes starring beef and pork were called 洋. Chinese noodle (=ramen), dumpling (=gyoza) and fried rice (=cha-han) represented 中. 和, with well-known sushi, sashimi and tempura, has meant ‘Japanese style’. UNESCO has recently added 和食=washoku to the Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

Sushi can be roughly divided into following two categories; nigiri, a small rice ball topped with fresh sashimi which requires professional techniques; maki, rolled rice wrapped by nori with various fillings. The former is normally served at restaurant while the latter made at home.

Hamburg steak, croquette, breaded pork cutlet, breaded and fried shrimp, curry and omelet have been served as 洋 meals. Mothers of Meiji era brought home from restaurants the recipes, preferred a lot by younger generation. Many of these 洋 dishes are served with a bowl of gohan and miso soup.

Chinese foods might be the most Japanized cooking genre: today’s 中=中華料理are cooked quite simply compared to the original recipes. Ramen, for example, are made in a method similar to traditional soba noodle. However, good performances of 中 among male consumers have led to thousands of ramen shops spread through Japanese Archipelago.

These days an enormous number of foreign chefs run restaurants of their unique, native meals – we might cover menus of almost all over the world. When you visit Japan, perhaps for the occasion of Tokyo Olympic Games held in 2020, please check up and try restaurants who serve cuisines of your home country as well as Japanese dishes.

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Gohan lunch: domburi, or abbreviated don, means ‘bigger rice bowl’. It looks one of the top 3 lunch menus for business persons, following onigiri and obento. As a name of dish, it serves a bowl of gohan with various toppings including; chicken and egg (=oyako-don), pork cutlet and egg with leek (=katsu-don), beef and onion (=gyu-don), tempura (=ten-don), grilled eel (=una-don), fresh tuna and soy sauce with nori (=tekka-don).

Rice cooker: tasty gohan takes long time to prepare. We have to wash, cook and put gohan into rice bowls respectively for family members. Besides, a bowl of gohan cannot be a meal: at least another dish is necessary. After meals, cleaning of the rice cooker is waiting for you. Advanced rice cookers provide perfect joy of tasty gohan, yet they consist of complicated devices which require disassembly, clean-up and drying every time.

B-rank gourmet: means fast foods yet unique local menus are enjoyable. As-you-like-it pancake (=okonomiyaki) and ball-shape cake filled with boiled octopus (=takoyaki) are particularly popular in western part of Japan. They are also found in festival sites along with fried noodles (=yakisoba) and sweets like cotton candy. Soba and udon noodles are often available at stands in railway stations (=tachigui soba), while serve as easy and tasty lunch.

Soybean: a vital player of Japanese cuisine, which soy sauce (=shoyu), fermented soybean paste (=miso), soybean curd (=tofu), fermented sticky soybean (=natto) and soybean flour (=kinako) are all made of.

Sea vegetable: nori, konbu and wakame represent the most favored sea vegetables. They are full of minerals and vitamins, non-calories, eaten much in Asian countries.

Japanese tea and sweets: green tea needs no milk, no sugar — fresh green color and subtle bitterness with a tinge of umami would be pleasurable. It gives the best combination with 和菓子, meaning Japanese sweets. They are made of sweetened bean paste (=anko), rice cakes (=mochi), kinako, etc. Seasonal grace of 和菓子are worth taking a look at and enjoying.

Food replicas: just look like real sushi, tempura, Japanese sweets, etc. Why don’t you get some for souvenir in key holders, magnet stationeries and cellphone accessories?

Food habits: Halal, Kosher and other dietary habits are becoming identified these days. Such retail shops are often accessible in big cities headed by Tokyo, yet it is recommended to pick them up via Internet.

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