Japanese cuisine falls into several categories. Some dishes are served with steamed rice, some are noodle based and others are prepared exclusively with meat. Since Japan is a country surrounded by water seafood is an important component of the national cuisine. You can prepare some of these recipes at home with the aid of a cookbook or sample them in a restaurant. Here are some favourites enjoyed all over Japan and around the world.
Sushi – You’ve probably eaten this before, and the division between those who like it and those who don’t is very precise. It is raw fish served with cooked rice flavoured with vinegar, and then shaped into bite sized pieces. Sometimes cooked vegetables are added as well, with a small portion of wasabi, a powerful green horseradish which is best eaten in very small quantities. Many restaurants in Japan serve this specialty from a rotating conveyor belt which circles the room and customers can simply sit down and take what they want.
Sashimi – Many people assume this is the same as sushi. Actually it’s raw seafood. They are dipped into a small dish of soy sauce mixed with ginger and wasabi before eating. You’ll find the following kinds of sashimi on a Japanese menu:
Ebi – Crab
Maguro – Tuna
Saba – Mackerel
Tako – Octopus
It’s all delicious once your taste buds have adjusted. Both sushi and sashimi are always served with rice. Noodle dishes are listed below.
Soba – Found all over Japan and in Asian supermarkets around the globe, these thin, spaghetti-like noodles can be served hot or cold and are usually eaten with soy sauce.
Udon – These are thicker than soba and made with wheat flour. Like soba, they are eaten hot and cold and served with various toppings.
Ramen – It’s cheap, delicious and found all over Japan. In a country with high costs it’s a food that won’t break your budget. Originally from China, Japanese citizens have added lots of their own twists and variations to this dish. Most of the time it’s eaten hot and preparation and ingredients will be different from one end of Japan to the other.
For meat lovers
Meat was not widely consumed by Japanese people until the mid-19th century. Below are three dishes that you’ll find on menus inside and outside Japan.
Yakitori – Grilled chicken which has been marinated in a mixture or sugar, honey and maple syrup and then speared on small wooden skewers. One of the more familiar dishes to foreign visitors, it can be bought from street vendors.
Sukiyaki – This is a dish where all of the raw ingredients are already prepared, but you cook them yourself. Sitting around a hot pan each diner will dip some beef, tofu and assorted vegatables into a raw egg yolk before cooking it.
Nabe – Basically, it’s a big pot of stew which usually includes chicken and seafood. Sumo wrestlers eat this when they are not training. There are also vegetables and plenty of tofu included in all kinds of nabe.
Japanese restaurants are built differently than in other parts of Asia. Unlike their Chinese counterparts, guests will sit on a tatami mat around a low table. Beautiful cups and saucers made of porcelain are used to serve food and beverages.
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