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A Visual Array of Traditional Japanese Food to Curb Your Cravings

Food items like tofu, sushi, tempura, miso, soba, and even green tea are now available to people even outside Japan. Japanese food has greatly evolved over the past few centuries due to many social as well as political changes. Right from the ancient eras, wherein much of the traditional cuisine was largely influenced by the Korean and Chinese cultures, Japanese cuisine gradually transformed with the onset of the Medieval period, which brought along with it new tastes and flavors.

With the advent of the Modern ages, massive changes took place, and Japanese cuisine was influenced greatly by Western culture. However, the food of today is still very similar to what existed towards the end of the 19th century. This would mean that a large portion of the Japanese cuisine includes those foods whose cooking methods and ingredients have been introduced by other cultures, but which have since then been experimented with and developed by the Japanese themselves.

A traditional Japanese breakfast would include steamed rice, miso soup, green tea, and a variety of side dishes. Some of the most common side dishes are rice porridge or nanakusa-gayu, which is made of seven different herbs, rolled omelet, also known as tamagoyaki, tofu which is made of curdled soybean milk, ham and eggs, grilled eel fish, pickles, salad, dried seaweed, and nattō, which is fermented soybeans. Even though rice consumption in most Japanese households is said to be on the decline, rice is still considered to be the staple diet of the Japanese people. A steaming hot bowl of rice is included in most Japanese meals, and even the side dishes are served with rice! Apart from rice, most meals end with a round of green tea – exotic to the core!
For lunch, the norm would be bowls of noodles or rice, also known as donburi, that consists of either fish, meat or vegetables. From beef bowls to udon, yakisoba and soba noodles, the Japanese just love their noodles! Especially, ramen noodles that is served with various toppings from beef to pork and vegetables. Sushi, tempura, and fried rice are popularly known traditional food items. Sushi being the most popular delicacy, made of vinegar rice, and available in many different types, whereas tempura is deep-fried seafood and vegetables.

The variety of food available for a traditional dinner in Japan in simply astounding! From nikuman, which is steamed pork buns, teppanyaki, where meat or seafood dishes are cooked using an iron plate, tonkatsu, which is deep-fried pork cutlets, to yakiniku and yakitori, which are grilled meat, usually of chicken, beef or pork, and sometimes even of seafood, a typical Japanese dinner has it all. Apart from rice, seafood is also very popular in Japan. From clams and seaweed to fish and fish cakes (oden), Japanese seafood is unbeatable. Traditional Japanese ingredients used are soy sauce, miso, wasabi, ginger, mushrooms, beans, noodles, rice vinegar, and mirin (rice wine).

The Japanese are known for emphasizing on certain seasonal food, while putting together a great combination of ingredients and presenting it with finesse. But along with the rich and fanciful fare, you also have the modest bowl of rice and the simplicity of the heritage Japanese country-style cooking. Some of the popular staple food served in Japan includes okonomiyaki, which is seafood, meat and vegetable pancakes, sashimi, that is raw fish slices, sukiyaki, which is thinly-sliced meat, vegetables and tofu cooked in sweet soy sauce, and kare raisu, that is rice topped with vegetables and meat curry. So, if you are looking forward to being experimental and don’t mind sampling a grilled octopus or raw fish and eel, then Japanese food will not come as a disappointment to you.

The Japanese simply love their rice, and so you will find it in desserts as well from rice cakes to mochi! Another variation of mochi is daifuku, which is traditionally prepared during the Japanese New Year, and comes in many different kinds. Ichigo daifuku has a strawberry and red bean paste filling, whereas kuromame comes with a sweet black soybean stuffing. Dango preparations are similar to mochis, but are served on sticks and had with green tea. Taiyaki is a fish-shaped cake with red bean paste, custard, chocolate, or cheese filling. It is easily available, and a very popular dessert in Japan.
  • Onigiri – is triangle-shaped rice covered with seaweed (nori) and stuffed with pickles, salted salmon, or any other salty ingredient.
  • Ochazuke – is made out of overcooked or leftover rice, mixed with green tea, cooking stock or boiled water, and is commonly topped with pickles, seaweed, or salted salmon.
  • Yakizakana – is grilled fish, usually served with grated, white radish.
  • Udon Noodles – is noodle soup mixed with white radish, soy sauce, mirin (rice wine), and topped with prawns or deep-fried tofu.
  • Shabu-shabu – is thinly-sliced, cooked meat of chicken, duck, or pig, and served with tofu and vegetables, which are had after dipping in different sauces.
  • Chanko Nabe – is chicken broth mixed with rice wine or sake, tofu, fried fish, and vegetables.
  • Nikujaga – is made of pork or beef meat, stewed potatoes and onions, and sweetened soy sauce.
  • Yudofu – is a simple dish made out of tofu, that is warmed up in a bowl of hot water, and seasoned with seaweed and other condiments.
  • Korokke – is made of beef or shrimp, mixed with mashed potatoes, wheat flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs, which are then deep-fried until dark brown.
  • Omurice – is a combination of omelet with chicken fried rice stuffing, and usually topped with ketchup.
  • Gyoza – is made with minced pork, cabbage, ginger, garlic, and sesame oil, which is then rolled with dough, and looks like dumpling.
  • Chawanmushi – is egg custard made with ginkgo seeds, soy sauce, cooking stock, rice wine, mushrooms, lily root, and boiled shrimp.
  • Tsukemono – is pickled vegetables.
  • Wagashi – is a sweet made of rice cake, bean paste, and fruits.
  • Oyakodon – is made of chicken, eggs, and onions, simmered in cooking stock, soy sauce, and rice wine, and is served with steamed rice.
  • Tonjiru – is pork soup mixed with vegetables, and flavored by dissolving miso.
  • Tebasaki – is fried chicken wings, glazed in dark-brown sugar, soy sauce, sake (rice wine), ginger and garlic juice.
  • Katsudon – is deep-fried cutlets made of pork, eggs, and other condiments, and is generally served with a bowl of rice.
  • Kabocha Cake – is nothing but cake made of pumpkin.
In terms of unique presentation and taste, Japanese cuisine is right up there. For all of you who have not yet explored and discovered the pleasures of traditional Japanese food, give it a try.

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