An Introduction to Japanese Cuisine



Sushi
Sushi

Sushi

Sushi is rice that has been mixed with vinegar, topped with an ingredient; when squeezed into shape by hand, it is called nigiri-zushi. There are also other types such as maki-sushi rolled with a seaweed wrapping, scattered sushi, pressed sushi, and so on.

Sushi Terms

  • Shari The rice portion of sushi.
  • Neta The ingredient placed on top of the rice.
  • Gari Thinly sliced ginger.
  • Agari The term for tea.
  • Wasabi A condiment that is pungently irritating to the nose. Also called namida, or tears.
  • Gunkan The type of sushi where seaweed wraps the shari and neta.

Back to Top Back to Top



Sashimi
Sashimi

Sashimi

Sashimi is fresh seafood that has been thinly sliced and served in its raw form, eaten by dipping in soy sauce and wasabi. Sometimes it is called “otsukuri.”

Sashimi Q&A

What is the purpose of wasabi?

Wasabi has deodorizing and sanitizing properties. It aids in reducing the fishy odors, and also reduces bacteria on raw fish.

Should wasabi be added to the soy sauce?

Without dissolving the wasabi in the soy sauce, place a little on top of the sashimi, and eat.

What is done with the tsuma and ken (garnishes such as julienned daikon or beefsteak leaf)?

The tsuma and ken are effective curatives.You can eat them together with the sashimi or separately.If you eat them wrapping the sashimi, it is very palate cleansing.

Back to Top Back to Top



Tempura

Tempura

Tempura is a dish in which seasonal ingredients are battered then deep-fried. Various ingredients such as vegetables are coated with a batter of four, water, and egg and fried in vegetable oil. Usually they are eaten with grated daikon or ginger and a tsuyu dipping sauce.

Back to Top Back to Top


Yaki-zakana
Yaki-zakana

Yaki-zakana

Yaki-zakana is fish that has been grilled over an open flame. Accompanying the grilled fish is “hajikami,” the bulb of the ginger plant marinated in sweet vinegar, serving to enhance the color of the dish and also as a palate cleanser. After eating the fish, try chewing on the soft end portion.

Refer to eating fish

Refer to eating fish

Back to Top Back to Top


Kushi Cuisine

Kushi Cuisine

Kushi cuisine is meats or vegetables cut into bite sizes and grilled on a skewer, or “kushi.” Meats, vegetables, or fish that have been covered in breadcrumbs and deep-fried in vegetable oil are termed kushi-age. Another form of kushi cuisine is tofu, konjac, eggplant, or sweet potato skewered and grilled covered in miso flavored with yuzu or kinome, called miso dengaku.

Back to Top Back to Top


Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki is tender beef thinly sliced, together with ingredients such as long scallions, shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, shirataki noodles, grilled tofu, and shungiku greens; in Kanazawa sudare-fu (wheat gluten) is added. These ingredients are braised in a soup made of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. After cooking, this dish is eaten by dipping in raw beaten egg. Sukiyaki is one of Japan’s representative dishes, along with sushi and tempura.

Back to Top Back to Top


Shabu Shabu

Shabu Shabu

Shabu shabu is a Japanese dish where very thinly sliced meat is dipped several times in a pot of boiling soup broth to cook, together with other ingredients such as vegetables, tofu, and kudzu noodles, eaten with a dipping sauce. The usual dipping sauces are sesame seed or ponzu flavored.

Back to Top Back to Top


Okonomi-yaki

Okonomi-yaki

Okonomiyaki starts with a batter of flour dissolved in water, into which vegetables, meat, or seafood are mixed, then fried like a pancake on an iron griddle, and eaten with a drizzle of sauce or mayonnaise, seaweed flakes, and bonito shavings as condiments. Differences in preparation and ingredients can be seen regionally, with “Kansai-style okonomiyaki” and “Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki” being the two main cooking methods.

Back to Top Back to Top


Monja-yaki

Monja-yaki

Monja-yaki is the dish from which okonomiyaki was created, originally served as a snack food. It is characterized by the large amount of water used to dissolve the flour and the addition of soy sauce and sauce into the batter. Ingredients such as shredded cabbage and agedama (bits of fried tempura batter) are mixed in, and then eaten after being pressed onto the bottom of a spatula over a large griddle.

Back to Top Back to Top


Tako-yaki

Tako-yaki

Originating in Osaka, takoyaki starts with a flour based batter into which a small piece of octopus is added, and then fried into a ball shape. The outside is covered with sauce and mayonnaise, sprinkled with bonito shavings and seaweed flakes, and usually eaten with a toothpick. Takoyaki is usually eaten as a snack, in the afternoon or in-between meals.

Back to Top Back to Top


Unagi Dishes
Unagi Dishes

Unagi Dishes

Among the eel dishes, the spitchcock is the most common preparation method. Filleted with the head and bones removed, the meat is skewered, and basted in a marinade before grilling. Called una-don or una-ju depending on the serving vessel and regarded for increasing stamina, eel has long been a favorite of the Japanese. Depending on the persons’ taste, the digestive aid powdered sansho (Japanese pepper) is sprinkled on top before eating.

Back to Top Back to Top


Tonkatsu

Tonkatsu

Pork is breaded in flour, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs, and cooked by thoroughly frying in oil. To make it easy to eat with chopsticks, the cutlet is cut into pieces. Tonkatsu is normally eaten with tonkatsu sauce (Worcestershire sauce), but some shops serve grated daikon radish and ponzu for tonkatsu with a Japanese flavor.

Back to Top Back to Top


Miso Shiru

Miso Shiru

Miso shiru is a soup made with vegetables, fish or other ingredients, and flavored with miso (fermented soy bean) paste. It is a dish so familiar to the Japanese household, that the Japanese breakfast is said to be “rice with miso soup.” The soup’s base is taken from ingredients like kelp, bonito, dried sardines or anchovies, while the type of miso paste differs regionally from white or red, to mixed.

Back to Top Back to Top


Suimono

Suimono

Suimono is a broth (dashi) taken from kelp and bonito shavings, finished with soy sauce or salt in which the soup’s ingredients float, served in a lacquerware bowl. The ingredients, such as seafood or chicken are always boiled before adding, to preserve the clarity of the soup. Because suimono relies on the flavor of the dashi, it is extremely important to create a good tasting dashi.

Back to Top Back to Top


Arajiru

Arajiru is a term used for soup made from the leftover scraps, or ara, of fish after filleting. In addition to the fish scraps, vegetables including root vegetables, konjac, ground meats such as fish, are added. The soup’s ingredients are limitless.

Back to Top Back to Top


Ramen

Ramen

Ramen is a dish that starts with a soup flavored with salt, soy sauce, or miso, to which Chinese noodles are added, and topped with vegetables such as bean sprouts and scallions, and char siu pork. With its beginnings as a dish from China, it developed in Japan’s Chinese eateries. Over its long history, today it has become “Japanese ramen.” Differing from its Chinese roots, ramen has evolved into a dish unique to Japan’s culinary culture. Noodle thickness, soup, toppings, and other things differ depending on the shop.

Back to Top Back to Top


Udon
Udon

Udon

Udon is made from a flour dough, rolled out and cut into noodles, then boiled. It is eaten cold, hot, or even stewed. The flavor of the soup (tsuyu or kake-jiru) can differ depending on the region. Curry can also be mixed into the tsuyu creating a version called curry udon.

Back to Top Back to Top


Soba

Soba

Soba noodles are a traditional Japanese food made from the flour of ground buckwheat seeds, and there are both cold and hot versions. The custom of eating noodles “with a slurping sound,” is one that is not usually found outside of Japan, but is very commonly seen throughout the country. In order to enjoy soba’s aroma and “throat-feel,” eating with a slurping noise is excused.

Soba Q&A

What should I do with the condiments (scallions, wasabi)?

Add them to the dipping sauce, as you like. Try not to add them all, save some for the soba- yu.

What is the proper way to drink the soba-yu, served at the end of the meal?

Soba-yu is the water in which the soba noodles were boiled.
To enjoy the wonderful flavor of the permeated buckwheat aroma, and its high nutritional value, drink by pouring the soba-yu into the remaining dipping sauce. You may also prefer to drink it straight.

Back to Top Back to Top


Tsukudani

Tsukudani

Tsukudani is a food product made from seafood boiled in a salty-sweet reduction of sugar, soy sauce, and mirin. Since the Edo period, tsukudani has been invaluable as a preserved food product, and goes well with rice.

Back to Top Back to Top


Nimono
Nimono
Nimono

Nimono

Nimono is a dish of vegetables and fish cooked in dashi, seasoned with soy sauce and mirin. Because it is such a general dish, it comes under many different names depending on the boiling method.

Back to Top Back to Top


Oden
Oden

Oden

Starting with a soup base of dashi seasoned with soy sauce and other ingredients, to which many different items such as daikon, fish cake, konjac, and hard-boiled egg are added and boiled for several hours. Oden is said to be a winter staple in Japan.

Back to Top Back to Top


Korokke (Croquette)
Korokke (Croquette)

Korokke (Croquette)

Korokke have a main ingredient of boiled and mashed potatoes, which are shaped into round tubes or oval paddies, then coated with flour, egg, and bread crumbs, and fried in lard or cooking oil. Usually, ground meat, seafood such as crab, minced onion and other vegetables are cooked and mixed into the potatoes.

Back to Top Back to Top


Kare (Curry)

Kare (Curry)

Curry is a dish made with many kinds of spices and flavored with different meats and vegetables. Based on the dish made in India and its neighboring countries, curry in Japan is, for the most part, a dish that evolved independently into “curry rice.”

Back to Top Back to Top


Don-mono
Don-mono

Don-mono

Don-mono is a dish of rice mounded in a bowl or “don,” with prepared ingredients placed on top. There are many types of don-mono depending on the topping. As examples, seafood toppings such as sashimi is kaisen-don, a topping of spitchcocked eel covered with sauce is una-don, pork cutlet in an egg drop mixture is katsu-don, while a topping of tempura is ten-don. Furthermore, different regions have unique names for their don-mono.

Back to Top Back to Top


Tsukemono

Tsukemono

Tsukemono are foodstuffs such as vegetables that have been pickled in mediums including salt, vinegar, rice-bran, soy sauce, or sake lees. In addition to enhancing shelf life, the flavors of these preserved foods improve with age. These pickled foods also have the name “ko no mono,” due to their unique aromas produced through fermentation.

Back to Top Back to Top


Kamameshi

Kamameshi

Kamameshi is a mixture of rice with soy sauce, mirin, and other seasonings, to which toppings like chicken, shiitake mushrooms, bamboo shoots, sasagaki cut burdock root, egg, mountain vegetables, and ginger are added, then cooked in an iron pot. Even the burnt layer is fragrant and delicious.

Back to Top Back to Top


Shojin Ryori

Shojin Ryori

In Buddhism, the taking of life is forbidden, and because of a strict precept forbidding the consumption of meat, over the years the dishes devised became what are known as shojin ryori. Vegetables, legumes, and grains are prepared in a way that draws out their natural flavors. This cuisine is usually served during a Buddhist memorial ceremony.

Back to Top Back to Top


Kaiseki (Banquet) Ryori, Kaiseki (Tea Ceremony) Ryori

The Two Kaiseki Cuisines

Originally these were two different styles of cuisines (see below), but in most cases today the term “kaiseki-ryori” is used to designate a set of dishes presented individually in a way that, “hot dishes can be eaten while hot, and cold dishes can be eaten while still cold.”

Kaiseki (Banquet) Ryori

Kaiseki ryori is cuisine served during banquets. The food is created for the enjoyment of alcohol, with the basic menu consisting of “one soup, three side dishes” (soup, sashimi, a grilled dish, and boiled dish). Additionally, dishes such as a small appetizer, fried dish, steamed dish, dressed vegetables, and vinegared dish may be added. At the end of the meal, rice, miso soup, and dessert is served.

Kaiseki (Tea Ceremony) Ryori

Originally, during tea ceremony gatherings kaiseki ryori was cuisine served by the host to show hospitality to his or her guests. To start, rice, soup, and mukozuke (food in a serving dish) are brought out on a legless lacquered tray. After which, a boiled dish, grilled dish, azukebachi, clear broth, hassun, hot water and pickles, and dessert are served.

Back to Top Back to Top

Back to Top