The Seasons and Japanese Cuisine
Japan has distinct spring, summer, fall, and winter seasons, each with differing foodstuffs. Accordingly, the cuisine of Japan is one that appreciates the fresh natural flavors of the ingredients each season has to offer. An additional characteristic of Japanese cuisine is the value placed on aesthetic appearance, paying attention to the harmony of the foods’ arrangement and the dishes used.
What is “Dashi”?
The flavor that “makes” Japanese cuisine comes from dashi. The name derives from the method of cooking that extracts the flavors of, in most cases, kelp, bonito shavings, dried fish, or shiitake mushrooms by submerging the ingredients in water and boiling to make a stock. To this dashi base, flavorings such as soy sauce or salt are added to create the desired taste of the dish. The other Japanese flavors are “miso” and “shoyu.” Miso is a fermented seasoning made from soybeans. While the liquid that exudes when making miso is said to be the origin of shoyu, or soy sauce.
Otoshi is a simple dish that comes in a small cup or plate served at restaurants and pubs to accompany alcohol before the ordered dishes come out. They are served whether an order is placed or not, and can be chargeable. It may be possible to decline the otoshi, so it’s a good idea to check with your server before ordering. Consulting the staff in advance is recommended, in case the dish has food you dislike.