Japanese cuisine

Japanese cuisine

Japanese cuisineWhenever people think of Japanese cuisine, they often think of sushi. While sushi is indeed part of the Japanese cuisine, the kitchen has so much more to offer than just sushi. There are many different dishes which feature fish, meat and vegetables. This article will first address the traditional Japanese cuisine. It will then continue to address the ingredients which are available during a particular season and the seasonings and vegetable used.

Traditional Japanese cuisine

The traditional Japanese cuisine is based on the combination of various staple food. The most popular type of food in Japan is white steamed rice. The dish which is most commonly served is a combination white rice and multiple main and side dishes. This meal is often accompanied by a soup called miso soup and pickles. The soup is not a heavy soup and is often a clear soup. A famous phrase in Japan is ichiju-sansai. This term literally translated into “one soup and three dishes”. This refers to the classic meal which is served. Traditionally, rice is always served separately from the other types of food. Thus, you will often see that rice is served in a small bowl. The main dishes and side dishes are served on a small plate or in a small bowl. Each plate or small bowl usually contains individual portions. While this is how food is served in the traditional Japanese cuisine, many families still serve food in a similar manner. Thus, both is restaurants as well as in Japanese homes will you find that food is still served in small and individual portions. There are not many countries in the world which serve food in this way. Especially, in the Western world it is not common to find individual portions being served, unless you go to a restaurant. In Western countries, individuals use serve themselves from a large dish which is often situated in the middle of the dining table. According to the Japanese eating style, it is not recommended for different flavors to mix on one place. It is for this reason that the different types of food are served in individual small plates or bowls.

Influence from China

You might also see that the individual portions are served on one plate but that they are separated by leaves. It is also not recommended to add the main dish or side dish on top of white rice. It is actually looked down on by traditional etiquette. This etiquette was adopted from the classical Chinese formalities during dinner. This tradition was adopted by the Japanese after Buddhism was introduced to the country. The traditions and practices with regards to eating food became popular during the Kamakura period. While in Japan, these traditions are still widely practices, things have changed in China. In China, for example, it is now very common to place your main dish or side dish on top of white rice. In the old days, the tradition with regards to food was even more different compared to the practices adopted now. In the olden days, each course would be served on napkins. This would be the case if you would be having a meal which would consists of multiple courses. However, this practice was not common among all Japanese. It is usually practiced among the nobles. Today, stack-up trays and fold-stool trays are still used to serve food. This is especially the case during large banquets.

Food in season

The Japanese cuisine works a lot with particular types of food which are in season. Since high emphasis is places on particular foods in each season, the specific meals are designed to herald the four different seasons. In Japanese, it is said that seasonality implies that one should take advantage of the “fruits of the mountains”. Some of these foods include chestnuts in the fall season and bamboo shoots during the spring season. People also say that one should take advantage of the “fruits of the sea”, referring to the different types of fish which are used during a particular season. A specific type of fish which is considered to be one of the most popular types of fish in Japan is skipjack tuna. This type of fish is said to the arrive during the Kuroshio Current. It is also possible that certain types of food become available before the particular season arrives. In this case, the first crop or the year or the early catch is referred to as hashiri. Another important characteristic of Japanese cuisine is that the use of leaves is common for decoration. You might also notice that flowers and branches are commonly used to decorate particular types of food. One of the most popular types of leaves used are maple leaves. Maple used are often used and are placed on water to float. The aim of placing maple leaves on water is to exude coolness. Bamboo leaves are also commonly used in the Japanese cuisine. Bamboo leaves are often used to serve food on. Moreover, bamboo leaves are also used to separate foods.

Consumption of meat

Since Japan is an island which is surrounded by the ocean, fish and seafood form an important part of Japanese cuisine. According to many Japanese food scholars, Japan has always relied on the ocean as being one of the main sources of food. Red meat is not consumed in large amounts. While there are dishes which include red meat, the majority of dishes contain vegetables, seaweeds, fish and poultry. When Buddhism became increasingly popular in Japan, it brought a stronger taboo on the consumption of red meat. According to the tradition, it was not allowed to eat creatures which walk around on four legs. It was not only considered to be a taboo, but the animals were also considered to be unclean. Therefore, the consumption of red meat was said to be avoided during the Edo period. However, the consumption of terrapin and whale was allowed according to this definition. Although the consumption of red meat has never been a big part of the Japanese cuisine, it is still served in restaurants today. Especially the consumption of wild game is considered to be a normal thing nowadays. Moreover, the consumption of vegetables has decreased over the years. On the other hand, the consumption of processed foods is becoming more popular among Japanese households. This is especially the case since many general food products are becoming more and more expensive. Thus, it is for this reason choose to purchase processed foods since these are considered to be more affordable. However, Kyoto vegetables are becoming more popular. There are many different kind of Kyoto vegetables which are sold throughout the country.


The traditional Japanese cuisine does not use many strong herb and spices to season their food. Traditionally, the types of seasoning used to give food more flavor include soy sauce, sake, dashi, vinegar, mirin, salt and sugar. When you are grilling or braising a particular food item, these are the only seasonings which are used. There are a few spices which are used during cooking but they are not as common as the abovementioned seasonings. The spices are often used to neutralize dishes which contain fish or game. It is used to neutralize the odors of these dishes. Some of the spices used for this particular purpose include red pepper and ginger. You might see that certain herbs are also used as garnish. These spices are referred to as “tsuma”. Some of the herbs which are used as garnish include some pungent herbs and minced ginger. You might also see that some milder items will be served alongside main dishes and side dishes. These milder items include Japanese mustard, wasabi and grated daikon. You will also see that many dishes are decorated or garnished with minced seaweed. Thus, you might be able to see nori flakes on top of a dish you order in a restaurant. Another mixture of spices which is commonly added is called shichimi. Shichimi is often used in the preparation of rice cakes, noodles and soups. Shichimi is often described to be a spice mix which is based on chilli. The mixture contains the following ingredients: sansho, black sesame, chilli, nori, ginger, white sesame and ginger.

Vegetarian food

It is rare to find a dish in Japan which is strictly vegetarian. This is due to the fact that even though a dish might only contain vegetables, the vegetables are usually flavored with dashi stock. Dashi stock is usually made of dried tuna flakes. Thus, the Japanese cuisine is ideal for people who are pescetarian but not for people who are strict vegetarians. An exception to this is shojin-ryori. These are a range of vegetarian dishes which are prepared and developed by Buddhist monks. There are many restaurants which offer so-called shojin-ryori dishes. However, these restaurants often use non-vegetarian elements.


The number one staple food in Japan is considered to be rice. Steamed white rice is the most common type of rice which is consumed throughout the country. With every meal that is served, you will be served a portion of rice as well. The importance of rice is also evident in the fact that the terms used for cooked rice are “meshi” and “gohan”. These terms literally translate into “meal”. While the majority of people in the country consume rice, there are parts of the country where other grains are also popular. For example, in the northern areas of Japan wheat is also commonly used in the preparation of dishes. A survey which was conducted in 2007 showed that many people in Japan are now also commonly eating noodles and bread. A specific characteristic of Japanese rice is that it becomes sticky ones it is cooked. This is also the type of rice which is used in the preparation of sushi.


Nowadays, many restaurants and the dining rooms in Japanese houses have chairs and tables just like many households in the rest of the world. However, this used to be different in the past. Traditionally, it was common to have low tables and cushions. These were placed on tatami floors. These tatami mats are made from straw. Since these mats can easily become damaged, it is not common to wear shoes or any other type of footwear on the mats. Thus, before stepping on the mats you should take off your shoes. If you are dining in a traditional tatami room, then it is important to sit upright. Also, women usually sit with their legs to one side while men have their feet crossed. The formal way for both sexes to be seated it in a kneeling position. This kneeling position is also known as seiza.


Article written by: SarahAjaoud
Times read: 1284x
Added: 16-02-2017 15:06
Last modified: 24-05-2017 23:14

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