In Japan, those 1042 islands in the Pacific with incredible landscapes, you’ll always find something alluring about this beautiful country. Japanese culture is a mix of several cultures that came to these islands from the Asian continent; that’s why Japanese gastronomy contains the same basic foods: rice, beans, wheat and oats.
Because of its geographical location, seafood is always present, and fish and shellfish are part of their daily meals. On any given day you’ll see them eating vegetable soup, a little rice and some fish.
Like any self-respecting culture, they have special dishes that are only eaten on specific days. One of those special days is when a baby is born or when there’s a wedding. And even when they have those special dishes they’re usually served with their traditional azuki or rice with beans.
Like everything in this country, Japan’s gastronomy has to follow a certain order. That’s why at the table they first consume products from the mountain, followed by those from the sea and finally those from the fields.
You’ll tend to see the Japanese eating vegetables or soybeans, although they have also been consuming meat and chicken for 500 years, especially since their contact with the Portuguese.
It’s also very curious how they bring their food along when travelling. In the past, long travel distances created the need to carry food, which was carefully placed in a box with several compartments, all organized so that fish, rice, colors and flavors were packaged as if they were a gift.
An interesting dish found in Japanese gastronomy
If you thought the Japanese didn’t have pizza, you were wrong. We usually think of Americans when we see pizza, though it may actually come from Greece. Even so, for some reason, the Japanese already had this type of food.
To prepare okonomiyaki for two people all you need is:
- Make a broth with the dashi
- Add the flour and mix it with the broth until it is smooth.
- In another bowl add the green onion, cabbage and eggs. Finally, add the dough you’ve made and mix it again.
- In a pan add a little oil, place the mixture inside and spread it out. It should have a thickness of 2 cm or so. Fry it (usually 3 minutes is enough).
- Place the pieces of meat on top, then turn it over so that the meat remains underneath and is also fried. Do this for another 3 minutes.
- Flip it over again so that everything is cooked well.
- Once it’s done, add the algae powder and an okonomiyaki sauce.
Food is one of the most important things in Japanese culture
Both the preparation and the presentation have to be perfect; that’s why they dedicate time and effort to preparing and serving it. The Japanese believe that food should first be tasted with your eyes and then with your tongue.
Everything is usually served fresh; this forces you to go food shopping daily, and you only purchase seasonable fruits and vegetables. As they often say: “The spirit of the season should be reflected in the food.” Cooks should love what they do; love should be reflected in their dishes; they shouldn’t rush things and the most important meals usually take up to three days to be prepared.
The use of a single dish with a lot of food looks bad, which is why they need many dishes with a small amount of food. For example, for rice in a bowl: if the ingredient is square you should choose a round plate, but if the food is round, a square plate is used. Dishes that are poorly presented are not consumed. If the vegetables cannot be appreciated in all their glory or they are overcooked, the dish will be removed, and they won’t want to consume it.
They use many utensils in the kitchen and many types of dishes. To give an example, they use special bowls that don’t get hot on the outside, which are essential to avoid getting burned while holding them in one hand to eat with the other. Not only do they use the famous chopsticks to eat; they use other types of chopsticks to cook. They do rice in many different ways, from vinegary rice to rice cookies and even sweet rice.
Are you hungry yet? Bon Appetite! Or as the Japanese would say: いただきます (Itadakimasu), which expresses gratitude to the person who cooked for you, from the kitchen to the farm. It also expresses gratitude to the ingredients themselves: “let you eat the life of plants and animals for me”. You’ll always hear Itadakimasu said before a meal.