Kaiseki is the best of Japanese cuisine. Artfully presented, superbly prepared and
elegantly served this makes an ultimate dining experience. Kaiseki is a form of an
individual spread that is laid out in personal dishes for the indivdual.
The Kaiseki presents the best of Japanese sensibilities - the presentation that is laid
out with the height of Japanese design. Just like the Japanese garden - the Kaiseki
reperents stucture, seasons, drama, calm, intrigue and spirit. Simple ingredients that
have their identity and character preserved are transformed into culinary art. Every
dish served in what is often a ten-course meal is a celebration of the artistry and
subtleties of nature. A feast for the senses - Culinary genius - truely born from the
Ramen are Chinese noodles made the Japanese way. This is the fast food of Japan and is
devoured by millions of Japanese.
Regions across Japan have built their own Ramen identity with their own distinctive flavor
and style. Restaurants too specialize in Ramen and have their own following with their own
brand of flavor and style. They may even serve only one type of ramen having perfected
their recipe. Many have standing space only. There's no etiquette to eating ramen and many
slurp to show their appreciation and contentment with the ramen.
Ramen is usually seasoned with miso (bean paste), shoyu (soy) or shio (salt) flavored soup
though the stock base is made from meat bones. They may be topped with meat, bean sprouts
or bamboo shoots.
Udon noodles are white in colour as they are made from wheat flour.
Soba,noodles are darker and are made from buckwheat flour.
Restaurants may serve both but many specialize in either one as they make the noodles
Soba and udon have rural origins and they are served reflect rustic tastes and
ingredients. Both can be served hot in a thin soup of fish stock and soy or cold with soy
based dressings. Dishes vary with the garnishes you add. Wild vegetables, tempura, seaweed
and raw egg are all common additions but meat is almost unheard of.
Sushi and Sashimi
Contrary to popular belief, the word sushi is not synonymous with raw fish. It refers to
anything made with vinegared rice. This is often topped with raw fish to make nigiri-zushi
but vinegared rice with cooked fish, other meats, egg or vegetables is also sushi. Cuts of
raw fish on their own are called sashimi. This is considered a quite different dish from
sushi. It is usually served, beautifully presented, at the beginning of a meal of other
You are likely to be familiar with nigiri-zushi already as it is now widely available
outside Japan. These are bite-sized pads of rice with raw fish (or other ingredients)
pressed on top. This is the kind of sushi that you get at sushi bars. Calling them bars is
appropriate since the chefs work behind the counter with cuts of fish rather like a barman
works with bottles.
Popular raw fish include salmon, tuna, squid and yellowtail. These are the most palatable
for those still getting used to the idea of eating fish raw. Cooked eel and shrimp and
Japanese-style omelette are also used on nigiri-zushi. More adventurous diners should try
raw shrimp, abalone and sea urchin roe - some of the most distinctive flavours around.
Both sushi and sashimi should be eaten with a touch of pungent wasabi horseradish and just
a little soy sauce.
If you need any convincing that eating raw fish is a good idea, consider the health
benefits. It is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids as well as low in fat, rice is a
great source of complex carbohydrates and seaweed is rich in iodine. A typical sushi
dinner of 7 to 9 pieces may only contain a healthy 300-450 calories.
Sukiyaki and Shabu-shabu
Both of these popular Japanese dishes involve thinly-sliced beef cooked at the table. The
beef is served raw, arranged aesthetically on a large plate, giving you a chance to see
the fine marbling of fat that is necessary to give the beef the required tenderness and
Thin slices of beef, leeks and other vegetables, tofu (bean curd), shirataki
(thin noodles made from konnyaku) are cooked in warishita (a special stock
of soy sauce, mirin (sweet sake) and sugar). Served with a whisked raw egg for
For sukiyaki, the
pan is cast iron and shallow. Into it are added the beef along with vegetables such as
green onions, shiitake mushrooms and edible chrysanthemum leaves as well as tofu and
konnyaku noodles. The seasoning consists of liberal amounts of soy, a brewed sweetener
called mirin and sometimes sake. Each person has a small bowl containing raw egg into
which the cooked items are dipped before eating. The result is succulent and sweet beef
and vegetables given a silky coating by the raw egg. Sukiyaki is a relatively new dish to
Japan. It is said to have been thought up in the Meiji Period (1868-1912) after the
emperor instructed his people to eat more beef.
Shabu-shabu is cooked differently though the ingredients are largely the same. The pot
used is earthenware and half-filled with a stock made from kelp and dried bonito. Into the
pot, diners add the meat and vegetables in small batches. The dipping sauce used is a
citrus-flavoured soy mixture called ponzu which gives everything a nice zing.
Shabu-shabu is said to be the sound that thinly-sliced beef makes when being
cooked lightly in a bubbling broth.
Many restaurants serve sukiyaki and shabu-shabu but it is also easily made at home. Both
are great to enjoy with family and friends gathered round the steaming pot.
Fried foods were introduced to Japan by the portugese and the Dutch. The Japnese
took to it and especially Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, who liked this new culinary acquisition
so much that he gorged himself to death as a result; it is told.
Commonly used for tempura are seafood such as fresh shrimp, white fish and squid and
vegetables such as eggplant, sweet potato and perilla leaf. The condiment used with
tempura is a sauce of thin fish stock and soy sauce to which grated radish and ginger has
been added. Tempura is light, crisp, succulent and hardly greasy at all. The trick to
tempura is to achieve a batter coating so light as to be barely so the fresh ingredients
can be cooked quickly and enjoyed.
Yakitori is Japanes grilled chicken and the popular examples are -
small pieces of chicken on bamboo skewers broiled over charcoal.
Yakitori is usually served with cold beer or sake..
This is the tradition of drinking along with foods (otsumami) served with drinks.
Going out for drinks in Japan generally means going to an izakaya - the Japnese pub.