There is no denying the enormous influence which Asian food has had on the West. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than the cuisine from the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan. When most people think of Japanese food they jump to sushi, though in reality, the variety on offer from this country runs far and wide. From sashimi to ramen, Japanese food has a little something for everyone, with the added benefit of offering some of the healthiest traditional food from any culture. Let’s go over just a small sample of what is available, and even where you can find your own local an authentic taste.
While it would be impossible to cover all forms of Japanese cuisine without writing an entire dedicated encyclopaedia, we can do our best to talk about some of the most popular varieties, and what they bring to your family’s table.
We may as well start with the big one, and sushi is a giant in the world of international cuisine. Sushi itself is actually a broad term and can refer to any dish which contains cooked white rice with seasoned rice vinegar. Many of us have at some point or another believed that it was the fish component so common to sushi which gives it its name – not so. In fact, sushi does not actually require fish at all for a dish to be considered in the sushi group, it just needs the specific rice and rice vinegar.
This is more akin to what many beginners to the world of Japanese food think of as sushi. Sashimi is the term given to raw seafood. While, again, there are too many forms of sashimi to list, common forms include sake (salmon), maguro (tuna), saba (mackerel), ika (squid) and tako (octopus). Most of these forms are enjoyed with soy sauce and wasabi, though this is not always the case.
Udon is a type of Japanese noodle which consists of wheat flour. These are a thicker form of noodles which are often paired with fried tofu and tempura and can be enjoyed both hot or cold.
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While ramen uses a Chinese style of wheat noodle, the dish itself is distinctly Japanese. These consist of wheat noodles which are served with meat or fish based broth. Common today are complex bowls of ramen and varied creations, which can include eggs, meat, and varied vegetables.
A popular hotpot style dish which includes a variety of different components including eggs, kombu seaweed, daikon, and fish cakes, all slowly simmered in a soy sauce based soup. This a very popular meal in the colder months, and well worth a look on a cold winter’s night.
An easy entry dish for us foreigners, tonkatsu are deep fried cutlets of pork served by cabbage or on rice. If you want to try to introduce a less adventurous friend into the world of Japanese food then this can be a fantastic place to start.
These days it is extremely difficult to avoid seeing the spread of Japanese food. It has proven such a unique, healthy and delicious taste that countries all over the world have embraced it with open arms. Finding these types of foods is never a difficult task, as many mall food courts and even full restaurants will have a lot to offer, both in terms of eating in and taking out.
There can be a slight issue in that Japanese food, at least in the west, is not often thought of as takeout, so having it delivered is often not considered. What people need to keep in mind is that in this modern age there are plenty of services such as Deliveroo which can act as delivery services, bringing takeout from restaurants that don’t normally deliver straight to your door. You don’t even have to go out to have amazing Japanese food brought right to you.
The Take Home
As with the cuisine of any nation, there is so much on offer that one single trip or sample is not going to give you a solid example or appreciation of what is on offer. Instead, consider some of the sample trays which are very popular among Japanese restaurants and food outlets, which can give you a great taste of what we have touched on above.
Remember: Japanese food does not only have great taste, it often uses clean, raw and fresh ingredients which will help your body just as much as they please your mouth. Just go easy on the wasabi, as that’s a mistake we should all try to avoid!