Unlike food that is popular throughout the world, which brought along with it fast solutions and unhealthy habits, the Japanese have remained faithful to a diet based on fresh and seasonal food. Japanese cuisine is one of the world’s healthiest cuisines and is inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List. Particular attention is given to seasonal food since the Japanese believe that eating seasonally is very important in preserving one’s health.
RICE, ESSENTIAL INGREDIENT OF ALMOST ANY DISH
All the regions in Japan have one thing in common—rice is the essential ingredient of almost any dish, and the Japanese consider rice as the main dish, not just a side dish. In addition to rice, vegetables and fish, raw fish in particular is quite popular, and it forms a part of the most famous traditional Japanese dish—sushi.
The Japanese often eat soup—miso or ramen, with meat, vegetables, and noodles. Popular dishes in Japan include Unagi—freshwater eel that is grilled and brushed with a sweet soy sauce, Tempura—seafood and vegetables that have been battered and deep-fried in oil, and Soba—thin buckwheat noodles. There is also sashimi, which often gets mixed up with sushi, but Sashimi consists of just very fresh raw fish, and is usually consumed with a very hot wasabi paste and soy sauce, and is served without rice.
The most specific Japanese dish is fugu (blowfish)—fish that we refer to as a “sea pig”, which has poisonous skin and some inner parts. In order to prepare this Japanese specialty, a chef trains up to three years.
WORLD’S MOST EXPENSIVE BEEF
It is rather inconceivable to talk about Japanese cuisine without mentioning Kobe beef. Originating in Japan (from the city of Kobe, west of Osaka—the capital of Japanese cuisine), Kobe beef is the world’s most famous and expensive beef. Cattle of this breed are fed exclusively natural food and the cattle are always treated humanely. They are hand-massaged to evenly disperse the fat throughout their body which results in a perfectly marbled beef texture. Due to its high price, this type of meat is as valued as gold. In restaurants, waiters bring out a tray of raw beef and a digital scale, and then guests order meals on the basis of the weight of the piece of meat they have chosen. Kobe beef steaks are often brought as gifts when visiting someone, packaged in the shape of chocolates!
One of the first things that come to mind when you think about Japanese cuisine are chopsticks. Japanese chopsticks are generally rounded at the ends and shorter than the Chinese models, but longer than Korean models. Japanese chopsticks are much more colorful and have a more intriguing design than other models.
FOOD IN JAPAN IS NOT EXPENSIVE
If you wish to eat a classical cooked meal in Japan, you can buy a bento-box in any grocery store. It is a lunchbox with a transparent lid and often plastic cutlery with separate sections for an appetizer, salad, vegetables, meat or fish and even a cake—a full lunch menu at a price ranging from €2 to €12.