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Japanese Food Specialties: the Best Meals in Japan

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ASIA, FOOD, TRAVELING ON A BUDGET, TRAVELING WITH KIDS

Japanese Food Specialties: the Best Meals in Japan

It has been years since Japanese gastronomy aroused strong interest around the world. Today there is no one who is not familiar with some of the dishes of its gastronomy.

Who has not heard of and tried Yakisoba, ramen, Sushi or tempura? But Japanese gastronomy is much more than that.

On the other hand, the Japanese diet is one of the healthiest and recommended by nutritionists around the world. Proof of this is the extraordinary longevity of the Japanese, taking pride in having the highest life expectancy on the planet.

In this post, we will review the most consumed Japanese food inside and outside of Japan, as well as other less-known but with great culinary interest.

Japanese gastronomy

Sushi

When we talk about Japanese gastronomy, we can’t stop thinking about Sushi. By word Sushi (寿司), we are actually referring to a way of preparing rice (rice vinegar, sugar and salt). There are countless varieties and different styles, such as norimaki, temaki, futomaki, narezushi, hosomaki, kappamaki or uramaki, among others. They can be made with vegetables, fish, seafood, eggs or whatever your imagination allows you. It is usually accompanied by soy sauce, wasabi and marinated ginger.

Of all the Japanese foods, Sushi is the best known and most consumed outside of Japan.

Miso soup

The Miso soup (味噌汁) is a plate of Japanese origin whose main ingredient is miso paste (soybean), with or broth (dashi) that usually represents seafood, meat or fish. It is usually accompanied with wakame seaweed, leek, chives and tofu cut into squares.

There are two main types of Miso, aka-miso (slightly red in colour, with a stronger and salty flavour), and Shiro-miso (whiter, milder, and low in salt).

Miso soup is one of the most common Japanese foods consumed daily in Japan.

Ramen

The ramen (ラーメン) is a dish of Chinese origin, although the same as the Yakisoba, has been fully integrated into Japanese cuisine. In fact, it has specialized enormously in certain Japanese regions. It can be said that they have reinvented the dish in their own way.

The ingredients for the broth are very diverse, although they usually have a base of Miso, meat broth, seaweed and soy sauce. The ramen noodles are made with water, salt, wheat flour and kansui.

Ramen is one of the most consumed Japanese foods inside and outside of Japan. There are four main types of ramen depending on the broth with which they are made. They are that of Shōyu (醤 油), Miso (味噌), Shio (塩) and Tonkotsu (豚 骨).

Yakisoba

Yakisoba (焼 き そ ば), literally translated as “fried noodles”, is a dish made with vegetables, meat, and buckwheat noodles (similar to what is used for ramen). The way to prepare it is by sautéing the ingredients in a pan or wok over high heat.

Yakisoba has Chinese origin, although for many years this dish has been fully integrated into Japanese gastronomy. It has also spread internationally with remarkable success.

In Japan, it is very easy to find Yakisoba in matsuri (traditional festivals) or Konbini (convenience stores).

Karaage

Karaage (か ら 揚 げ) is a culinary dish or technique for frying various ingredients. However, it is usually used almost always, referring to fried chicken.

It is usually marinated with ginger, garlic and soy sauce. Finally, it is coated with wheat flour or potato starch and fried, leaving it with a texture somewhat similar to tempura.

Japanese curry

The Japanese curry (カレ) is one of the popular among Japanese and Japanese foods most commonly consumed. It is eaten with rice and tonkatsu (breaded meat cut into strips). One of the differences with curry from India is that the Japanese have fewer spices. There are two styles, the mild and the spicy.

To prepare curry, a wide variety of vegetables are used, although the base is carrot, onion and potato. The meat is usually chicken, pork or beef.

Curry has been present in Japan since the Meiji era (1869-1913) due to the English influence in Japan since, during that time, India was under British mandate. However, curry is considered a dish of Japanese cuisine, since its consumption is very widespread and its preparation is completely different from Indian curry.

Onigiri

Onigiri (お 握 り), also named in Japan as Omusubi  (お む す び), is a ball or triangle of rice stuffed or dressed with various ingredients. It is usually covered with a sheet of nori seaweed. The shape of the onigiri is usually done with hands or with the help of plastic wrap to make it more perfect.

In many cases, rice is added to furikake (dehydrated food). Salmon onigiri with mayonnaise and umeboshi are very common.

In Japan, eating onigiri is often associated as fast food after work or for example, among Japanese students at school.

Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki (お 好 み 焼 き), literally “cooked on the grill to your liking”, is a Japanese food that is composed of a base of flour, water, yams, and egg. Other ingredients are usually used to suit the consumer’s taste, as is the case with tortillas or omelettes. Vegetables, macaroni, squid, chives, cheese, mochi, okonomiyaki sauce, aonori, mayonnaise or katsuobushi.

The final look is like a French omelette, albeit much spicier. It is a very common dish in gatherings of family and friends.

Tempura

Tempura (天 ぷ ら) is a culinary technique for frying. It is commonly used with vegetables and seafood.

Some of the rules or canons of this Japanese specialty state that each piece of food should not be larger than a bite, the oil should have a temperature of 180 degrees, or that each piece should not be fried more than two or three minutes.

Before giving the bite, it is usually dipped in Tentsuyu sauce, whose ingredients are, soy sauce, ginger, sake, grated daikon and spices.

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