Japanese Food Essentials

Published: 06th August 2012
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Rice is the staple of all Japanese dishes. People in Japan also often each rice cakes, or mocha. They also call every meal 'gohan', which means steamed rice is involved in the meal. For instance, breakfast may be called asa-gohan. Steamed rice is included in just about every meal. Side dishes are known as okazu and are served with soup and rice.

A typical breakfast in Japan is often steamed rice, miso (a paste of soy beans) soup, and various side dishes. Some of these include grilled fish, rolled omelet called tamagoyaki, nori, or dried seaweed, natto and much more. For lunch, a variety of rice bowls and dishes of noodles are very popular. Ramen soba, udon and beef bowls of gyudon are very popular. Many Japanese like to take bento boxes of lunch with them to work. Dinner is considered the most important meal each day. Generally, Japanese dishes are greatly influenced by cuisines in both the West and other parts of Asia.

The Japanese usually distinguish Japanese meals and dishes as washoku, which literally means Japanese style. Western food is called yoshoku. Chinese dishes are known as chuuka, but chuuka dishes that are made in Japan are given a Japanese style. These dishes are similar to dishes in China, but there are some differences.

Other than rice, seafood is very popular in Japan, as it is an island that is surrounded by the sea. Some of the most well loved ingredients in Japanese cooking are seaweed, clams, fish and fish cakes. A popular soup is called dashi soup and it is used in all kinds of traditional Japanese dishes and is made out of katsuobushi, or dried bonito flakes. Some of the most important seasonings in Japanese foods are mirin, miso and soy sauce.

Japan is a small nation, but every region there has its own special dishes. There is the Kanto region with its own type of food, and the Kansai region with another type. Usually, Kanto food is very strong in flavor, and Kansai is seasoned lightly. There are many dishes that are cooked very differently between these two regions.

When you eat Japanese food, chopsticks usually are used. Japanese people also will use Western utensils; it depends on the types of foods that are being served. A table setting in Japan will have a rice bowl on the left and to put a bowl of miso soup on the right side. The other dishes will be put behind these bowls. The chopsticks are usually put in a holder in front of the rice and soup.

When it comes time to eat Japanese food and you are concerned about your health, you should keep in mind that most Japanese food is quite healthy. There are many vegetables in many Japanese dishes. You can ask that the food for you be cooked in wine and not oil. Remember that miso soup is a very good choice for your appetizer. Miso is from soybeans and is a great source of protein. Other good choices for your appetizers are cucumber salad and edamame. A tossed salad with miso may also be ordered at many good Japanese restaurants.

Just as with Chinese food, you should always be looking to eat dishes that have vegetables as the center. Seafood sunomono has a lot of vegetables and is very healthy and tasty.

However, you should avoid the veggie dumplings that are fried, sometimes called potstickers. Generally, your best bet is to get an entrée that is roasted, grilled or steamed. You also can ask for brown rice at most Japanese restaurants now. Sushi made from salmon and tuna also is a great choice.
Lawrence Reaves writes for Hamilton Beach, a kitchen appliance company that offers a selection of products including rice cookers and slow cookers. For more information about these products and other visit our site here.

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