Everyone has heard of sushi and ramen, two dishes that are often claimed to be uniquely Japanese. However, there are countless other dishes in the country’s vast culinary landscape that many foreigners do not know about! This article will break down five common misconceptions about Japanese food.
While it is true that sushi has become a worldwide phenomenon, with restaurants popping up all over the country and making their own twists on the dish such as the infamous Spider Roll, Japan offers so much more than just raw fish! In fact, some parts of Japan don’t even eat raw fish – for example, Nagasaki is famous for its hirata buns.
Just like sushi, ramen has become a worldwide phenomenon, with shops appearing in every city of Japan and foreign countries alike. But again, people are ignoring all of the other noodle dishes in Japan’s rich and varied cuisine. Some of the most famous noodle dishes in Japan include kitsune udon (udon topped with fried tofu), yakisoba (fried noodles usually containing pork or chicken), soba (buckwheat noodles), and kake udon.
While it is true that certain popular dishes can be expensive, such as kaiseki (a traditional multi-course meal) and sushi, many everyday Japanese meals are not too pricey. In fact, some of the cheapest meals in Japan include udon and soba noodles which only cost around 400 yen per bowl!
It is true that some foreigners make the mistake of thinking that all Japanese people stick to traditional staples, but in fact there are more than 3 million restaurants in Japan and more than 5400 different types of chain restaurants with many areas having their own local shops. This means that there is a wide variety of restaurants for people to enjoy, and more than 10% of these restaurants are either Chinese or Italian.
While many dishes such as sushi and ramen can be made healthily, there are some that should not be eaten every day! One example is tempura, which is made by deep frying vegetables or meat in batter. It can be enjoyed occasionally but it should not be eaten regularly due to the high oil content of the dish.
1. Japanese cuisine is one of only three national food traditions recognized by the UN for its cultural significance
Last December, UNESCO, the United Nations cultural organization, added traditional Japanese cuisine, or washoku, into its Intangible Cultural Heritage list meaning that the preservation of this way of eating is vital to the survival of the traditional culture. It was only the second national traditional cuisine honored as such, after French food.
2. Japanese food is prepared carefully using seasonal ingredients and flavors
Japanese food is as much about the preparation and presentation as it is the food itself. A great deal of thought goes into every item served. While we think of only four annual seasons, Japanese chefs consider dozens of seasons and carefully select ingredients that are in their prime with flavors that represent that specific period. Because we visited in the very early spring (beginning of March) every meal that we tried included bitter components which is a typical flavor for this season. Tasting these flavors connects Japanese eaters with years past.
Once finished, the food is carefully plated and the finished dish often looks like a work of art.
3. Infrequent use of garlic, chile peppers, and oil
Many foods are seared, boiled or eaten raw and minimally seasoned. Umami (a rich flavor profile characteristic of Japanese food) is enhanced by using just a few ingredients including miso, soy sauce, mushrooms, seaweed, bonito flakes, and bonito broth. When foods are fried (like tempura) the batter is thin and absorbs very little oil.
4. Japanese people love beautifully crafted and gift-wrapped sweets
Every region of Japan has different styles of typical traditional sweets, known as wagashi. These delicate creations are often sold in beautifully wrapped boxes, in convenience stores and in train stations because they are customarily given as gifts to friends and family. One of my favorite sweets was Kyoto’s yatsuhashi (shown below), thin, triangle-shaped sweet rice wrappers filled with red bean paste.
5. Condiments add diversity
To add contrast to the food, simple condiments are often added to enhance the flavors. Light dipping sauces, citrus, miso, wasabi, pickles, and soy sauce may be included with the course.
You’ve never had food this good! Kimono Restaurant offers a great place to take your family for entertainment, delicious eats, and fun. We start with the highest quality ingredients before grilling them right in front of you on our hibachi grill–the perfect way to get involved by watching as we prepare it just how YOU want it so there will be no surprises at all when they bite into your meal. This experience also gives us an opportunity to show off some amazing tricks which is where being entertained comes into play; our talented chefs will astound you even further by flipping meats around wildly or doing some other intricate, spectacular feats. If you’re looking for the perfect place to take your family for food, fun and entertainment. Kimono Japanese Restaurant in Benicia and Pleasanton, California, can’t be beaten! Join us today and experience the Kimono difference.