An avid foodie’s adventures in Japan’s culinary heaven
Eating in japan is not just about sushi. Sushi is not just raw fish, and fish is not the only star of Japanese cuisine. There is so much more to devour…
Rice! Or gohan, in Japanese. You can eat it several times a day, in myriads of forms and still crave for more. As a rice-aficionado myself, I felt that my stay in Japan was practically heaven. Noodles! Udon, soba, ramen. Hot or cold, broth, soup, fried, with toppings such as meat, vegetables, seafood, raw eggs, boiled eggs, tofu! Maki, sashimi, nigiri, chirashi. Sukiyaki, gyoza, tempura, yakitori, onigiri, matsusaka and kobe beef, warabimochi. Kare-raisu (curry rice), donburi, tonkatsu, and the list goes on!!! Every meal is accompanied with a glass of sake, and is followed by the tea ritual.
Japan’s cuisine is colourful, aromatic and tasty, filled with innovations although based on tradition, surprisingly diverse. One can enjoy profound, mouthwatering meals, in street stands, conveyor belt restaurants or even robot restaurants, tiny inns or train stations.
Umami is the Japanese word for ‘deliciousness’, a pleasant savoury taste. It is declared as the fifth dimension of taste, alongside bitter, sweet, sour and salty. The Japanese named that fifth flavour, and scientifically proved it. Japanese have a deep affection for food, community and regional traditions, and the heart of their cooking is rich in umami.
But… have you ever tasted okonomiyaki?
Signature dish of Hiroshima and the Osaka region, with numerous variations all over the country, monjayaki or modanyaki amongst others. Okonomi means ‘what you want’ and yaki stands for grilled, so how can you not feast on it?
It is a savoury pancake, consisting of flour and eggs, heaps of shredded cabbage, noodles, scallions, oysters, squid, topped with the tempting okonomiyaki sauce. Batter and toppings differ regionally, moreover the choices are countless. Pork belly strips, kimchi, pickled ginger, seaweed, bonito flakes, wasabi, as well as cheese. Okonomiyaki is cooked on an iron griddle (teppan) just in front of you, and you eat directly from it, using a spatula. Delicious!
An edible painting, my favourite delicacy in Japan. Ever since I tasted it, I try to find it, in all the countries I visit. In Europe, you can find it as ‘japanese pizza’, but there is simply no comparison!
The epitome of Japanese cuisine is Kaiseki, an ancient culinary art, that consists of six to fifteen different courses. It’s all about the senses. Traditionally served at a banquet or ryokan, an old, beautifully decorated fashioned inn, with low tables and cushions on tatami floors.
The feast was originally designed for the royal noble classes, and consists of miso soups, appetizers, pickled vegetables and tofu, strange seafood, grilled meat and tempuras, rice, fruits and desserts. The finishing touch is that of the matcha tea ceremony. An elegant ritual with subtle flavours and an artistic presentation. Meticulously prepared, with an emphasis on the freshness of the produce and the beauty of the setting, showcasing both hospitality and respect. An exquisite fusion food, an artful display work at the same time.
Lose your restraints and inhibitions, sit back, admire the artwork, lose yourself in the aromas, and join the feast!
Please, try it all!!! This is probably the finest culinary experience you can ever have!
Itadakimashu! (bon appétit)