The cooking is simple and minimal and ingredients for it readily available in India
Japan is now on the food map of the world with Sushi becoming quite a rage. Here is some trivia about Japanese food. Japanese primarily use fish and rice in the majority of the dishes as it’s an island nation and has abundance of these ingredients. Sushi was first made as a method to preserve fish and rice. Now it is eaten as a fresh component in most restaurants but that was not the case before. They value plating and presentation as important as the taste of the food itself. Japan has the greatest number of 3 Star Michelin restaurants in the world, surpassing France. They produce some of the most expensive meat (Wagyu) as well as Fruit (White jewel Strawberry).
Japanese food is becoming popular in India. Why do you think Indians like it? Japanese cuisine offers a distinct and unique culinary experience, dishes often have a complex yet harmonious flavour profile. Says Chef Ajay Chopra PLAKA, a restaurant based out of Cyberhub, Gurugram, “The aesthetic beauty and attention to detail in the presentation of Japanese dishes make them visually appealing and appealing to the senses. The cuisine has a strong foundation in tradition, but it has also embraced innovation and creativity with other culinary styles. This openness to experimentation has resulted in the emergence of new and exciting dishes that blend Japanese flavours with influences from other cuisines. The popularity of sushi burritos, ramen burgers, and other creative dishes demonstrates how Japanese cuisine continues to evolve and capture the interest of food enthusiasts.”
Japanese Food: Fresh and Natural
The USP of Japanese food lies in its focus on fresh and seasonal ingredients. They like to keep it as minimal as possible with simplicity in preparation techniques, attention to presentation, appreciation of natural flavors, and the balance of tastes and textures in each meal.
Says Chef David Myers, Adrift Kaya, the Japanese restaurant at JW Marriott, Aerocity, “The Japanese love simple cooking techniques such as grilling, braising, simmering, and steaming which is commonly used to enhance the natural flavors of the ingredients without overpowering them. They also love to eat raw.”
Japanese cuisine has its own unique cooking tips and tricks. One of the key aspects of Japanese cooking is a focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients. Says Ankur Sahni, General Manager at Delhi based Kofuku Restaurant, “In Japanese cuisine, we utilize a variety of key ingredients that contribute to the unique flavors and textures of our dishes. These ingredients are crucial in creating authentic Japanese flavors and are commonly used in various dishes.”
Japanese cuisine emphasizes the natural flavors of the ingredients and aims to preserve their integrity. Another point is that they build a meal around multiple dishes, so you won’t have one big plate of fish. Instead, you will have a small plate of sashimi, a cooked plate of a small piece of fish maybe simmered in a broth, a raw vegetable course, some rice, a soup, sometimes finished with some type of fresh fruit for dessert. So, they really build around multiple little dishes and you’ll have five to seven dishes in one meal, just to appreciate what’s in season and the different cooking techniques, allowing for a variety of tastes and textures to be enjoyed.
Japanese cooking is not as heavily reliant on spices as Indian cuisine, but some of the essential spices are used in some dishes to elevate seasoning. Shichimi togarashi is a seven-spice blend that typically includes ingredients such as chili peppers, sesame seeds, ginger, orange peel, and Szechuan pepper. It is used to add a spicy and aromatic flavor to various dishes, Sansho pepper, also known as Japanese pepper, has a citrusy and slightly numbing taste. It is often used to season grilled meats, stews, and soups.
At Delhi based Asian restaurant CHO, some of the signature dishes like Miso black cod, Miso roast chicken, Classic miso soup and Japanese katsu curry are few of them from the menu which can be enjoyed at the restaurant. According to Chef Vaibhav Bhargava CHO, a restaurant near Qutub Minar, New Delhi- “The key ingredients in Japanese cuisine are various varieties of Miso like White miso, Brown miso, Barley miso etc., varieties of Soy sauces like Light soy, Tamari soy, Dark soy etc. Sake (rice wine), Mirin (sweet wine), Sushi rice, varieties of noodles like Udon noodles, Soba noodles, Green tea noodles, Ramen noodles, Nori sheet (seaweed), Wasabi, Yuzu, Gari (ginger), Japanese mustard, Togarashi, Furikake, Matcha powder, Fresh Japanese Tofu etc. All these are common ingredients and easily available in Asian dry stores in gourmet shops or online also available.” Japanese food is best paired with Sake (a type of rice wine), whisky and beer.
The Art And Craft of Sushi
Currently Sushi is trending hot on the food radar – what makes it so coveted and how should one get Sushi right? Says Chef David Myers, Adrift Kaya, “In Japan, Sushi originally started out as just a snack and it was meant to be able to pop in anytime and just have a few bites. And now it is considered a delicacy and has a reputation for being a super luxurious item which is high-quality and flavorful, where we could dine for three hours having multiple courses of sushi. I personally love sushi, and I think it’s amazing because you get to experience so many different types of fish and the process through which it is prepared by the Chefs is unbelievable. One dish could be taking hours to prepare just to get it ready to make it into sushi. So, I think the art form and art form and the artistry involved with it is really special. And that’s why it’s coveted. Getting the sushi right is something that comes with experience. In Japan, sushi chefs undergo extensive training and often dedicate their entire lives to perfecting their craft. They spend years just learning how to wash the rice before you’re even allowed to touch the fish. So, what it really takes is a lot of discipline and effort in the practice of perfecting this art.”
Is it a myth that vegetarians can’t have Sushi? Says Chef Myers, “Yes definitely, vegetarians can have sushi. Technically it’s not sushi because traditional sushi includes fish and rice, but everything can be adjusted. We have a very extensive array of different selections of vegetarian sushi options available. I think people should be able to eat what they want. So, we definitely like to explore the vegetarian side with everything, especially sushi. And in fact, I think sushi lends itself really well to vegetarian dishes because you’re always there with your vinegared rice but then you just find really unique and compelling ways to use vegetables or maybe cheese in a way that could work best.”
The Right Utensils and Equipment
Majority of the Japanese use earthenware crockery which is made from a composition of clay. The simple reason for this is that it allows them to cook and serve in the same Pots. This serves a dual purpose of not using a lot of crockery as well as that helps them retain the heat of the food for longer. The transfer of food from cooking ware to the serving utensils makes it lose the temperature at which the food is to be served.
For dining they usually have different sized bowls like Shiruwan, Ochawan and Bachi (specially for Ramen). They also use Chopsticks for eating from the bowls and plates apart from Renge (lotus petal) spoons for Soups and stews.
Wooden stuff like ladles, spatulas, chopsticks are used more for cooking purposes in the kitchen as they do not leave the scratches on the expensive crockery and utensils and help them have a longer shelf life. These are easy to clean as well as hold as they don’t get hotter while cooking, like steel ladles and spoons. According to Chef Nikhil Rastogi, UNOX INDIA (UNOX is an Italian brand and a leading manufacturer of commercial ovens, providing a solution for every sector in the food industry), “The shape and the size of the utensil is also made keeping in mind the temperatures to be maintained, not only while cooking but also while serving and eating at the Dining Table. For this, the below mentioned cooking utensils are a sort of Must-haves:
Fine Mesh Skimmer..To finely strain the creamy stews and soups; Miso Strainer & Miso Muddler- To muddle the leftovers of the Miso and get a refined product; Suribachi and Surikogi- Specially for Salads and dressings; Otoshibuta/ Drop Lid- For items that need to be simmered like Squash and cabbage for Cabbage rolls;
Hangiri/ Sushi Oke- Wooden Utensil to keep hot rice as it absorbs excess moisture as well; Bamboo Sushi Mat- There is no replacement for this mat as this enables one to prepare the Sushi, exactly how it is to be shaped; Long Chopsticks- These are bigger than the regular eating chopsticks and is used as a ladle and pretty much everything.
Even to check the hot oil for Deep frying; Electric Rice Cooker- Gives a precisely cooked rice for the Sushi and Donabe Earthenware Pot- Very peculiar Earthenware pots which are used to prepare as well as serve the hot dishes as they retain the heat for a long time.”
Finally, the internet is buzzing with quotes on Japanese food..Fish, to taste right, must swim three times – in water, in butter, and in wine. A party without sushi is just a meeting. You maki miso happy. Have a rice day.
With the right ingredients at your disposal, cooking authentic, healthy Japanese dishes couldn’t be simpler. From rice and noodles to miso and mirin, get to know the most important facets of Japanese food and create something delicious in minutes.
|Key Ingredients of Japanese Food||Price (Rs)|
|GRM Natural Organic Sticky Rice for Chinese,
Japanese & Korean Dishes
|Meishi Ra-Men Japanese Noodles, 200 GMS (Pack of 2)
Refined Wheat Flour Noodles
|Voila Dae Chun Gim Roasted Sushi Nori Sheet 10
|Japanese Choice Roasted Nori Seaweed, 28 g||₹408|
|Gadre Edamame, 500 g
|Urban Platter Japanese Style Sushi Vinegar, 500ml||₹475|
|Japanese Style Soy Sauce, 200 ml
|Sprig Wasabi Paste of Japanese Horseradish 50 g||₹399|
|S&B Golden Curry Sauce Mix, (Japanese Curry
|ANNAM Natural Premium White Hulled Sesame Seeds –
|Habit Panko Bread Crumbs||₹300
|Pantai Green Curry Paste 400gm||₹275
|Voila Silken Tofu 300g||₹225|
Shichimi Togarashi Seasoning [Signature Blend of 7
Spices] 100 gm
|Meishi White Sticky Rice 500g||₹309|
|Nature Onus- White Miso/Shiro Miso 200Gms||₹249|
Credits: Amazon India