Food is a serious business in Japan and the Japanese’s art of culinary mastery is evident in every dish that you might come across in their country or in your local Japanese restaurant.
But why is Japanese food so good? What makes them stand out from all the cuisines present worldwide?
The main reason why Japanese food is famous and a lot of people like it is because of the craftsmanship and attention to detail that goes to make it.
The Japanese don’t want food to just taste good. Every single component of it must be paid attention to.
From the ingredients to the ways of cooking, to the presentation, and even up until the way of eating it.
The craftsmanship of Japanese Food
You might think that your beloved sushi takes only five minutes tops to make because the Japanese restaurant you went to already have your sushi the moment you sat down. But did you know that your plate of sushi takes more than a decade to prepare?
Not literally though. A well-trained sushi chef can prepare your sushi in just under two minutes. But did you know that a classically-trained sushi chef dedicates at least 10 years of their life perfecting the craft?
In Japan, you can’t even touch an ingredient at a restaurant or a small cafeteria until you’ve worked your way to the top. That means starting as a cleaner and everything in between to become a cook. So it’s pretty normal to see high schoolers in Japan spending their weekends and free time working at a restaurant to become apprentices.
It’s not just sushi as well. Every Japanese dish that you can think of, there’s years and years of training that goes to make it. Just imagine the dedication each Japanese chef or cook takes to learn about the different regions of the cuisine, how to make use of seasonal ingredients, and more. In fact, Japanese food is a culture of its own. It’s highly regarded and respected by everyone that the traditions of making their food are still widely practiced up until today.
It’s All About The Details
What makes Japanese cuisine so good is that each component of the dish is well taken care of. The country prides itself on seasonal ingredients and flavors, showcasing the very best produce.
While other countries are known for their spicy flavors or sweetness, Japan practices a well-round balance of flavors which is umami. They also value diversity when it comes to their food, so you’ll often see dishes with a lot of condiments like light dipping sauces, wasabi, and miso to mix and match.
One thing that you’ll notice when you visit authentic Japanese restaurants is that the servings are generally small but there are a lot of dishes. This traditional meal called kaiseki doesn’t look like it won’t fill you up but because it includes several courses, you will definitely be satisfied.
In fact, Japanese cuisine values more than the taste of their food. Each component must look good because they believe that you eat first with your eyes. The attention to detail is really amazing and the dedication to reflect their culture to their food is highly commendable.
You might think that with a wide variety of delicious food and incredible sweets, the Japanese people are likely to live unhealthy, right?
But, it’s actually the other way around. Japanese food is one of the healthiest cuisines in the world. They also don’t have a particular affection for junk food too. The reason for this is the ever-occurring factor of balance. Their food should show the balance of flavor and a good balance of healthy and unhealthy food.
This is why unlike in most countries, the way the Japanese people get on with their diet is not by avoiding certain foods but rather finding the right balance of being healthy. Definitely, the health benefits that come with the amazing flavor of food is one of the things that makes Japanese cuisine good.
The World of Japanese Food
So are you ready to get a taste of the famous Japanese food? But first, you should know that there’s more to their cuisine than a good bowl of ramen, sushi, or tempura. In fact, Japanese cuisine is broken up to many prefectures because each place has its own specialty products that they proudly showcase.
There are exactly 43 prefectures in Japan and each prefecture has more than one unique dish. So it would really take quite a while to explore them all. But, here are some of the very best food that Japanese cuisine has to offer.
Hokkaido is known for having the freshest seafood in Japan. You can even go to their fish markets early in the morning and have the stalls cook something for you fresh out of the water. Here are some of the best Hokkaido dishes:
The Japanese people love rice bowls and those who are in Hokkaido love them even more. Kaisen-don, or seafood rice bowl, is the best of both worlds. This donburi has many kinds of seafood on top of freshly steamed rice. From freshly-caught crab, shrimp, uni, salmon, tuna, and many more, this seafood bowl will definitely give you the taste of the ocean.
Chan Chan Yaki
Also known as the Fisherman’s Hotpot, Chan Chan Yaki is a delicious comfort food best eaten during Hokkaido’s winter days. This hotpot includes salmon and different arrays of vegetables in a simmering miso-based sauce.
Miyagi prides themselves with their best oyster dishes and cow meat. This section of Japan is famous for its specialized cuisine because of the abundance of seafood and agriculture selections. Here are some of the best dishes served at this prefecture:
Translated to oyster dishes, this basically means that any dish that has oysters in it, chances are they’re more than pretty good. You can eat the oysters fresh with just a bit of lemon drizzle or serve it up in a hotpot. If you want to go crazy, you can even eat it deep-fried.
You might feel weirded out by eating a roast cow tongue, having the image of a huge cow’s tongue right on your plate. But gyuutan yaki is sliced into thinner pieces so it’s easier to eat and it’s most likely a one-biter. So don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
The Niigata prefecture is a hidden gem in Japan that you should definitely visit because they bring quite a food army to Japanese cuisine. Here are some of them:
Literally means stripped or pealed soba, Heigi soba is a noodle dish to rival other prefectures. These soba noodles are only made using high-grade specialized buckwheat flour and are served on a special plate. Plus, the soba is arranged so you can pick it up one mouthful at a time. A foolproof no-mess dish!
This mugwort flavored mochi is a nation’s favorite because of its incredible taste and additional health benefits. It’s conveniently portable too since it’s wrapped in bamboo leaves. The chewy mugwort mochi with red bean filling is definitely a cure for any sweet tooth.
Yamanashi prefecture is famous for its variety of noodle dishes. Plus, this prefecture is also the best and the largest producer of grapes and peaches in Japan. You know that the Japanese are serious about their fruits where they can sell them at incredibly high prices because of their quality. Here are some of the famous food served in the “Kingdom of Fruits”:
This dish is basically stewed flat udon noodles that are served with vegetables and soup. The same way that Italians don’t consider gnocchi as pasta, the locals of Yamanashi prefecture don’t consider houtou as udon because of the unique preparation of noodles. Houtou noodles are prepared like dumplings rather than the traditional way of making udon. Nevertheless, it’s an incredibly tasty dish.
Grapes and Peaches
You can’t go to Japan’s Kingdom of Fruits without trying their fresh produce. Go straight to the orchards where you can directly pick the fruits and take them home. Visit Yamanashi during the fall for best-tasting grapes and summer for the peaches.
Shizuoka prefecture is easily accessible from Tokyo and Nagoya so make sure that you don’t miss a food trip here! Here are some of their amazing specialty dishes:
If you see any restaurant in Shizuoka that has sakura shrimp on the menu, definitely don’t skip on it. Sakura shrimp is a precious ingredient that can only be caught in Suruga Bay, so this prefecture definitely made use of this to enhance its food. You might see sakuraebi ryouri on the menu which translates to cherry shrimp dishes.
Oden is various food that is boiled and kept simmering in a delicious broth until eaten. Varieties include eggs, daikon, and potatoes. Shizuoka’s version of oden is a richer version compared to other oden and it includes beef tendon, pork giblets, and soy sauce. The broth is continuously simmering and added daily so you can only imagine the bold flavors that are developing to an otherwise mild dish.
There is so much more Japanese food that is waiting to be discovered by tourists and travelers. These are definitely only the top of the list. So make sure that when you visit Japan, you dedicate a couple of days to immerse in their delicious food cuisine.