Centuries of social and political change throughout Japan have produced cuisine that is very rich. A profound change in Japanese cuisine happened with the onset of Japan’s Medieval age. This Medieval age encouraged a rejection of elitism through the era of shogun dominance. “Japanese cuisine” actually refers to Japanese food of a traditional style that was already in existence prior to national seclusion’s end in the year 1868. A broader interpretation of “Japanese cuisine” can also include foods and cooking methods from abroad that were introduced to Japan, but which Japanese culture has adopted to now call its own.
Japanese cuisine can be broken down into three, distinct areas: the Ancient era (Heian period), the Kamakura period and the Modern era. The Heian period lasted from 794 until 1185, and it promoted a certain level of etiquette and cooking that was characterized by lavish court banquets. After the 9th century, popular foods included meat, grilled fish, steamed and simmered foods, jellied fish, meat and fish soups, raw and sliced fish, pickled vegetables, and seaweed with a strong dressing. Fats and oils were rejected almost on an absolutist basis.
Heian period papers indicate that vegetables, wild fowl and fish were common in Japanese cuisine at the time. Banquets involved the presence of soup, rice, vinegar, salt and hishio (a mix of salt, sake, wheat and soybeans). Fresh foods, dried foods, desserts and dressed foods made up the major groups of food types during this period. A regular meal would be officially finished by drinking some sake.
Political change marked the Kamakura period in Japan’s cuisine culture. This period was marked by samurai rule that had its roots in the peasantry. As a result, the cuisine culture was altered to reflect the peasant samurai mentality, which rejected the showiness, nutrition and flavor of the lavish court-style of the Heian period. The menu for banquets of this time period consisted of pickled ume, jellyfish, dried abalone, vinegar and salt for seasoning and usually rice.
Modern era cuisine in Japan is founded on mixing staple foods like noodles and rice with soup and something called okazu. Okazu is a dish that is created out of tofu, vegetables, meat or fish. An example of a basic meal in Japanese cuisine today consists of three kinds of okazu, which might be prepared in various ways. These are raw, simmered, grilled, deep-fried, steamed, dressed or vinegared.
Common Foods And Dishes
Japanese cuisine features a host of staple foods, which are a component of the national cuisine of the country today. Rice dishes like Hayashi rice, tekkadon and mochi are common, as are noodle dishes such as Okinawa soba and zaru soba. Deep-fried dishes are popular in Japan, and this includes fare like tempura, tonkatsu, while grilled dishes like teriyaki are also a common main dish. Sushi is likely the most common Japanese food, and nabemono refers to steamboat dishes. Other common dishes are gyudon, karaage and kakuni.
Special Occasion Dishes
In Japanese cuisine, special occasion dishes are routinely associated with either an event or a festival. One example of a special occasion dish is called botamochi, which is a sticky rice dumpling served with azuki paste. Another example is chimaki, which is a sweet and steamed rice cake that celebrates Tango no Sekku and the Gion Festival. Sekihan is red rice, which the Japanese use to celebrate any occasion. Hamo is a type of fish that is served during the Gion Festival, and amazake is prepared to celebrate Hinamatsuri.
Japanese dining etiquette revolves around respect for traditions. For instance, it is expected that people finish eating what is given them, which means that rice should be eaten to the last grain, as one example. A hot towel is usually provided prior to the meal, and it is intended only for the hands before the meal, not for any other part of the body. Even food-sharing is regulated by custom. People who want to share food should move food directly from a plate to the next and not from one pair of chopsticks to another pair.
Table settings in Japanese cuisine culture have changed a lot throughout the centuries, depending mostly on the kind of table that was popular in a particular era. Prior to the 19th century, flat floor trays or smaller box tables were the table of choice. In the early portion of the 20th century, however, bigger and lower tables that were for whole families were common, but western-style table and chairs gained acceptance towards the end of the 20th century. Miso soup goes on the right side, while a rice bowl sits on the diner’s left side. Every ozaku dish is served on its own plate, and three flat plates sit behind the soup and rice bowls to carry the ozaku. The chopsticks are positioned close to the diner with its pointed ends to the left.