The beauty of Japanese cuisine lies in its quality and simplicity
Steeped in tradition
Washoku is the traditional name for Japanese cuisine. Authentic Japanese cuisine is an integral part of the Japanese culture as culinary practices reflect the overarching beliefs and practices integral to Japanese society.
Japanese cuisine appeared in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2013 since the agency classified it as a vital cultural asset in need of preservation. Preparation of food is seen as a social practice, reflective of the traditional emphasis on collectivism. Ingredients are kept limited, which is in keeping with the minimalist and nature-friendly philosophies prevalent in Buddhism as well as Shintoism. In addition to this, all ingredients are locally sourced, including rice, seafood, and regional vegetables feature prominently in Japanese dishes.
Less is more
Japanese keep things simple. Seasonings and ingredients are kept to the minimum, so the taste of each component shines through individually and is not degraded by adding too many varying flavors.
Umami refers to the rich, savory flavor that Japanese dishes encompass. Instead of overwhelming the tastebuds with an array of contrasting flavors, ingredients are combined to work in synchrony with each other. Most sushi just consists of some rice, fish, and some wasabi sauce. Or take the humble miso soup, a must after a hearty meal, just needs five ingredients, including water.
The idea behind Japanese cooking to create a clean and palatable dish, one in which all the ingredients are identifiable.
Eating with the eyes
Presentation and the final look of the dish are of primary importance. There is a famous Japanese signing that goes “Me de taberu Nihonjin”, which roughly translates to “Japanese people eat with their eyes”. Japanese chefs follow a plethora of strict rules when it comes to cooking. Creating food is an art, and everything from the shape and size of the vegetables and protein, to the position of the food on the plate as well as the placement of the cutlery on the table, is well thought out before execution.
Uniformity, shape, texture, colors, and positioning are just as important as the actual taste of the dish. This stress on aesthetics is what ultimately results in a visually appealing experience. Most dishes present a collage of contrasting colors since white rice is omnipresent and goes along with any other color that might be included.
Food is greeted by saying itadakimasu, meaning “I humbly receive”. It is a way of communicating the gratitude felt by anyone eating the food since it acknowledges the effort and hard work that goes into creating simple dishes that are bursting with flavor and are an absolute pleasure to look at.
The global popularity of Japanese cuisine is a testament to it the universality of its delectable taste. It is among the greatest exports of the country and an accurate representation of the Japanese culture.