Here’s our list of some of the top Japanese eats and treats!
Sushi has become an international phenomenon with sushi bars lining streets in cities around the world, but it all started in Japan so the iconic dish had to top the country’s list of eats and treats. Traditionally ‘sushi’ was the term used to describe pickled fish preserved in vinegar but it now refers to a dish containing rice which has been prepared with sushi vinegar – and there are dozens of different types. Perhaps the most recognisable type of sushi is Norimaki, which features seafood encased in sushi rice and rolled in dried seaweed sheets.
Soy sauce is a hugely important part of Japanese cuisine. It is used as an ingredient in a huge variety of dishes as well as being served as a condiment in its own right. The dark, salty liquid is made from fermented soy beans. Regular, all-purpose soy sauces include dark and light versions but there are hundreds of regional varieties with their own distinct flavours.
Nashi are Japanese pears and they have been cultivated in the nation for thousands of years. They are different from their western cousins in a variety of ways. Most obviously, nashi are round rather than traditionally ‘pear-shaped’. They are also crisper, larger and have a more subtle taste and a rougher skin. Western pears can be bought in Japan but they’re known as yonashi.
Wasabi is one of Japan’s most famous condiments and the nation’s version of horseradish. The wasabi root is grated into a paste and has a distinctive, strong flavour as well as an eye-catching bright green colour. Wasabi is often served as an accompaniment to sushi and sashimi but is used in a huge variety of other Japanese dishes.
If you’re looking for a product which provides high levels of protein while being a fantastic absorber of flavour then tofu should be top of the list. Tofu is made of curdled soy milk and comes in many different forms including soft, firm, freeze dried, deep fried, silken and fermented. It has a subtle, delicate flavour when eaten plain but is a great carrier of other flavours. It can be served in savoury dishes like Yudofu or sweet dishes like black sesame sweet tofu.
As we’ve already established the Japanese like their raw seafood and Sashimi is another popular dish with raw seafood at its heart. Essentially the dish is simply very thin slices of fresh fish or seafood (commonly tuna, mackerel, octopus and squid) layered delicately on top of shiso leaves and shredded diakon. Wasabi and pickled ginger are common accompaniments and each piece of raw seafood is typically dunked in soy sauce before being eaten.
Many people have heard of miso soup and its wonderful health boosting/low fat properties. The base of the soup is the versatile miso paste, made of fermented soy beans. Its flavour can vary from sweet to salty and its colour can differ in depth according to the region of its production.
Japan isn’t known for its deserts in the way many other nations are but Mizu-Yokan is one of the nations popular sweet treats. Yokan is made of sugar, red bean paste and agar and has a thick, jelly like consistency. It’s sold in blocks and is usually eaten in slices. Mizu-Yokan contains a higher concentration of water and so has a different texture. Mizu-Yokan can also be made using white kidney bean paste. This recipe achieves a milder flavour, milkier consistency and is commonly flavoured with green-tea powder.