Japan, one of the most expensive countries in the world, is home to a rich cuisine that spans centuries. Each era in the history of the country made an impact on the nation’s cuisine. Japanese food developed over the social and political changes in the country and is characterized by the seasonality of its ingredients, the quality of these ingredients, and the presentation.
Just as in other Asian countries, the staple foods in Japan are rice and noodles. A complete Japanese meal consists of a combination of a staple food, a soup, and okazu, which refers to dishes whose main ingredients are meat, fish, vegetables or tofu. Most of the time, there is more than one okazu served during a meal to accompany the rice or noodles. There are many ways to cook and prepared an okazu, such as the grilled, boiled, deep fried, steamed, dressed, or raw, which they call sashimi.
The country was strongly influenced by China, who introduced to the early Japanese the method of rice cultivation. Rice, known as gohan, became such an important commodity in Japan that it was used as a measure for currency. This influence also manifested itself when Buddhism reached the country through China and the consumption of meat became a taboo; those who broke the law would be meted with a death sentence. The use of chopsticks as utensils was also introduced by China.
Japanese recipes include many kinds of rice dishes, such as donburi (rice bowl), okayu or congee, and the famous sushi. Noodle dishes like ramen, soba, yakisoba and udon, were served as alternatives to rice-based meals.
Since Japan is an island-nation, and because of the practices in Buddhism and Shintoism which discourage the eating of meat, people consume more seafood than meat. Common seafood dishes include sashimi or raw seafood, and yakizakana, or grilled fish, which is a common dish served at home. Meanwhile, popular okazu eat dishes include yakitori, or grilled chicken skewers, and tonkatsu – deep fried pork cutlets. Soup is also an important Japanese food. Some hot pot soups called nabe dishes include: oden (fish cakes, eggs, radish), sukiyaki (thinly-sliced beef and vegetables) and shabu-shabu (meat fondue).
It may come as a surprise, but modern Japanese food recipes include dishes which did not originate in Japan, which they call yoshoku. An example is the tempura, which was introduced by the Portuguese, as well as Japanese curry rice, and bread.
Japan is also known for its regional cuisine. Regional Japanese food specialties, called kyodo ryori, originated from traditional recipes using local ingredients, though these days, they are now available around the country. Regional dishes are mainly Kanto region dishes, which have a strong taste, and Kansai region food, which are lightly seasoned. Examples are okonomiyaki (savory pancake), Edo-style sushi, and zoni soup.
All these foods and more make Japanese food recipes a culinary adventure for those seeking new flavors to satisfy their palates.