Japan’s rice-centered food culture developed more than 2,000 years ago with the introduction of wet rice farming from Asia. The tradition of eating rice with seasonal vegetables, fish and other marine products was highly developed during the Edo period and is still at the core of the local cuisine of Japan today. But in the century and a half since Japan opened up to the West, it has developed an incredibly rich and diverse food culture, not only in terms of its local cuisine, but also in terms of what has been made to Japanese tastes and what has been imported.
In the centuries since Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the 6th century, laws and edicts have made it almost impossible to eat animal and poultry meat. Later, in Zen Buddhism, the Shoujin Cuisine, a vegetarian cuisine, became popular, and in the 15th century, foods and ingredients made from soybeans, such as soy sauce, miso, and tofu, appeared. Around the same time, formal and elaborate banquet dishes derived from the cuisine of the court nobility arose. It is called honzen cuisine and is one of Japan’s three major dishes along with chakaiseki cuisine and kaiseki cuisine.
Kaiseki cuisine developed into its current form in the early 19th century and is still served in prestigious ryotei and inns. While the dishes are made with fresh, seasonal ingredients and carry on the old style, the kaiseki cuisine has fewer rules of etiquette, allowing you to enjoy your meal in a more relaxed atmosphere. It’s not common to drink sake during a meal and eat rice while drinking sake, so the rice is served at the end. Appetizers, sashimi, water, grilled, steamed, simmered and dressed dishes are served first, followed by miso soup, pickles, rice, Japanese sweets and fruit. We will conclude with tea. Although there is little exposure to authentic kaiseki cuisine in Japan, the types and order of kaiseki dishes are the basis of modern full-course Japanese cuisine.
Sushi, now familiar to many people, was developed in Edo (now Tokyo) in the early 19th century. Back then, sushi was sold as a snack at food stalls and was the predecessor of the current sushi restaurant.
Japan came into direct contact with the West with the arrival of missionaries from Europe in the late 16th century. At the time, a combination of Spanish and Portuguese game frying techniques and Chinese methods of cooking vegetables in oil led to the development of tempura, a popular Japanese dish in which seafood and various types of vegetables are coated and fried in a batter.
By the mid-nineteenth century, many new cuisines and eating habits were introduced, mainly around eating meat. Sukiyaki, now considered a Japanese dish, is made by stewing beef, vegetables, and tofu in soy sauce, mirin, and sugar, and was eaten in Western-style restaurants. Another local dish developed during this period was tonkatsu, a Japanese curry rice made with Indian curry powder imported from England in the early 20th century, which became popular as a dish of vegetables, meat and seafood dipped in a rich curry sauce and served over rice.
Tempura is one of the most popular Japanese dishes among Japanese and foreigners alike. A variety of ingredients such as shrimp, fish and vegetables are dipped in the batter and fried in vegetable oil. It is then dipped in a special sauce and eaten. Tempura is easy to make, but the batter is important to make a successful tempura. Flour, eggs, and ice water are used to make the batter, which is quickly mixed to give the tempura a crispy texture when fried.
Shabushabu has recently come to be known as a modern Japanese dish abroad. The name Shabushabu is onomatopoeic and comes from the sound of very thinly sliced beef dipped in boiling water and lightly shaken two or three times. As soon as the color of the beef changes, it is generally taken out and eaten in a sauce of your choice, such as ponzu shoyu, which is a soy sauce with citrus juice or sesame sauce. The taste of shabushabu is determined by the quality of the beef.
Natto is made of soybeans. Natto is steamed and fermented in a straw tube with natto yeast to make it sticky. Mix natto with soy sauce, chopped scallions and mustard, and eat it with warm rice. Foreigners may take some time to get used to its distinctive smell. Miso is also a common Japanese food made from soybeans, and natto and miso are believed to prevent cancer.