Japanese food, once little more than a niche
occupant in the greater scope of American cuisine, has become increasingly
popular in recent years. The harmony of flavors and lightness emphasized in the
typical Japanese dish appeals to the palettes of many in the United States,
where heavy and often deep fried foods have long dominated the market. Many
people remain reluctant about exploring this aspect of ethnic cuisine, however,
for fear that they'll find something on their plate which appears as though it
came from the Iron Chef. This is far from the truth! The intent of this article
is to introduce readers to a variety of different Japanese dishes, that they
might go out and try something new without fear of what they'll be eating.
Domburi: This dish is quite simply a bowl of rice adorned with some sort of topping. A variety of toppings are popular in Japan, many of which have successfully migrated across the Pacific and into American restaurants. One example of this dish is oyakodon, which uses both chicken and egg for its topping. Another sort of domburi, gyudon, is beefy in flavor and more popular in Japan as fast food. Those of you who are especially outgoing tasters might like to sample unadon, a type of domburi wherein strips of grilled eel coated in a thick soya sauce are used to top the rice bowl.
Ramen: This soup dish has been a staple of the American college student's diet for years. Wildly popular around the world, ramen is to the Japanese what a burger and fries are to your average United States native. Ramen comes in a variety of bases and is best recognized for its long, slender noodles. Complimenting these noodles are such ingredients as dumplings, pork, miso (fermented soybeans) and soya sauce. It's interesting to note that ramen originated in China, rather than Japan, but the dish is almost always associated with the latter source nowadays.
Sashimi: This dish is often mistaken for sushi by those still new to the realm of Japanese cuisine. Although it is often presented artistically, the fact remains that sashimi is raw fish, a truth which turns the stomach of many a squeamish American. Several types of sashimi are served, the most popular of which is probably tuna. Diners should be lend particular attention to the scent when partaking of this dish. The fish used to prepare sashimi must be exceptionally fresh and as such, it should be devoid of any fishy scent.
Sushi: Perhaps the most well-recognized of all Japanese dishes, sushi has become particularly popular in trendy regions of the United States. It is served in too many variations to list completely in the space of this article. To be considered sushi, however, the dish must contain rice that has been prepared with sushi vinegar. The most recognized form of sushi is probably norimaki, or sushi rolls. These rolls contain sushi rice and various sorts of seafood rolled in sheets of dried seaweed. Norimaki often includes vegetables, as well.
Tempura: This dish has also become quite popular within Japan and across the globe. Tempura is something of a finger food, consisting of differing types of seafood and/or vegetables fried in a special batter. The end result is a delightful treat which is crisp without being heavy, as is often the case with deep fried cuisine in America. The ingredients featured in tempura are too numerous to possibly list and often vary wildly from one restaurant to the next.
The five dishes listed above should provide the novice gourmand with a particularly tasty introduction to the world of Japanese cuisine. Enjoy!
About the Author
Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Japan