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Japan, No This isn’t a Godzilla Post

International Flavors: Asia and the Middle East


Questions taken from The New American Chef Chapter on Japan

  1. Explain the Japanese proverb “Japanese cuisine depends gently on water”

I would say that this has to do with not only the fact that they are a completely Island country but also has to do with the way they cook there foods. As their diets are mostly seafood they depend on water very much. Also they describe their cuisine as “cooking by water” or using more steaming blanching, and boiling. The Japanese also use very little oil.

  1. What does the plastic grass cut out included with takeout sushi represent?

Every Japanese meal alludes to the natural world, and to the Japanese the dining experience should be nourishing to all the senses. The plastic grass is there not only help keep the flavors of the pickled ginger and wasabi from mixing with the sushi, but also to make the presentation more memorable.

  1. What are the four Zen principles?

Harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility are the four principles of Zen

  1. Approximately what percentage of Japanese land is arable?

Only about 15% of the land in Japan is farmable.

  1. True or False, Japan has distinct food regions


  1. What is a Bento box?

A bento box is a lacquered wooden box that contains a different food item with a unique presentation. Bento boxes are often used as lunch or picnic box’s and can have a number of individual compartments.

  1. What are the two pillars of Japanese cuisine?

Fish and Rice could be considered the main two pillars of Japanese cuisine but in truth there are 5 other pillars that are: Dashi, Mirin, Miso, Sake, and Shoyu (soy sauce). These 5 ingredients are what make Japanese cuisine shine so brightly.

  1. Describe a way in which the Japanese celebrate a season

Not only do the Japanese celebrate each season, but also each part of the season. The take each season and break it down into 6 parts so that they have twenty four sekkus. For example on February 3-4 they celebrate the Sun Goddess or the origin of Japan in 660 BCE. Dry roasted soybeans are thrown into every corner of Japanese houses to drive away evil spirits and to welcome health and good fortune for the New Year. They also eat one soy bean + 1more for each year they have been alive. (a person of 20 would eat 21 soybeans).

  1. The Japanese focus on the layering of subtle flavors, can you think of another cuisine where this is also the focus or a characteristic of the cuisine?

Thai cuisines, is also all about the layering of subtle flavors.

  1. If you had to describe Japanese cuisine with one sentence what would you write? One word?

Japanese cuisine is a reflection of the balance between its people and the natural world.

Zen, or Balance

  1. Provide your thoughts on “In America rice is a side dish, in Japan it is the dish”

or “In America we have been eating stale rice all our lives” (1 paragraph)

In Japan as in most of the Asian cultures rice is there staple grain and carbohydrate. They truly live off of rice and if there are shortages or the crop is bad that year then it can mean disaster for the people of Japan. This has translated to rice being the main dish of every meal and everything else served with it is a side dish to the rice. Rice is so important to the Japanese that there is even a law that states how long rice from that year can be sold on the shelves. If it is past this date the rice must be taken down and cannot be sold anymore. This is different from in America as we don’t know the subtle differences in the taste of “new”, “old”, or “stale” rice. Looking at it this way would we rather eat fresh vegetables right out of the ground, or frozen pre-packed vegetables that have been around for who knows how long?

  1. What is yakimono?

Yakimono is the term for grilling, broiling, and pan-frying. It essentially refers to cooking quickly over or under high heat so that the interior remains tender while the outside takes on a characteristic crispiness. Most often the food has been marinated and for grilling or broiling the food is normally skewered first.

  1. Deep Frying was introduced to Japan from what culture?

The text book actually does not say where Deep Frying comes from in Japan, on page 41 where it talks about deep frying there is a mention to western influences including Germany, but it doesn’t come right out and say where deep frying comes from.

So looking online I found two resources that state that deep frying was introduced to Japan in the 7th or 8th century by the Chinese. (http://www.kikkoman.com/foodforum/thejapanesetablebackissues/06.shtml and http://home.comcast.net/~osoono/history.htm) The direct quote is: “t is believed that the art of deep-frying came to Japan from China in the 7th or 8th century. Cooking oil was very expensive in those days, so Buddhist temples were about the only places serving deep-fried food. Some of these delicacies were deep-fried sweet cakes. It was only in the 16th and 17th centuries, after European culture was introduced to Japan, that vegetable oil, so important for deep frying, was produced in Japan in large quantities.”

  1. What is tonkatsu?

Tonkatsu is deep fried pork cutlets. The pork is breaded with flour egg and panko in many layers so that it has a very crispy crust, and served with tonkatsu sauce which is roughly equal parts Worcestershire, sugar, soy sauce, and ketchup that is reduced before adding French style mustard and a pinch of allspice. It is traditionally by shredded cabbage.

  1. What surprised you about contemporary Japanese eating habits? Pg 42 and 43

I was really surprised that 75% of the people in major cities are adopting western breakfast styles now. I was also surprised at how popular bread has become in Japan, and how they have “very good bakeries”. I knew that dinner was a big meal in Japan but I didn’t know that it could sometimes be 20 different ingredients.

  1. List 12 essential flavorings in Japanese cuisine.
  1. Ponzu sauce
  2. Miso
  3. Mirin
  4. Sake
  5. Rice wine vinegar
  6. Soy sauce (Shoyu)
  7. Dashi
  8. Konbu (giant kelp and seaweed in general)
  9. Bonito flakes
  10. Green tea leaves
  11. Ginger
  12. daikon radish
  13. green onions
  14. leeks
  15. wasabi

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One Comment on “Japan, No This isn’t a Godzilla Post”

  1. Tori February 6, 2012 at 9:10 am #

    Love it! I know you got excited about the Japan chapter. 🙂 Maybe you’ll get to make sushi!

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