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A Taste Of Japan: What sets Japanese food apart from the rest of the culture plate?

Japanese food is something that has burst into modern-day dining, but to what extent do we know of its origin, traditions and culture? Japanese food has seen an array of changes over hundreds of years, with adaptations and takes on traditional cuisine storming our Western culture. Japanese food as we know it today encompasses the regionality and traditionality of the Japanese food that has been developed through centuries of social and economic changes. Let’s take a look at what sets Japan and its unique cuisine apart from the rest of the culture plate.

Traditional Foods of Japan

When it comes to Japanese food, there are more than likely plenty of ingredients and dishes that you are already familiar with. Rice is one of the most popular ingredients of Japanese food and is a traditional staple of the Japanese diet that is most commonly seen in dishes such as sushi. Sushi and sashimi are both highly popular dishes in Japan, with seafood often featuring as an ingredient in their cuisine. Aside from rice, other staple Japanese ingredients include noodles, such as soba and udon. Traditional Japanese side dishes consist of fish, pickled and fried vegetables, and vegetables cooked in broth. Japanese food is based on combining the staple food, that is rice, with one or several main or side dishes. Often, this is then accompanied by a clear or miso soup and pickles.

Modern Depictions of Japanese Food

There have been a vast array of traditional Japanese foods that made their way into our western culture. As Japanese food becomes more and more popular in the modern world, and more readily available, we are beginning to see new adaptations of traditional dishes. Dishes inspired by other cultures, such as Chinese cuisine, have led to the popular Japanese foods that we all know and love today, such as ramen, fried dumplings and gyoza. Today, you can find a vast number of Japanese supermarkets and restaurants throughout UK cities, where there is a whole world of Japanese food both new and traditional to be discovered.

The Seasonality of Japanese Food

There is a lot of emphasis placed on the seasonality of Japanese food, with the seasons in Japan being incredibly poetic due to their distinct nature. Japanese dishes are designed to herald the arrival of the four seasons or calendar months. The seasonality of Japanese food means to take advantage of the ‘fruit of the mountains’ – for example, bamboo shoots in Spring and chestnuts in Autumn – as well as the ‘fruit of the sea’ as each comes into season. Seasonal foods are motifs of the depicting season and are meant to be enjoyed by all of the senses both aesthetically and through taste to truly emphasise the importance of the seasons in Japanese cooking.

Cooking Techniques

There are a vast array of Japanese cooking techniques, with some of the most traditional being grilling, steaming, deep-frying and, of course, sushi rolling. The cooking technique that is used highly depends on the type of Japanese food that is being cooked or prepared. For each side dish that accompanies rice, a different cooking technique is used. Aside from the main techniques, there is an extensive list of Japanese cooking techniques that are used to make the beautiful cuisine appreciated and enjoyed today. Whether it’s stir-frying or steaming, pickling or pan-frying, each technique is used to make the most of the flavours of each unique ingredient.

Serving of Food

Japanese food is served in very precise ways. Rice is served in its own bowl with each accompanying course or side dish placed on its own small plate or bowl for each individual portion. This serving style is quite contradictive of Western culture where individuals often take helpings from large serving dishes. Japanese food doesn’t allow for different flavoured dishes to touch each other on a single plate, which is why each dish is given its own plate or, alternatively, is partitioned using leaves. To place main dishes on top of rice is frowned upon in traditional etiquette as it is seen as soiling the rice.
Other traditional ways of serving Japanese food include the use of Bento Boxes; a single portion take-out or home-packed meal that is very common in Japanese cuisine. A traditional Bento holds a combination of rice or noodles, fish or meat and pickled and cooked vegetables, all intricately packed into a box. Bento boxes are highly common within Japanese culture and are carefully prepared, usually for one’s self, spouse or child.
Japanese food encapsulates the country’s true heritage, culture and the adaptations it has made through the generations. At Atelier Japan, we have a range of plates, bowls and cutlery rests designed to heighten your Japanese dining experience, view our exquisite collection to explore handcrafted pottery that is perfect for serving traditional Japanese food in your own home.