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Japanese Dining Etiquette
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Kaiseki (course menu)
Okonomiyaki Kiji Shinagawa
Finding an excellent chef with tastes that match your own is essential to fully enjoying your dining experience in Japan. Why not compare the backgrounds and philosophies of many of Japan's finest chefs in interviews presented by Savor Japan.
On the menu
You can't keep your hands off tebasaki.
Crispy yet juicy, sweet but spicy, tebasaki karaage (deep-fried chicken wings) are extremely popular throughout Japan. They go fantastic with beer and are hard to stop eating once you get started. Moreover, women know they're chock full of collagen that's good for their skin. Said to have originated from Aichi Prefecture, tebasaki are similar to buffalo chicken wings served in the West, but have a Japanese soy sauce base. There are variations on the recipe, but the most popular flavor is sweet and spicy. Why not try authentic tebasaki this summer in Aichi Prefecture!
Slurp your soba like a Japanese and feel the joy.
Japanese slurp their soba (buckwheat noodles) because it tastes better that way. While enjoyed throughout the year, soba is especially satisfying when eaten cold in the summer. Japanese also eat soba on special occasions such as New Year's Eve and after moving to a new home. Soba restaurants were traditionally established in old renovated Japanese houses, but tachigui (stand-up) soba shops are now everywhere, even on train station platforms, reflecting soba's huge popularity. Always delicious, soba can be eaten with sake and hors d'oeuvres to brighten any occasion.
The luckiest vegetable in Japan. Nasu.
Nasu (Japanese eggplant) became a symbol of happiness in Japan because its pronunciation is the same as for the word "achieve." There is even a popular idiom, "Mount Fuji first, hawk second and eggplant third" that ranks nasu third in the list of auspicious things that can appear in your first dream of the year. Nasu have been cultivated in Japan for the last 1200 years and are commonly eaten in homes as well as at restaurants. They taste great, whether grilled, boiled, baked or fried, and contain potassium that helps cool down your body in the hot summertime. We especially recommend eating them grilled as an appetizer with soy sauce, grated ginger and dried bonito flakes. Simply delicious!
Are you a samurai or merchant when it comes to eating eel?
Eels have been a popular dish among Japanese for centuries. The custom of eating grilled eel to ward off summer weariness is even recorded in Japanese poetry from the 1600s. However, there's a big difference between how eels are prepared in western and eastern Japan. According to tradition, eels are split along the back in eastern Japan (including Tokyo) because samurai in the Edo era (1603-1868) wanted no reminders of hara-kiri. But in western Japan, they are split along the belly and served with the head attached because straight-talking merchants in Osaka liked the saying "hara wo watte hanasu (split one's belly and talk)". In addition, eels are only steamed before grilling in the east. Why not try eel prepared both ways and discover your own preference.
Edamame. The humble bean that won the world's heart.
"Edamame" was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2003 as another famous Japanese word alongside "ramen" and "sushi". Eaten in Japan and China since ancient times, edamame are available throughout the year, but taste best during the summer. They are commonly boiled in salt water and perfect for pairing with beer or sake. Not only are they delicious, but their high levels of protein help slow the intake of alcohol. Edamame and soybeans are actually the same beans, harvested as edamame when young and soy beans when older. Many Japanese foods and flavorings, such as tofu, natto and soy sauce, are made from soybeans.
Yakiniku may look simple, but it's deep like Zen.
Sushi is so famous that many foreigners probably think Japanese only eat fish. But meat is extremely popular throughout Japan, especially among the younger generation. Yakiniku (grilled meat), for example, is a perennial favorite. The dish originated in Korea, where it is typically made from short beef ribs or thick slices of pork - unlike the Japanese version that is thinly sliced like sashimi. In both countries, the sauce is usually thick and flavorful. But higher-end Japanese restaurants use marbled Japanese beef served with nothing more than natural sea salt, soy sauce, ponzu (citrus sauce) or wasabi. This simple preparation reflects the Japanese preference for savoring the natural essence of the ingredients themselves. Discover the essence of Japanese cooking in Yakiniku!
Japanese food glossary
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Learn about the seasonality of Japanese ingredients.
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