ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Top Flavors Of Japan

Updated on December 31, 2009

Other than picking up soy sauce from the Chinese in the sixth century A.D., the Japanese with their islands insulated from neighboring culinary influences, have been left to develop their cuisine undisturbed. The result: sophisticated, subtle fare that makes astonishing use of the foods easiest to grow on the rocky terrain.

Soybeans appear in one form or another at every meal. Soy sauce seasons everything, as does miso, a fermented paste of soybean mash used in soups and marinades. Soy milk that has been curded and pressed becomes tofu. The Japanese make marinades for tofu, but often the bland mass is let alone to float in soup, or fried whole in blocks and served with a thick dipping sauce. One popular dish in the humid summers is plain silken tofu, sprinkled with soy sauce, ginger and bonito flakes (shavings from dried blocks of a type of tuna).

Japanese food also depends on seaweed for seasoning. Thick straps of kombu flavor broth and stocks, and add flavor to sushi rice. Nori makes its appearance around rolled sushi or crumbled into seasoned flakes atop rice and soups. And seaweed makes a delightfully briny addition to the crisp vinegared salads called sunomono.

Amidst otherwise mild-mannered food, Japanese condiments provide an unexpected jolt of flavor. Piquant tsukemono (pickles of cucumbers, plums, radishes and eggplants) are a frequent presence on the dinner table, while the pungent pickled ginger, piled in pink wispy heaps on sushi plates, is essential to cleansing the palate between bites. On the far end of the heat scale, we find wasabi, the green-tinted horseradish paste, and mustard, mixed from straight mustard powder and water.

Essential dishes Seafood is an essential part of Japanese meals. Bonito goes into the ubiquitous stock dashi, but it is also sprinkled on rice, strewn over savory pancakes (okonomiyaki) and included in many kinds of gomasio, an all-purpose shake-on seasoning. Sushi is the most well known fish dish, but in Japan it is not a common home dinner, reserved instead for restaurant meals. Pieces of seafood may be sauteed, broiled lightly or simmered in broth at the table, sukiyaki-style. However it is prepared, the fish used in Japanese cookery must be absolutely fresh.

Rice is the final key component of Japanese food, so essential to the definition of a meal that the word gohan means both "a meal" and "boiled rice." Short- or medium-grained white rice is adequate for all purposes in Japanese cooking; in the United States, look for Nishiki or Homai brand rice, raised by Japanese farmers in California.

Japanese food is served with careful attention to its appearance. At the top of this ladder is tea ceremony food (kaiseki). A tea ceremony is a highly ritualized occasion in which all the senses are involved in contemplating the tea, the food and the surroundings. Small courses are garnished and arranged to stimulate the taste buds and appeal to the diner's artistic sensibilities. But even everyday meals are served with an eye to the elegant: the host might select clear dishes in summer to suggest ice, or serve light food on black plates to heighten contrast. Japanese cuisine and its presentation take their cues from the season and the food itself.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)