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Itadakimasu Let's eat!
While living in Japan, I became fascinated with Japanese cooking. It was an opportunity to learn many different varieties and styles, as well as the socially acceptable traditions that went along with it.
For social evenings and dining out, it is customary to spend hours at the table conversing and enjoying each others company. Although Sake is a well known and traditional drink, it is not usually served at the dinner table until much after the meal is served and cleared away. Serving varieties of beer or dinner wine during the meal is very popular. However, even this must be done observing proper etiquette. It is very important to monitor guest sitting around the table and when their beverage glass (beer or wine) gets down below half, proper manors require you to keep your neighbors glass filled and top off others around you at the same time.
Poor manors are displayed if you fill your glass when you fill your neighbors. This says your neighbor is lazy, insensitive, or rude, by allowing your glass to become empty. Filling you own glass, is an insult not only to him but to others that witness his obvious calloused behavior. He (or she) will loose face and although nothing is mentioned, the insulted guest may leave the table and retire for the evening. As a foreigner, making a mistake like this will also be insulting to the one that invited you to attend.
The Japanese are very socially conscious people. If you are honored to receive an invitation, displaying poor manors will show poorly on the inviting party. Others see it as improper preparedness by bringing a socially ignorant individual. In America it would be like being invited to a nice restaurant and showing up with no shoes or shirt.
Shabu Shabu and Chanko-nabe are two of my favorite traditional Japanese meals. These meals are made from a single serving pot centered on the table over a small gas burner. Serving and personal chopsticks or hashi are used during this type of setting. along with a Japanese spoon for retrieving broth. Serving chopsticks are approximately 1/3rd longer than personal chopsticks, and are used to add or to remove food from the center dish (Usually made from stoneware or clay).
Wit5h Shabu-Shabu, the food is prepared in a stoneware pot half filled with water over a propane burner. The center pot is half-filled with water and has trays surrounding the pot filled with vegetables, tofu, various types of pasta and meats. Examples of vegetables used are Japanese Mushrooms (Shitake, Enoci, Miatake, Hitake, or a combination of these) Daikon (giant white radish), Kabu (Japanese turnip), Nagaimo (yam), Renkon (lotus root), Ningin (Japanese Carrot), Hakusai (Chinese cabbage), and usually Shiratake both dark or a light translucent type referred to as glass noodles. However it is not uncommon to see Udon or ramen noodles
Chanko-Nabe is known as the food of Sumo-wrestlers. This is a large bowl in which all the food (vegetables and meats similar to Shabu Shabu) are placed over a burner in the center of the table. The bowl can contain up to 5 lbs of food. Sumo wrestlers may eat this two times a day to help build p there metabolism and girth. However, it can also feed five or six people easily.Chanko-Nabe the food is all cooked at once, and can remove much of the social exchanges.
But even in this relaxed atmosphere proper etiquette must be used. Serving chopsticks are used to place vegetables or meats from around the pot into the simmering water ( with Chunko-nabe, the food is already placed inside). Then as the food cooks portions are removed using the same chopsticks and placed on the user’s dinner plate. Here one must be conscious of others, and use caution to insure equal sharing of the food, and by replacing raw food into the pot equal to what was removed. But it is important to remember not to use personal chopsticks for removing or adding to the center pot.
Many foreigners coming to Japan are surprised to hear occasional slurping in casual restaurants. This is done only once per individual and is done to complement the chef. But remember it is done only once, continual slurping is like satire and an insult, or again shows no etiquette. In nicer restaurants it is not done at all, because the chef is not visible and the act becomes rude to guest seated around you.
Green tea is served through out threw out the day and with over one thousand different varieties, a person may try many varieties before finding one that suits their taste. I found that a nice smooth Ocha (standard green tea) offered a comforting relaxation mid morning and mid afternoon tea breaks (Very customary). Kocha (roasted green tea) is more enjoyable with evening meals.Many enjoyable samples can be found in Tea-Vanna and other specialty tea houses. However the prices here are somewhat higher than the $7.00 to $15.00 average cost per pond in Japan.
Rice is the staple of many Asian countries and it relates to the ability of a chef. If the rice is runny or doughy it is undercooked. If it is dry and will not stick together, it is overdone and will not pick up easy with chopsticks. Poor rice has caused the demise of many restaurants. One more point abut rice; to honor a lost friend or family member, at their place setting a bowl of rice with two chopsticks placed into the center, shows respect for the individual and is a sign of mourning. Doing this in a public restaurant states loudly that you hated the food and wish death on the chef. Never even in jest is this to be done. Japanese chefs have very large and sharp knives.
One more point of dining in Japan, no one starts eating until all are seated at the table and the head of the table begins by saying Ite-dakimas, which means roughly “Bless this food and the one whom prepared it”or simply "Let's eat!" ©
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Registered :: 2012-03-01 14:55:23 UTC
Title :: Itadakimasu Let's Eat!
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