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Japanese Food
Katsudon (© runin - Fotolia.com)
Katsudon

Traditional Japanese food

Any visitor to Japan would know that Japanese take eating very seriously. Restaurants abound and are usually good. There seems to be such a diversity of food in big cities that one wonders if Japanese food is not one of the richest cuisine in the world. Nevertheless, traditional Japanese food actually very limited and represents just a fraction of what is available on the market in present days. It is mainly composed of fish, seafood, rice and soybeans. Soybean is a key ingredient without which Japanese food wouldn't exist. Tofu, miso, natto and soy sauce are all made from soybeans.

  • hijiki > ひじき
  • natto > 納豆
  • nimono > 煮物
  • oden > おでん
  • soba > そば
  • several tofu based-dishes (This also includes a few o-bento (お弁当), and what is usually associated with them, like miso shiru (味噌汁), umeboshi (梅干) or takuan (たくあん).)
  • makunochi bento > 幕の内弁当
  • unajuu > 鰻重
  • saba miso > 鯖味噌

sushi set

Fish and seafood at a wedding party

会席料理 kaiseki ryōri

The "Sushi" & "Don"

  • sushi > 寿司 or 鮨
  • sahimi > 刺身
  • norimaki > 海苔巻き
  • kaisendon > 海鮮丼
  • magurodon > 鮪丼
  • negitorodon > ネギトロ丼

Sashimi

The "Matsuri" food

"Matsuri food" is a term I use to designate all the dishes eaten in the street during festival or market around temples and shrines. It is usually fried.

  • takoyaki > たこ焼き
  • taiyaki > 鯛焼き
  • okonomiyaki > お好み焼き
  • monjayaki > もんじゃ焼き
  • yakisoba > 焼き蕎麦

I have included yakisoba in traditional Japanese food, eventhough it is ultimately from China, because it has been part of the Japanese diet for centuries.


Makunouchi bento

Soba & tempura

Unaju

Hybrid - Modern Japanese food

In accordance with Buddhist customs, Japanese didn't eat meat (except for fish and seafood) until the Meiji Restoration in the late 19th century. Interestingly, the situation has undergone and complete reversal since then, and especially after 1945, so that it has become almost impossible to find vegetarian food in Japan nowadays. That means that Japanese didn't eat most of the modern dishes that now constitutes Japanese cuisine. For example :

  • yakitori > 焼き鳥
  • hambaagu ハンバーグ (hamburger)

Most of the "don"(丼) use meat and where not eaten before modern times :

  • katsudon > カツ丼
  • gyuu-don > 牛丼
  • oyako-don > 親子丼
  • soborodon > そぼろ丼 (also called nishoku gohan > 二色ご飯)

But most of what now seems to be Japanese food are actually imported dishes that were adapted to Japanese tastes :

  • kimuchi-don (hybrid Korean)
  • tempura (hybrid Portuguese)
  • tendon (hybrid Portuguese)
  • stamina-don (hybrid Chinese)
  • kare カレー (hybrid Indian)
  • biifu shichiyuu ビーフシチュー (beef stew, hybrid English)
  • omuraisu (short for "omelette rice")
  • tonkatsu (hybrid Italian/French)
  • kuroke (hybrid French > croquette)
  • And by extenstion of the 2 previous ones, all deep-fried food, such as : ebi-fry, kaki-fry, etc.

Common foreign foods in Japan

Then come all the cuisine eaten not only in restaurants but also in Japanese homes and which were imported directly from other countries with no or little change.

Korea

  • bibimba
  • kimuchi
  • yakiniku
  • shijimi

China

  • chaahan チャー飯
  • maabou doufu マーボウ豆腐
  • gomokuhou 五目宝
  • ebi-chili エビチリ
  • subuta 酢豚
  • chuuka-don 中華丼
  • chuuka-soba 中華そば
  • udon 饂飩
  • ramen ラーメン
  • gyoza 餃子 (jiaozi)
  • nikuman(juu) 肉饅頭
  • shuumai 焼売 (shaomai)

Okinawa

  • goya champuru ゴヤチャンプル
  • buta no kakuni 豚の角に

France

  • foagura フォアグラ > foie gras
  • guratan グラタン > gratin
  • potofu ポトフ > pot-au-feu
  • konsome > consome
  • potaaju ポタージュ > potage
  • kureepu クレープ > crepe

Italy

  • pasta
  • pizza
  • risotto

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