If Chinese or Vietnamese cuisine has some deep affinities with French cuisine, Japanese cuisine, on the other hand, really seems to come from another planet.
It has its fans and has always been considered a “trendy” kitchen.
With this article, we invite you to discover the most delicious dishes of Japanese cuisine, as well as tips and tricks for successful Japanese cuisine at home.
The ingredients of Japanese cuisine
The Japanese have a very intimate relationship with nature and it shows in their cuisine. Respecting the ingredients and cooking according to the seasons are priorities in Japan. Japanese cuisine attaches great importance to the balance between various foods such as plants, animal products, fish, meat, edible plants and seaweed.
This makes it possible to respect a balanced intake of proteins, fibers and carbohydrates. The very low amount of lipids (especially of animal origin) in Japanese cuisine makes it low in calories and very healthy.
The Japanese particularly like to enhance the flavors and colors of seasonal products by dressing them in a pretty dish. The traditional Japanese meal consists of rice, miso soup (fermented soy bean paste) and three sides. Two of them are based on vegetables and seaweed, the last providing carbohydrates and proteins. This balance allows a good assimilation of vitamins and minerals and a good intake of dietary fibers.
How to use the basic ingredients of Japanese cuisine?
Rice is to the Japanese what bread is to the French: it is present at every meal. Some people think rice is tasteless, but it is when you chew it that Japanese rice releases all its sweetness.
There are three varieties of rice: japonica (short rice – round rice), indica (long rice) and japanica (medium and medium grain rice.)
In Japan, the japonica variety is used for all dishes, including sushi.
Soak the rice for about 30 minutes and rinse it before cooking. Let the cooked rice rest for 15 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the pressure cooker.
Store the rice grains in an airtight container in a cool, dark place. You can also freeze the rice by wrapping it in cling film.
Umami is the favorite taste of the Japanese. Kombu seaweed and dried bonito, which contain a lot of amino acids, are the two staple foods for making a broth called dashi.
It is from this broth that we prepare the miso soup, the tsuyu sauce for the noodles and that we simmer the vegetables, adding a little soy sauce, sugar and mirin. To make a dashi, you need kombu seaweed, dried bonito, small sardines and dried shiitake mushrooms.
There are also ready-made preparations in sachet, powder or liquid.
Make a dashi
Wipe off the kombu seaweed before soaking it overnight in fresh water. Or, put the seaweed in a pot of cold water, heat the water and remove it at the first broths that settle on the edge of the pot, then increase the heat and put the dried bonito in the pot.
Before the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat. Wait until the bonito is at the bottom of the pan to filter the broth.
In Japanese cuisine, soy sauce is the most widely used seasoning for cooking meat, fish or vegetables.
It is a fermented food produced from soybeans, wheat and salt. There are several varieties of soy sauce: dark colored, light colored (in the Kansai region), thicker in consistency, double stirred or white soy sauce.
After opening the bottle, soy sauce takes on a darker color over time and loses its flavor.
Avoid direct sunlight and store it in a cool, dark place. It is best to consume it quickly once the bottle is opened.
Miso is a fermented food (fermented soybean paste), made from soybeans, salt and yeast. It is possible to incorporate rice or barley yeast.
The characteristics of miso are different in different regions. Miso contains a molecule, choline, which prevents alcohol-bound fats from building up in the liver.
In Japan, miso soup is said to be an excellent remedy for a drunken night.
Depending on the composition of the yeast, there are rice, soy or barley miso. The color can also vary: white miso or red miso. The taste comes in mild miso and strong miso.
It is best to store miso in its packaging, in a cool, dark place. It is also possible to freeze it.
Rice vinegar is used to prepare traditional sushi. It is also used as is or in slow cooker recipes.
Varieties Whether brewed or blended, vinegars are made from grains or fruits. In the brewed vinegars we find rice or cereal vinegars, those of fruits are apple or grape. Storage Avoid direct exposure to sunlight.
Wasabi is a traditional condiment in Japan. It is eaten with raw fish such as sushi or sashimi. Wasabi is not limited to accompanying raw fish, it also has an antiseptic effect particularly suitable for the consumption of raw fish.
In addition to Japanese wasabi, there is wasabi made from western horseradish, and wasabi that results from mixing the two. It is sold in tube, powder or in its natural state.
There are different nori seaweeds: grilled seaweed for sushi, those which give the dish its flavor and finely cut seaweed which are used to flavor and decorate. A dark and shiny algae is preferably chosen. The seaweed losing its flavor to humidity, it must be kept in an airtight box, in a dry place and protected from light.
100% Japanese recipes
Here are some ideas for 100% Japanese recipes, typical or creative, it’s up to you to choose your style! Vinegar rice with grilled salmon, grilled chicken marinated in miso, fish fillets with matcha… Japanese cuisine is extremely rich and varied, it is an inexhaustible source of inspiration to surprise your friends and delight all your guests!