Japanese flavors

Japanese Flavors & Philosophy

TRADITIONAL FOOD PREPARATION

Six main cooking methods are featured at a formal Japanese dining experience:

  1. Namamono - fresh and raw: the selection of the fresh ingredients is the key. Sashimi, Sunomono, vegetable salads, etc.

  2. Mushimono - steamed: ingredients are served moist and tender. Emphasizes the natural flavors while minimizing the loss of nourishment.

  3. Nimono - simmered: involves no less than fifteen methods and is the most difficult to master. Typical Japanese simmering liquids use sake and mirin. Infusing the seasonings into the ingredients while leaving the food intact and tender is an art.

  4. Yakimono - broiled: covers a wide range of foods. Yakimono ranges from charcoal-grilled whole fish to chicken tidbits on skewers, ideally crisp on the outside, while tender and succulent on the inside. Charcoal grilling and broiling is common, but in general, Japanese cuisine does not include the smoky flavor of cooking over charcoal.

  5. Agemono - deep fried: a professional chef can make a career as an Agemono specialist. The secret to the lightness of Japanese Agemono lies in careful attention to the temperature of the oil, quality of the oil and the consistency of the batter.

JAPANESE CUISINE VS.WESTERN CUISINE


There are many interesting differences in philosophy when comparing Japanese to Western cuisine.

KEY INGREDIENT GROUP

WESTERN CUISINE

JAPANESE CUISINE

protein

meat, poultry

fish, soybean

starch

wheat

rice

dairy

milk, cheese

Tofu, soy products

alcohol drinks

beer & wine

Sake

alcohol for cooking

cooking wine, sherry

Sake & Mirin

flavoring

salt & pepper, spices

Shoyu, Miso, Mirin

soup base

beef & chicken stock

Dashi

FOOD PREPARATION
Western cooking often entails extended cooking preparation, and often incorporates several cooking techniques to complete the dish. For example, stewing and roasting meats with savory sauces.

Japanese cooking is characterized by quick, uncomplicated food preparation. On the other hand, converse to the short time required in cooking, there is a long and arduous process in making many of the basic ingredients:

brewed -Shoyu, rice vinegar, Sake, Mirin
Aged - Miso, Hanakatsuo
dried - Shiitake, Kombu

FLAVOR CHARACTERISTICS
Western cooking has well defined flavorings.

Japanese cooking is delicate and slight. In the absence of strong flavorings, Umami takes over to add depth to satisfy the palate.

BASIC FLAVOR PROFILES
Often, Japanese food is recognized as art. The regard for seasonality and its visual presentation is of the utmost importance: fresh ingredients, prepared in a manner which brings out the truest flavor of the ingredients and prepared to appeal to the eyes as well as to the palate. Colors, arrangements, plating all play important roles.

In Japanese cooking, there are five major flavor profiles: salty, hot (spicy), sweet, sour and bitter. Actually, there is the sixth flavor - the magical Umami, or the savory depth found naturally in Hanakatsuo (bonito flakes), Kombu (kelp) and Shiitake (Japanese forest mushrooms). Dashi is the all-important building base to all Japanese dishes, and it contains all the Umami elements from the amino acids extracted from the natural ingredients.

Aside from these flavors, Japanese food preparation is refined to exacting textures and temperatures ideal for the ingredient at hand, as well as seasonal suitability.

SERVING-WARE
Japanese cuisine encompasses not only food, but also the servingware that they're served in. The servingware should complement the arrangement, reflect the season or the occasion, and serve a function when needed. Though a Western dish may be plated all on one large serving dish, Japanese foods are served in individual servingware, miss-matched in design, and is appealing to the eye as the food it contains. The skill of a Japanese chef extends beyond cooking, to include the art of food arrangement.

 


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