Food Culture: Sake.
SAKE (Rice Wine):
Made from rice & water which are fermented together then pasteurized to create an alcoholic 'wine'. Drunk warm but finer types should be lightly chilled to retain the subtle flavors. It rarely improves with age.
Sometimes, you may see Taruzake (cask sake) presented as offerings in Shinto shrines. This type of sake matured in wooden casks made of cypress.
Sake is judged on 5 qualities:Sweetness.Sourness.Bitterness.Pungency.Astringency.
Grades of Sake:Dai-ginjo: Finest grade made from the hardest core of the rice where more than 50% of each grain is shaved away.
Ginjo: 40% of grain is shaved.
Hon-jozo: 30% of grain is shaved.
Food Culture: Wagashi.
WAGASHI: Japanese Confections
3 types (depending on they were made):
1) dry Made from dried cake material which has a low water content. Ingredients of soybeans, flour, sugar & powdered rice are formed in a wooden mold & sometimes covered with rakugan, dry parched seeds.
Amegashi is made of sugar & malt honey kneaded together.
Senbei & Arare are made from dried rice flour & then baked.
2) half-dry Come in several styles such as monaka made with 2 rice flour wafers sandwiching sweetened bean jam, & amanatto having sugar-glazed beans sprinkled with white sugar.
3) fresh Namagashi are cakes & sweets which are not further baked after being formed.
It ranges from high class nerikiri to cheaper items like mizuyokan (water bean jelly) & dango (baked flour balls).
Shapes are ingrained with the Japanese sense of seasons.
Food Culture: Donburi.
Donburi is essentially a bowl of rice with various toppings. The pre-cooked toppings are served on a bed of rice in either a round bowl or a deep square lacquer box. Along with curry rice & ramen (Chinese noodles), donburi is a light meal favored for lunch.
The 1st known donburi dish was unadon or unaju which dates back to early 19th century in the Nihonbashi area of Tokyo (then called Edo).
Unaju or unadon with kabayaki (roasted eel slices) is one of my favorites! It tastes different from one restaurant to another depending on how the eel is steamed & the sauce is applied.
5 favorites of donburi in Japan are:Katsudon: rice covered with batter-fried pork cutlets (cooked in an egg soup & sliced).
Tendon: rice with tempura (mainly deep-fried prawns).
Gyudon: rice with strings of beef stewed with leek or onion slices & strings of konnyaku.
Oyakodon: rice with seasoned chicken meat cooked with egg soup like an omelette.
Unadon: rice with kabayaki (roasted eel slices).
Food Culture: Sushi & Sashimi.
SUSHI & SASHIMI:
Japanese, on hearing the word sushi, think of nigiri-zushi (often called Edomae). This is a small ball of vinegared rice called sushimeshi topped with sliced pieces of fresh fish & shellfish called tane & eaten with soy sauce seasoning. Commonly used tane include tuna, squid, prawns & octopus. Most appreciated is the fleshy part of the tuna called toro. Freshness of the tane, quality of rice used & texture are all important features of the sushi. Good sushi does not easily fall apart when picked up but its rice dissolves in the mouth & mixes with the tane producing a delicate taste only achieved when the different tastes are respectively harmonized. Wasabi (Japanese horseradish) & soy sauce are the seasoning in this case.
Favorites:Chirashi-zushi: This type of sushi has uncaked sushimeshi set on a small platter & topped with pieces of fresh tane.
Maki-zushi: A roll with relatively large amount of sushimeshi rolled up in a sheet of dried seaweed with cooked shavings & sweet fried egg pressed into the core. 'Rolled' sushi is becoming increasingly familiar outside Japan - for example, the California Roll is a version using avocado & other non-Japanese ingredients. Temaki-zushi is hand-rolled into a large cone shape. Ura-maki is the reverse rolls where the sushi rice forms the outside of the cylinder.
Oshi-zushi: Sushi pressed into a mold to form its shape with toppings varying from grilled fish to seasoned prawns, eel to fish.
Sashimi is small, thinly sliced pieces of raw fish & shellfish like tuna, bonito & squid served with soy sauce & wasabi as condiments.
Food Culture: Udon & Soba.
UDON & SOBA:
Typical Japanese noodles are soba in the Kanto area (Tokyo & neighboring areas) & udon in the Kansai area (Osaka & neighboring areas).
Soba is a type of brown noodle made out of buck wheat flour, mixed and kneaded with water, rolled out, cut in thin stripes & boiled.
Types of Soba: Mori-soba are cold soba noodles served on a seiro drainboard to be dipped in tsuyu (soup sauce) before eating (as pictured). Mori-soba is the best way to eat soba while still enjoying its original natural flavor.
Regarded as a food that brings good luck, it is a special Japanese custom to eat toshikoshi-soba (year end soba) on Dec. 31.
A tasty dish called shiru-soba is a soba noodles served in a bowl with hot soup poured over it.
Tempura-soba: a bowl of soba noodles with tempura (often fried prawns) on top, a great favorite in Japan & the rest of the world.
Udon are white thick noodles made out of wheat flour. Udon noodles are served in a bowl with a hot light tasting soy-based soup poured across the top. Especially appreciated for their chewy taste, it is served in many different ways with favored spices.
Types of Udon:Especially famous are kitsune-udon made with fried bean curds & tsukimi-udon served with an egg.
Other favorites: Chikara-udon served with mochi (pieces of rice cake) & other ingredients; Nabeyaki-udon cooked with assorted pre-cooked vegetables, gingko-nuts, mushroom, tempura & egg; Kamaage-udon prepared & placed at it is into a boiling pot of water to be served out to a large number of people gathered around the table.
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