When they prepare food, the japanese use basic cooking methods that enhance the natural flavors of all the ingredients. Most of these methods are easy japanese recipes, but they produce dishes that look beautiful and taste delicious.
No japanese meal would be complete without small bowls of boiled or steamed rice to accompany the other dishes. In fact, the word for "rice", gohan, is also the word for "food" in the japanese language. Many japanese families use electric rice cookers to be sure that this vital part of the meal is prepared perfectly every time.
Japanese people eat noodles almost as often as they eat rice, and they can choose from a great variety. Brown noodles called soba, made from buckwheat flour, are perhaps the most common. Udon and somen, two kinds of wheat-flour noodles, are also very popular. Noodles are even eaten for a quick snack in the way that an American might eat a sandwich or an apple.
Soybean products are another staple of the japanese diet. It would be difficult to cook a japanese meal without soy sauce, which is used as commonly as westerners use salt. Two other soy products are miso, a soybean paste used in soups and other dishes, and tofu, a firm, custardlike substance made of soybean curd. Japanese cooks serve tofu by itself and also use it as an ingredient in many dishes. This unique soybean product is also popular in North America as a meatless source of protein.
Soup is an impor tant part of most japanese meals. Clear soup (osumashi) is usually served at the beginning of a meal. This delicately flavored soup can be varied by the addition of many different kinds of garnishes. The slightly thicker, sweeter soups flavored with red or white soybean paste (misoshiru) are generally served toward the end of a formal japanese meal. Both kinds of soups can be made with dashinomoto, a powdered soup base available at specialty grocery stores.
Sunomono and aemono dishes include vegetables and seafood mixed with various kinds of sauces. The ingredients may be raw or lightly cooked to preserve their natural colors and textures. Sauces for sunomono dishes always include vinegar, while aemono sauces are made from toasted sesame seeds, soy sauce, miso, and many other good things.
When planning a japanese meal, you might think of sunomono as playing the same role as salads do in an american meal. Their tangy dressings and crisp textures provide a good contrast to meat dishes. Aemono dishes such as goma-ae give a special taste to familiar green vegetables like broccoli, green beans, and spinach.
Nabemono dishes combine meat or seafood and vegetables in one pot to make a hearty and satisfying meal. In Japan, "nabe" cooking is done at the table, using a pot heated over a gas or charcoal burner. Meals featuring nabemono are particularly popular in the winter because the heat of the burner warms the room as well as cooks the food.
To make your nabemono dish, you can use an electric frying pan or casserole. If you want to cook at the table as the japanese do, prepare your ingredients ahead of time and arrange them neatly on a platter. Then invite your family and friends to watch while you cook a delicious sukiyaki or mizutaki.
Many popular japanese dishes are prepared by broiling. This method of cooking over high heat makes food crisp on the surface and tender and juicy inside. Meat, seafood, and vegetables are all delicious prepared as yakimono.
In Japan, "yaki" dishes may be cooked at the table on a small charcoal grill called a hibachi. If you don't have a hibachi, then a backyard barbecue grill or the broiler in your oven will work just as well. When cooking with charcoal, it's a good idea to have an experienced cook help you start the grill.
Japanese cooks prepare all meals carefully and with great attention to attractive presentation. Holidays and festival meals are no exception. In fact, since these dishes are for special occasions, it is even more important that they look and taste wonderful. They may contain more ingredients than ordinary recipes, and some dishes call for unusual or specialty items. Certain foods have special meaning or symbolism, while others are chosen for their color or appearance.
All of these factors can make holiday and festival dishes a bit more challenging to prepare than everyday fare. However, japanese cooks feel that the results are well worth the extra effort. When you try these recipes yourself, remember that this is food for celebration. Have fun making it, and have fun eating it with family and friends!.