Delicate slices of pink fish, a dash of green wasabi, a pretty little fish cake or perhaps some glistening fish roe – all of them served in dainty little individual serving bowls or plates. Gustatory appeal aside, this is one of the first things that attracts you to the cuisine.
Over the years, Japanese cuisine has gained worldwide popularity and the multitude of sushi and sashimi joints in surprising corners of the globe bear testimony to this. Japan, being surrounded by fertile waters is the world’s largest per capita consumer of fish and sea food products and it doesn’t come as a surprise that the Tsukuji fish market in the heart of Tokyo is the largest in the world. Understandably, seafood plays a prime role in the lives of the Japanese people who consume a wide variety fish, crab, and prawn to fish roe.
A simple Japanese meal consists of fish or meat along with some rice on the side. The two basic Japonica rice used today are the glutinous mochi-gome and the sticky uruchi mai which is used in most rice dishes including sushi. Other ingredients like tofu, soba, eggplant, mushrooms, eggs, daikon (Japanese radish) form an important part of an authentic Japanese meal. And although sweets may not be the highlight of Japanese cuisine, they are certainly widely eaten. A traditional favourite is wagashi, which is essentially made of different plant ingredients and usually served with tea.
No Japanese meal is complete without Japan’s National Drink – the rice based alcoholic beverage sake. Since it is brewed from water and rice, it is considered a substitute for the grain and is never had with rice. If you happen to visit Edo, the Japanese restaurant at ITC Royal Gardenia, Bengaluru, you can choose from a wide variety of sake or even participate in a popular ritual called sake bomb.
My personal favourite when it comes to Japanese cuisine are bento boxes – the boxed meals available at railways stations and food stalls all over Japan. These comprise small attractive food components, separated in four sections, each having a remarkable visual appeal. It is said that homemakers in Japan strive to pack the most intricate and elaborately prepared bento boxes for their spouse or child. Interestingly, the bento box is said to be the inspiration behind IBM’s innovative Thinkpad design.
If all this talk has set you craving Japanese food then head to Pan Asian, WelcomHotel Sheraton New Delhi from the 9th to 17th August for the Japanese Noodles and Tempura Festival where Chef Sensei Nariyoshi Nakuma will prepare extraordinary delicacies like itawsa (Japanese fish cake sashimi with wasabi and soya sauce), tempura soba (hot soba with prawn tempura), kamo nanban soba (hot soba with roast duck breast and leeks) and zaru soba (cold buckwheat noodle with sea weed wasabi spring onion and soba sauce).