Nearly as ubiquitous as rice in the Japanese diet, but offering a greater variety are noodles. The most common type of noodles are brown noodles made from buckwheat flour, called sobais a round, firm-textured noodle often served cold with dipping sauce or in a bowl of hot broth. Another popular type of noodle is udon are thick, white, wheat noodles, usually served in hot broth with other ingredients. In the spring and summer, somen noodles are very popular. A thin noodle made from a wheat dough to which sesame oil has been added, somen noodles are available in a variety of colored flavors. The noodles are usually cooked, and then served cold with a dipping sauce and condiments.
Soybean products are another staple in Japanese cuisine. Soy sauce, for example, is used as commonly as salt is in Western cooking. It would be difficult to cook a Japanese meal without it. Equally essential to the Japanese cook's store of ingredients is fermented soba soybean paste, called miso. Miso resembles peanut butter in itsconsistency and is made in a variety of colors and textures, each with its own distinctive aroma and flavor. High in protein and B vitamins, miso comes in three basic categories: rice miso, soybean miso, and barley miso. Another important soy product, and one gaining ever-increasing presence on Western menus, is tofu. Also known as bean curd, tofu is a white, custard-like food made from soymilk processed from soybeans. Tofu is extolled by nutritionists and vegetarians alike as an excellent meatless source of protein. Western dishes tend to be categorized by the main ingredients. For example, a common Western cookbook is divided into sections such as Meats and Poultry; Vegetables; Pasta, Rice, and Grains, etc. Japanese food, on the other hand, is categorized by the method of preparation. When planning a meal, the Western chef will strive fora salad, a main dish, and side dishes that go well together and satisfy the four basic food groups. A chef of Japanese cuisine seeksa variety of dishes from the different cooking categories. One of the most common of these styles of cooking is called nimono. miso. This category includes dishes made by gently boiling or simmering ingredients such as vegetables, fish, or meat in a seasoned broth. Yakimonois, quite simply, food that is prepared by broiling, usually over a charcoal fire. Tempura, food deep-fried in batter, belongs to the group of agemono, or fried things. It is one of the most common Japanese foods in North America. The nabemono category consists of hearty dishes that are cooked in a large pot, usually right at the table. Nabemono contains meat, fish, vegetables, tofu,and perhaps some noodles.
Sukiyaki, also very popular in the West,belongs to the nabemono group. Tsukemono, also known as Japanese pickles, are pickled vegetables that can be found with most Japanese meals. Ohitashi are boiled green vegetables served with soy sauce and topped with sesame seeds or katsuobushi (dried bonito fish shavings). Aemono, made up of cooked vegetables and seafood, are served cold and tossed with various sauces. As you can see, Japanese food comes in a wide variety of styles. Upon sitting down to a traditional Japanese meal, however, one is likely to find the utensils and serving vessels as numerous and varied as the dishes themselves. The cook seeks to serve his or her creations in well-designed vessels that make an appropriate background for their colors and textures. The goal is to achieve harmony between the color of the food and that of the dish in which it is served. Serving the food, like cooking it, is considered an art. It has also been said that, as a rule, round foods should be served in square vessels, and square shaped foods should be served in round vessels. Perhaps no other country uses such a wide variety of tableware as Japan. Japanese cuisine is one of the most healthiest and visually appealing foods in the world. Today, modern science is shedding new light on the nutritional and healing value of Japanese traditional foods. With Keiko's quick and easy recipes you can surely add this exceptionally wholesome and tasty food to your daily repertoire of favorite dishes.