Iconic dishes & drinks in Japan

The Japanese word for curry is Kare, and their take on curry is a golden sauce for chicken, veg,…

The Japanese word for curry is Kare, and their take on curry is a golden sauce for chicken, veg, or beef flavoured with spices and sweetened with apples. A popular version is the Katsu Curry, in which they crumb the chicken cutlets or tofu steaks and then cover them with rich curry gravy.  

When it comes to iconic dishes in Japan, many celebrate local fruits of the sea. No other cuisine celebrates seafood quite like the Japanese – from seaweed to urchins to grilled, dried, poached or even raw fish, seafood is a staple in this elegantly simple cuisine. Sushi is a work of art in itself and celebrates the natural flavour of seafood like no other. Traditionally consisting of nori seaweed sheets, sticky rice, and seafood, meat or veg in the centre then rolled in a bamboo mat to create a cylinder shape, many incarnations of this iconic dish have been created throughout the centuries. A derivative of sushi is also sashimi – pods of sticky rice topped with strips of raw fish and dipped delicately into soy and wasabi. Sushi is eaten every day and as a celebratory feast in the form of a Kaiseki. A Kaiseki is a banquet of seasonal dishes that accompanies saki and starts with miso soup, sashimi and sushi, and is followed by grilled chicken or fish, salad and rice. 

Sushi chefs train for decades to perfect the craft of preparing fish; however, one of the more complicated culinary arts of Japan is noodle making. Soba noodles made from buckwheat are the most popular throughout, and mixing, rolling and hand-cutting them takes many years to master. Using these noodles are dishes like yakisoba (stir-fried noodles) and ramen – a rich and flavourful broth loaded with noodles and either meat, seafood or tofu and adorned with things like pickled radish or soft-boiled eggs and nori. Some take anywhere from 6-15 hours to make, and when eating, slurping is encouraged! The noisier you are, the more you’re enjoying it! 

When preparing the hot main dishes of Japanese cuisine like grilled meats and fish, one of the most popular flavourings is Saikyo Yaki – a 100-year-old recipe for an all-purpose marinade of sweet miso, sake, mirin, ginger, garlic that infuses the meat with a perfectly balanced flavour and chars and caramelises on the outside when grilled.

When it comes to drinks in Japan, common alcoholic ones are sweet plum wines, fresh, bubbly larger, or clean sake. Popular non-alcoholic ones include sweet milk tea, aloe vera drink, or matcha – a milky drink made from sweetened green tea powder. This is also commonly used in ice cream as an after-dinner dessert that doubles as a digestive alongside fresh fruit. Other popular desserts include sweet crepes adorned with fruits and whipped cream, sky-high ultra-fluffy souffle pancakes, red snapper-shaped cakes filled with sweet bean paste called Taiyaki or Wagashi – sweet-filled mochi rice cakes to be eaten with jasmine or green tea.

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