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A harmonious meal

A washoku meal follows the principle of “ichi ju san sai” or “one soup, three side dishes”.   | Photo Credit: Pixabay

When in Japan, eat like the Japanese. This means, you need to taste their centuries-old traditional, simple and healthy meal — Washoku, which means ‘Japanese cuisine’.

Interestingly, the Chinese character that denotes ‘Japanese’ also means ‘harmony’, which is the basic principle behind Washoku. Harmony of ingredients, nutrition, presentation and traditional knowledge.

A washoku meal follows the principle of “ichi ju san sai” — “one soup, three side dishes”. So, the meal consists of a bowl of rice, accompanied by miso soup — produced by fermenting soya beans, salt and other spices — and side dishes made with a variety of seasonal ingredients.

Initially, due to the Buddhist influence, meat was forbidden but later the Japanese embraced sea food, and more recently beef and pork.

A bowl of Udon noodles.

A bowl of Udon noodles.   | Photo Credit: Pixabay

On the menu

Washoku included vegetables and seafood dipped in a light batter and deep fried, famously known as tempura. Noodles — like soba (long, thin noodles made with buckwheat flour) and udon (thick and chewy white flour noodles) served in fish broth known as oden — are an inherent part of the meal.

Sushi is sea food sliced thin and either grilled or served raw.

Sushi is sea food sliced thin and either grilled or served raw.   | Photo Credit: Pixabay

Nikujaga (meat and potatoes), kabocha no nimono (pumpkin in soy sauce and dashi broth), and buri daikon are some of the dishes made using a slow-cooking technique called nimono. Other popular dishes include Sashimi (thinly sliced raw fish, sushi, tsukemono), pickled vegetables, and Yakizakana or grilled fish. Japanese cuisine avoids oil and fat, paving the way for a healthy lifestyle.

Social significance

Besides food, Washoku is also about the traditions and practice including the structure of the menu, plating, and the use of traditional cutlery. Most importantly, the meals are served with omotenashi, the country’s renowned hospitality rules.

The rice is served in a small bowl called the chawan. Each item of the main course is served in tiny plates known as sara or in a bowl known as hachi. Etiquette demands that the side dishes must be in individual plates or partitioned on a plate by leaves.

Washoku survived the radical political, social and economic changes in Japan and made it to UNESCO’s List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2013.

Fun fact: Fugu, the Japanese pufferfish, contains one of the world’s most potent toxins. Fugu chefs must be licensed to remove the potentially deadly organs. Despite the risk, around 10,000 tons of fugu is eaten annually in Japan, where it is considered a winter delicacy.

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 4:11:36 AM |

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