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An Introductory Guide To Japanese Cooking

An Introductory Guide To Japanese Cooking

Authored By Emilie Wolfman

With Japan fever riding high over the last month due to the rugby world cup (lets ignore the final result please) and the Olympics round the corner, you may feel inspired to try your hand at creating a few popular Japanese dishes. 

Japanese cuisine is one of the tastiest and highly respected in the world. Many people expect japanese food to consist solely of sushi and raw fish — they would be wrong. The Japanese cuisine is vast, inventive and oh so exciting — much like the country itself. Preparing food is an artform for Japanese chefs: every step taken is like performing part of a dance routine; meticulously choreographed. If things go wrong, you risk ruining the entire performance. The proof is most definitely in the pudding, not only are Japanese dishes mindblowingly delicious but you can almost taste the pride that goes into the making of every perfectly constructed plate of food. 

Rest assured, Japanese home cooking is actually very simple and doesn’t adopt the same kind of artistic pressure, but by no means does it fall short on taste! It’s good to get the basics down first, start by introducing yourself to the unique and interesting flavours such as sesame, miso and sweet teriyaki, then have a go at some classic or more contemporary Japanese dishes.


 We’ve selected a few ingredients to look out for and suggested some tasty dishes to try making at home. Once you’ve cracked these, you’ll be hosting your own japanese dinner party by the time you can say itadakimasu (bon appetit)!

Teriyaki Sauce 

This sweet and glossy sauce was brought to Japan by Hawaian immigrants who originally used pineapples to provide the sweetness. The Japanese soon put their stamp on the recipe, replacing pineapple with mirin (sweet rice wine/ sake) and adding sugar, soy sauce and garlic.

 The ‘yaki’ in teriyaki refers to its traditional use: grilling, and is one of the most frequently used ingredients for marinating fish, meats, tofu and vegetables. Other uses include delicious stir fries and dressings.The particularly sweet flavour of teriyaki pairs very well with fresh tasting ingredients like ginger and cucumber, as well as pickles.

Miso

Miso is a fermented soy bean paste with a distinctly salty and umami rich flavour. The origins of miso date back to nearly 1,500 years ago by Chinese budhist priests who introduced it to Japan. 


Originally a prized delicacy, miso is now a kitchen staple for japanese cooking, used to make miso soup, and is the base for a range of sauces including teriyaki, ponzu and miso sauce.There are many types of miso with varying flavours and textures.


 A good rule to remember is that the darker the miso, the richer the flavour! Miso works best when paired with subtle tasting ingredients such as fish, tofu and some vegetables. Try making a miso glazed cod or miso aubergine by mixing with honey, soy sauce and a dash of mirin to really show off the caramelized miso marinade.

Goma

The Japanese like sesame, a lot. Being the largest sesame consumers in the world with nearly 160,000 tons arriving every year, i think it’s safe to say they’re big fans. Sesames are prepared in many different ways from roasting to create a distinctly nutty flavour to blending for creamy sauces, marinades and dressings. If you’ve ever tried a bento box, goma dressing is usually drizzled over salad found in the middle of the box; it’s sweet, nutty and not too overpowering!

Tempura 

Tempura was actually brought to Japan in the 16th century Edo period by Portuguese missionaries. Originally, it was green beans that were battered and fried but this soon branched out to fish, prawns and various other vegetables.


Using the right ingredients is the key to making good tempura. Root vegetables famously work well but must be sliced very finely and evenly - if not the vegetables will cook at different times! The best tempura mix will produce a light and crispy mouthful and is usually served with tsen-ton dipping sauce, grated daikon/radish and ginger to add zing. Or if you want to make the batter the real star of the show, simply sprinkle over a little salt.

Poke 

Ok, so poke (pronounced poh-kay) may not be 100% authentic as far as japanese cuisine is concerned (it’s technically a hawaiin culinary melting pot) but the evolution of poke over the years has a lot to thank for its japanese influences. The signifying flavours in the poke sauce are soy sauce, sesame oil and sometimes a hint of shichimi pepper (japanese chilli powder). Poke is also a great dish to try if you want to ease yourself into eating raw fish. 


The joys of eating poke are manifold. It’s healthy, it’s delicious but it’s also incredibly easy to make yourself! Simply cook yourself a batch of sushi rice, add your protein (traditionally ahi tuna), decorate with colourful veggies, mix in the poke sauce and sprinkle over some toppings to add texture: edamame, sesame, spring onions etc. Easy, peasy.

Gyoza 

If you’ve not already tried gyozas, make this top on your japanese food bucket list. Another dish brought over to Japan by the Chinese, gyoza are eaten all over Japan and are usually pan fried or steamed. Fillings consist of ground meat or finely chopped veggies which are wrapped in round gyoza pastry. 


These little bite-size taste sensations are surprisingly easy to make! Feastbox have an easy to follow step-by-step method and provide all the delicious ingredients you need!

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