Japanese gastronomy

Japanese cuisine is healthy and very varied, but the majority of dishes are based on fish and seafood accompanied by rice. Rich in vitamins and omega 3, fish is a low-calorie source of protein and minerals. Its consumption reduces cardiovascular risks, which makes Japan the champion in the number of centenarians (especially in Okinawa).

Main dishes

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There are several kinds of sushi:

Nigiri sushi: rice balls on which are placed slices of fish or seafood (tuna, cuttlefish, octopus, sea bream, shrimp, etc.) glued with wasabi (green mustard). Sushi is to be dipped in shoyu, soy sauce. Some fish used for sushi: prawns (ebi), tuna (maguru), salmon (sake), scallops (hotatagai), octopus (tako), eel (unagi), conger eel (anago), white fish (shiromi ), amberjack (boh-sushi).

Maki sushi: rice and fish or omelet rolled in a sheet of "nori" seaweed. We use for its preparation a bamboo mat, the makisu. There are several types of maki; temaki sushi (cone-shaped maki), sakamaki (inverted rolls), and futomaki (large rolls).

California rolls or California maki are very popular sakamaki in the USA, consisting of a seaweed sheet inside, containing cucumber, crab (or surimi), avocado and sprinkled with seeds on the outside of sesame.


These are raw slices of fish, cuttlefish or shrimp to be dipped in shoyu sauce. The preparation of sashimi requires a clean and clean cut, for this the use of Japanese steel hochos with a very tapered triangular blade is necessary.

The tempura

Tempura are typically Japanese: they are ingredients dipped in a kind of light batter then fried in oil. These are usually seafood (prawn, prawn, squid, scallop, sea eel, crab) or vegetables (green pepper, kabocha squash, eggplant, carrot, sweet potato, potato, renkon which is a root lotus, shiitake mushroom, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, broccoli, zucchini and asparagus).

Tempura is often served with grated white radish and dipped in soy sauce. The dough that covers them before baking is made of water, flour and eggs. Pieces of fish or vegetables are dipped in flour, then in batter, and deep-fried for 2 or 3 minutes.

Agemono is a dish made of tempura.

Tempura recipe

Ingredients :

150ml cold water

1 egg yolk

1 cup flour

sunflower oil and a little sesame oil

prawns, pieces of fish or vegetables

Recipe :

Arrange the ingredients on a plate and sprinkle with flour. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, flour and water until smooth.

Preheat the oil to 160/165°C. Dip the ingredients in the batter then immerse them in the oil bath, turn them over until golden brown then place them on absorbent paper.

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In Japanese cuisine, a teriyaki dish is grilled or roasted meat or fish in a soy sauce sweetened with mirin. The result looks like lacquered meat or fish.

The yakitori

They are in fact skewers cooked on a grill and which can also be made up of quail wings, beef, mushrooms, quail eggs, pork with cheese… all skewered on skewers called kushi. Traditional yakitori are only made with pieces of chicken and vegetables. Yakitori are typically served with salt, shichimi (7 spice blend) or sauce, which is made from mirin, sweet sake, soy sauce and sugar.

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It is a popular and quickly prepared snack; onigiri is a rice ball often shaped like a triangle or oval wrapped in sheets of dried nori seaweed. The middle is topped with extremely salty umeboshi pickled plums or other ingredients like grilled fish, salmon, tuna, or other salty or sour ingredient. The Japanese consider it as a snack that can be eaten for example during a picnic or at any time of the day.

The nimono

Nimono is a dish simmered in a spicy broth containing mirin, dashi sauce, sake or soy sauce. The dish is ready when the ingredients have absorbed all the broth.

The nimono allows many possibilities since you can use all kinds of vegetables or meats.

Nimono recipe

Ingredients :

dried shiitake mushrooms


kombu seaweed

dried bonito flakes

sake, soy, mirin

Recipe :

Soak the mushrooms in water and set aside. When they are tender, cut them into pieces and do the same with the carrots.

Prepare the dashi broth. In a saucepan over high heat, combine the kombu with two cups of water, bring to a boil and let sit off the heat. Remove the kombu and add the bonito shavings to the broth, brought back to the boil, then leave to infuse for a few more minutes. Filter and mix with the mushroom soaking juice.

In a large saucepan, place all the cut vegetables, the dashi broth and add the sake when everything is boiling. Add the soy sauce and reduce over medium heat until the vegetables are tender and the liquid has almost evaporated (about 30 min). Off the heat, add the mirin, mix and serve.

The teppanyaki

It is a type of Japanese cuisine where a hot plate is used to cook food.

The ingredients traditionally used for teppanyaki are beef, shrimp, scallops, chicken, and different vegetables.

Soybean oil is used for cooking. It is the chains of Japanese restaurants that are at the origin of this style of cuisine and its show side: the chef who officiates in front of the guests engages in various acrobatic exercises, such as juggling with his utensils.


The donburimono is a large bowl of rice, on which are placed tempura, braised eel, egg, chicken, breaded pork, onions... There is a wide variety of donburi.


Okonomiyaki is like a thick pancake/omelet/pizza. We mix flour, water, eggs, vegetables, seafood and meat (you can put many ingredients according to your taste) which we then cook in a pan, all sprinkled the famous Okonomi sauce made from a mixture of sake vinegar, honey and mashed vegetables.

The pancake is served as is or with chopped green onions (negikake). Even without its fancy garnish, okonomiyaki is truly scrumptious with a simple green seaweed seasoning and sauce.

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the nabe

Nabe or nabemono (pot in literal translation) is a winter family dish in Japan prepared in a pot. Nabemono is the generic term for anything boiled in a pot or pan.

There are many variations. On a table stove, we prepare a soup – the simplest being just water, often with fish broth, or konbu (dried seaweed) – in a large pot.

According to preferences, we cook together Chinese cabbage, kuzukiri (kuzu noodles, transparent), tofu, itokonnyaku or shirataki (white vermicelli), kinoko (mushrooms), fish, oysters, and fine slices of meat (beef, pork) in the pot.

The most famous nabemono are the following:

   - The shabushabu which is a Japanese fondue of superior quality beef, cut into very thin strips and immersed for a few seconds in very hot broth. Onions, Chinese cabbage, tofu, mushrooms, carrots and pasta are also cooked in the broth.

  - The sukiyaki composed of meat and vegetables sautéed on a hot plate. It would correspond to a kind of fondue but with soy instead of cheese.

The accompaniment

Gohan (rice)

Rice is the staple food of the Japanese. It is consumed at any time of the day in many variations.

Cooked Japanese rice is sticky so it can be easily eaten with chopsticks. On the other hand, mochi rice is coarser and stickier than normal Japanese rice. It takes the name of omochi when it becomes a rice cake.

Menrui (noodles)

Term grouping together all the thin or thick Japanese pasta served hot or cold. The Japanese prefer pasta called soba (thin and brown made from buckwheat), udon (white and thick, served cold), somen (white and thin) and harusame.


Tofu is prepared from soybeans (Soybean curd) and has practically no taste. On the other hand, it easily takes that of the ingredients with which it is prepared. It is particularly popular as a meat substitute in vegetarian dishes due to its high protein content.


Wasabi is a typical Japanese spice. Peeled and grated, the root is used as a spice in many dishes. Fresh wasabi is very expensive and very rarely found. Wasabi being a very spicy spice, it should be used sparingly.



Nori are the sheets of a variety of tender seaweed that are dried by grilling them. Nori deliciously spice up fried dishes, soups and fish dishes. Nori are essential in many varieties of maki sushi. Other varieties of fucus are used in Japanese cuisine, such as wakame, hijiki, konbu.


Hijiki or hiziki is a brown seaweed resembling pasta (whose edible part is boiled to release the tannin and dried to crumble the leaves into filaments). This seaweed is used in Japanese cuisine in soups, sandwiches, salads, pancakes or as a condiment.

There are two kinds of hijiki on the market: mehijiki (small and with pointed ends) and nagahijiki (long and thick). They can be steamed, fried or simmered. In Japan, seaweed is commonly eaten. But due to its high inorganic arsenic content compared to other edible seaweed, consumers are advised to avoid consuming hijiki. In France, hijiki are marketed instead as bath salts.


Shoyu is a Japanese soy sauce made from the four basic ingredients: soybeans, wheat seeds, water and salt. In Japan, it is of course on all the tables in the same way as pepper and salt in our country.


Mirin is a sweet rice liquor that is used for cooking but not suitable as a drink. It gives cooked dishes a sweet taste and a delicate aroma.


This Japanese rice vinegar is very mild. It is essential for sushi but is also gladly used for sauces and seasonings. This vinegar stimulates the appetite, reduces the bitter taste of vegetable roots, has a preservative power and prevents discoloration of food.

Miso (misoshiru)

Miso soup is very popular in Japan and is eaten with every meal. The main ingredient is miso, a fermented and salted soy bean paste. Accompanied by tofu and wakame seaweed, green onion, dashi (bonito seaweed broth) and sake or mirin, miso soup is the typical dish of Japanese cuisine.

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Nanakusa Gayu; the 7 herbs

The Seven Herb Festival is a very old Japanese custom of eating a seven herb kayu on January 7 (Jinjitsu).

Nanakusa are seven wild edible spring grasses. Traditionally, these are:

    Oenanthe (seri, Oenanthe javanica)
    Shepherd's purse (nazuna, Capsella bursa-pastoris)
    Gnaphalium (gogyo, Gnaphalium affine)
    Chickweed (hakobera, Stellaria media)
    Lampsane common (hotokenoza, Lapsana apogonoides)
    Turnip (suzuna)
    Daikon (suzushiro, Raphanus sativus var. longipinnatus)

There are many variations.

On the morning of January 7, or the day before, we place the nanakusa, the rice spatula, and/or a mortar on the cutting board and, facing the direction of luck, we sing "Before the birds of the continent fly off to Japan" while finely chopping the herbs.

Matsutake, autumn mushroom

Matsutake (in Japanese 松茸, pine mushroom, Tricholoma Matsutake) is the common name of a mushroom, which grows in Asia, Scandinavian Europe and North America, highly prized by the Japanese. Matsutake grows under specific trees, with which it establishes a symbiotic relationship at the root level.

The drinks

The Japanese are big consumers of beer, but also of whiskey and wine that they produce on the archipelago. Sake is a generic term that includes all alcoholic beverages, the word sake in the West is used to name rice alcohol, Nihonshu, a kind of Japanese rice beer of 16° on average. Japanese brandy made from rice is called shoshu.

Japanese beers

The Japanese have been brewing traditional beers such as sake for centuries, but it is only since the 19th century that Western beers have been brewed there. Today Japan is not only a very big consumer, but also a very big producer of beer.

The origin of Japanese beer dates back to the Edo Period when the Dutch opened bars for sailors who worked on the trade route between Japan and the Dutch Empire and it was not until the end of the 19th century. century, during commercial exchanges with Germany and the USA, that industrial breweries were born.

    Sapporo settled in 1877 (札幌?, 14.6% of the market) in Sapporo;
    Kirin (キリン?, 34.4% of the market) in Tokyo in 1887,
    Asahi (朝日?, 39.5% of the market and 9th worldwide) in 1889
    Suntory (サントリー?, 10% of the market) in 1899 in Osaka
    Orion (オリオン?, 0.8% market share) in Okinawa in 1957.

These beers are exported mostly to Southeast Asia and their factories are spreading all over the world. Since 1994, with the relaxation of the laws on alcohol and in particular on the quantity in volume produced (60,000 liters instead of 2,000,000), a certain number of microbreweries producing "regional beer" called ji or chi bīru appeared on the market.

Beer, although heavily taxed (45.1%, one of the highest in the world, for example 15 times higher than in Germany in 2008), ranks first in the alcohol market in Japan.

Green tea

Tea “tea” or “Japanese tea” (nihoncha) is the Japanese drink par excellence. The Japanese have been drinking tea several times a day for several centuries and intensively since the Edo era, when Sadô (the art of tea) was born. Despite a decline in its consumption over the past twenty years, tea is making a strong comeback thanks to scientific studies promoting it and new packaging. Green tea is an unfermented tea unlike black tea (fermented) and oolung (semi-fermented).

Green tea (ryokucha) is ubiquitous in Japan. There are great disparities in price and quality in Japanese productions. Nevertheless, the most famous Japanese green tea would be that of the Uji region of Kyoto. Shizuoka Prefecture is also famous for its green tea.

Green tea has several active elements that are very beneficial to health:
- Catechin, recognized for its preventive action against cancer and possessing an antibacterial action.
- Vitamin C which stimulates the nervous system and fights fatigue.
- The amino acid or theine stimulating the cerebral system.

Here are some varieties of Japanese green tea

The most common sencha (80% of Japanese green tea). It is a little bitter and sweet, fresh and invigorating due to its vitamin C and catechin (antioxidant) content. It is recommended during work breaks for its relaxing effect and for helping with concentration.

Gyokuro: three weeks before harvesting, the leaves are deprived of sunlight, promoting the development of caffeine and chlorophyll by photosynthesis. This is what gives it this particular color, this taste so fine, so sweet and so concentrated.

Hojicha: To make it, sencha or gyokuro is roasted at high temperature. Without harshness or bitterness, it has a very pleasant fragrance and a very light taste. It's low in caffeine and tannins, so it's low in stimulation and gentle on the stomach. It is appreciated with meals for its refreshing effect and in the evening, before sleeping, for its soothing effect.

Bancha is harvested in autumn and is the most basic quality of Japanese green teas. Its leaves are very wide and the cup is powerful. Although not lacking in character, its flavor is less delicate than a sencha. It is also less rich in vitamins. Bancha is generally too "bitter" for Japanese green tea neophytes and of little interest to connoisseurs.

Genmaicha (“brown rice tea”) is the Japanese name for green tea combined with toasted brown rice. It is sometimes colloquially referred to as "popcorn tea" because some grains of the rice pop off during roasting and look like popcorn. This type of tea was originally drunk by the poor Japanese, as the rice compensated for the lack of tea, which reduced the price of tea; today it is drunk by all segments of society. Its flavor is sweet and pleasant and combines the grassy and fresh flavor of green tea with the nutty flavor of rice.

Matcha: for its manufacture, we use the same leaves as for Gyokuro, only the treatment changes. The veins and stems are removed from the leaves, then the rest of the leaves are crushed into a jade-colored powder. It is the most beneficial tea for health since it is the reduced leaf, and not an infusion, which is consumed. It is particularly rich in vitamins and carotene.

Kukicha means "stem tea" because this green tea from Japan, naturally low in theine, is traditionally made of stems (called "kuki") from the tea plant. Made up of four tea pickings, kukicha imparts a powerful and refreshing taste, with an aftertaste reminiscent of maki seaweed.

Mecha is made from tea buds selected during the preparation of sencha or gyokuro. Very strong, it is more effective than coffee to keep you awake.