What is the first thing that comes to your mind when someone says Japanese food? Sushi? No doubt it's one of the most famous dishes of the cuisine but there's more to Japanese food than just that. Simple, minimal, refined and vibrant —these are some adjectives we associate with this cuisine. The emphasis is on fresh ingredients, of which the chefs and cooks retain as much of the original flavours and textures.
You can’t talk about Japanese food and not mention sushi. It’s amazing how this humble dish evolved from a mere method of preserving fish to being a symbol of Japanese cuisine, all across the planet.
Aromatic balls of sticky rice adorned with seaweed and sliced fish, this healthy dish is more diverse than what one can think. Traditionally, there are four types of sushi: nigiri which is small balls of rice shrouded with fish; gunkar, a cup-like sushi made of dried seaweed and rice; norimaki is sticky rice and fish or vegetable roll; and temaki, a hand-rolled sushi in a conical shape.
Try the sushi at at Sushi Koi, Umame and San Qui in Mumbai; at Shizusan and Koji in Pune; Mekong, Collage and Jonathan's Kitchen in Hyderabad; Benihana, Kyoto, Ichiban and Wasabi by Morimoto - Taj Mahal Hotel in Delhi; at Fuji and The Sushi Oke in Kolkata; at the Pan Asian- ITC Grand Chola in Chennai and Harima in Bengaluru.
Ever heard of Japanese pancakes? Yes, they’re real and delicious too! Okonomiyaki literally translates to ‘what you liked grilled’ and it can safely be called the Japanese equivalent of a pancake.
A dish that originally started as a dessert made for Buddhist ceremonies , Funoyaki in the 1600s has come a long way to being a savoury pancake. Loaded with meat, veggies and seafood, with a liberal use of sauces, it makes for a flavourful and filling mini-meal.
If you think fried food is greasy, you should get your hands on a plate of tempura — fritters of meat or vegetables made in a light batter.
The finesse in making a plateful involves ensuring the oil is at the correct temperature, so the inside is cooked well whilst the batter outside stays crispy. Light on the palate, a well-made tempura is nothing like the greasy fried chicken you get at fast food joints. And it is delicious!
Bite into crispy tempura at Kofuku, Shiro and Sushi Koi in Mumbai; Shizusan in Pune; Benihana and Ichiban in Delhi; The Co. by Wok Anthems — Dee Empresa Hotel and Fuji at Kolkata; Sushi In A Box at Chennai; Harima in Bengaluru.
What do you crave when it is cold and dark outside? A comforting bowl of broth with noodles. Udon is a thick wheat noodle usually served in a broth with tempura. It is a Japanese favourite and it’s just as comforting in India too!
Does the thought of eating raw seafood make you cringe? Have a look at a well-made Sashimi plate and you’ll fall in love with it. Sashimi is raw or blanched seafood thinly sliced and served with dipping sauces. The chefs who make sashimi do so with great care to ensure no bones remain as the dish and there's nothing fishy about it!
Who says war only makes history? Sometimes, it also gives rise to good food. At the time of the Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese soldiers during their occupation of Manchuria, adopted the Chinese Jioazi dumpling and brought it back home. That’s where the classic Japanese gyoza hail from. Usually filled with seasoned minced meat, this bundle of goodness can be made three ways: Yaki Gyoza (pan-fried), Sui Gyoza (boiled/steamed) and Age Gyoza (deep fried).
Translated as grilled chicken on a stick, yakitori is a bar favourite. Juicy succulent pieces of chicken are seasoned with salt, skewered and grilled. It isn’t only a delicious bar nibble, it doubles up as a snack on-the-go too!
With the passage of time, Japanese food has evolved and for everybody who thinks lunch boxes are boring, you’ve probably never heard of a Bento Box. Healthy and delicious, it is a flavourful ensemble of meat, seafood, vegetables, rice and pickles. Covering almost all the food groups, this isn’t only a nutritious meal — it is a visual treat too!
The word teppanyaki means 'grilling on an iron plate'; it may seem simple, but don't be misled! Chefs exhibit their art in a live kitchen with a culinary-theatrical performance with staples such as soba or udon and meat. Just like gyoza, teppanyaki is a recent addition to the cuisine — just after World War II with the advent of the Japanese steakhouse.
Savour this performance in Mumbai at San Qui, Kofuku and Wasabi by Morimoto; in Delhi at Ichiban; in Kolkata at Pan Asian — ITC Sonar and Zen — The Park; Sushi Box at Chennai; in Bengaluru at Edo – ITC Gardenia.
Just when you thought that you knew Japanese cuisine, you have another chapter to learn. Katsu is similar to a cutlet or a schnitzel. Thick cuts of meat, usually pork, are breaded and deep fried. Served in a rice bowl (katsudon), as a sandwich (katsu sudon) or with curry (kare katsu), but it can be savoured just as it is with coleslaw too!
With inputs from Husein Upletawala. Images for representational purposes only. Photo credits: Cryselle D'souza
Updated Date: Jan 29, 2017 09:48 AM