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Japanese Cuisine: From Tempura to Takoyaki

Japanese food, where the dining experience is not only about the actual food consumed, but also the presentation, the design, the sheer beauty of what you’re eating. From the traditional to the modern, from the quick to the drawn-out, and from the haute to the street — with a few unusual (and necessary) ideas for limited budgets to help your yen go a bit further — this is our take on Japanese food .

Japan, where clean eating meets culinary artistry. Where raw fish and pickled vegetables sit astride seaweed strands and tempura sculptures. The place where you can eat blowfish sashimi, octopus balls and cow offal one evening, then follow it all up the next day with a 15-course meal that might qualify as one of the truly greatest eating experiences of your life. Japanese cuisine, where the food canvas employs color, where form truly follows function.

Our Japanese Food Guide allows you to learn more about the tradition and ritual behind Japanese cuisine, while also providing recommendations for Japanese dishes, sushi experiences, street food and other traditional meals so you can eat your way through Japan.

Japanese Food Components: Ritual, Rules and Tradition

In traditional Japanese cuisine, as in Japanese life, there are rules. Food rules. Meals are divided into bowls and dishes, which are then further subdivided, all in an effort to separate flavors so that they might not touch each other.

This is precision on a plate.

In Japan, aesthetic is critical, from the many porcelain plates and bowls from which you might take one meal, to the landscape of the tray upon which it is all served. There’s logic, there’s purpose in every facet of the dining experience, in each item in the meal. By design for design. Contrast this with other cuisines where large pots are shared from the middle of the table.

Japanese food is careful, that is, full of care. (We’re certain we horrified our share of hosts by sharing with each other tastes from our respective meals.)

Rice

As in other cuisine, rice is the guiding force, a requisite. In fact, the Japanese word for rice, gohan , is also the word for meal. In other words, you can’t have one without the other. Or perhaps in Japan, one is the other.

Pickled vegetables

The Japanese seem to be able to pickle just about anything and everything that grows. And they make it all taste good. Japanese picked vegetables ( tsukemono ) are to be eaten on their own or in condiment fashion. Beware: portion sizes are usually inversely related to the strength of the pickle.Their artistic arc begins with their shapes and colors accenting serving plates and bowls and ends curled astride one of your courses in complement. Perhaps best of all — and we are running on intuition here — pickled vegetables serve a function to the body in better absorbing or processing the food they are served with, balancing all the and rice, cleansing the palate between bites.

Soup

Often a miso soup, but you may also be served another lighter broth or clear soup.

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