Japanese cuisine is a comprehensive set of cooking traditions and practices found throughout the world. It is influenced by culture, geography, religion, history and locally grown ingredients. In India, it is fast becoming the preferred choice among
culinary enthusiasts, especially the young and health conscious.
Japanese cuisine has developed over the past 2,000 years with strong influences from both China and Korea. With the re-opening of Japan to the West in mid-9th century, many new cooking and eating customs were introduced – the most important being eating of meat.
Though now considered a Japanese dish, sukiyaki (a dish of beef, vegetables, tofu and other ingredients cooked at the table in a broth of soy sauce, mirin (sweet sake) and sugar, was at first served in Western-style restaurants. Another popular native dish developed in this period was tonkatsu (deep-fried breaded pork cutlets) and Japanese curry rice (kareraisu) created in the early 20th century using Indian curry powder imported from England. It became a very popular dish; it contains vegetables and meat or seafood in a thick curry sauce, served over rice.
Today, Japanese cuisine is still heavily influenced by the four seasons and geography. Seafood and vegetables are most commonly eaten. Culinary techniques, styles of eating, and attitude towards food are the foundation of modern Japanese cuisine. Its appeal lies in Tradition, Seasons, Beauty and Health. Whilst to some Westerners, the food may seem almost bland, but its freshness, presentation and balance of flavours are of paramount importance.
There are both domestic and international suppliers of equipment, utensils and authentic food ingredients (both dry purchases and perishables) to Japanese restaurants in India, due to which many restaurant chains serving Japanese food have been set up. With rising popularity of Japanese cuisine in India, many international suppliers have tied up with national vendors to cater to these restaurants. Products can be ordered online too, but most restaurants serving Japanese food try to use locally
produced seasonal vegetables, meats and seafood, which are freshly available in the market.
These restaurants usually make their menu as per the seasonal availability of fresh ingredients. Fortunately, Japanese ingredients are readily available in the market and people can prepare Japanese dishes like miso soup, sushi, tempura, etc, even at home. Ingredients like green tea, yamamomo, wasabi, mustard, etc, have also influenced other kitchens making dishes like mustard and jalapeno ice creams or wasabi and olive oil ice cream or parfait. In fact, these ingredients have given chefs a creative playground to use them in different cuisines.
Japanese food is often mentioned in connection with a healthy diet because of the large amount of fish and vegetables eaten. Even in Japanese home-style cooking, a lot of fresh, seasonal fish and vegetables are cooked and people enjoy the natural
cycle of the seasons.
Traditional Cooking Methods
Table Top Cooking: Nabe (stew), Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes), Sukiyaki and Shabu-shabu (hot pot), and Yakiniku (grilled meat) are quite popular in Japan. It’s great when there is a big group of people; everyone cooks their own food on a hot
plate/griddle/grill in the middle of the dinner table.
The 4 Principal Foods
Agemono (Fried foods): Famous dishes include Tempura, Kagiage (a batter-dipped, deep-fried patty of vegetables and shrimp), and Tonkatsu
(a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet).
Mushimono (Steamed): The celebrated dish is Chawan Mushi, an egg custard containing chicken and vegetables.
Nimono (Boiled): The best-known sub-category is Nabemono – a one-pot tabletop cookery in which the ingredients are simmered in a lightly seasoned broth, then (usually) dipped into a flavourful sauce.
Yakimono (Broiled): Some of the best-known are Yakitori (marinated skewer-broiled chicken), Teriyaki (broiled meat or fish first marinated in a sweetened sake and soy-sauce mixture), Shiitake (fish salted for an hour or two, then skewer-broiled),
and Teppan Yaki (food cooked on a small tabletop grill).
About the Author:
Chef Vaibhav Bhargav is Executive Sous Chef at Guppy by Ai, Olive Bar and Kitchen, Olive Beach and The Moving Kitchen. He has 10 years of experience in the food service industry. Prior to his current appointment, he worked with Joie de Vivre Hospitality’s restaurant LAP, and earlier, was associated with Hyatt Regency Delhi, Jaypee Group Hotels, and Grand Inter Continental, New Delhi. He is a member of Indian Culinary Forum (ICF).)