The cuisine of every place in the world is one of the reasons for this trip. Who really knows me, knows my passion for food, and we could not leave Japan, without mention our experience with the many different types of food we have tried here.
The food in Japan goes far beyond to the sushi and sashimi, each region has a typical food, sometimes the dishes are the same, but sometimes, the way to prepare is different. Unfortunately, it was not possible to try everything, but you can find street food in every corner.
The basis of Japanese food is the rice, Gohan as it is called, we were able to cycle through many rice fields all over the country, it is the type of food, that you will always have a meal and available to order at a restaurant, even if you have not ordered a dish that contains rice. It is served without any type of seasoning, cooked only in water, there are several types of seasonings for rice, of the most varied flavors, it is a dry seasoning, where you can only add after the rice is ready and cold. In addition to the traditional way to prepare, it can be found as a cake, which is made from a specific type of rice, it is a rice cake, can be sweet or salty, it is difficult to explain the texture of this cake, looks like a texture of a dough, the name in Japanese is Mochi, can be with or without a filling, sweet or salty, the sweet version, it is common to find the filling of sweet bean. They use a bean called Azuki, which is a red bean, they cook the beans and then it is macerated with sugar.
THE JAPANESE RAMEN
The Ramen came from China originally, being brought to Japan by the Chinese and became popular after the Second World War. Because of the lack of food in Japan, the United States sent tons of wheat to feed the population, and it was here that the Japanese government encouraged the production of wheat noodles, the Ramen became a cheap alternative food to use low-cost ingredients such as vegetables, chicken feet and carcasses and lots of water.
What is Ramen? It is a bowl with hot broth and noodles, the broth is the Ramen flavor, the traditional way to prepare the broth is to use chickens and chickens bones and vegetables cooked in a low temperature to obtain a broth full of flavor.
The toppings should be fresh ingredients, using seasonal and local produce. You can use vegetables and meats. Each restaurant has a basic composition, usually containing pork, egg, and chives. Also can be used bamboo shoot, nori (dried seaweed), a sprout of soybeans and seafood. To have a very good broth, you should have eggs and pork cooked or roasted for long hours. Usually, they use the pancetta, the sirloin, the rib and the shank are used.
Some Japanese foods are prepared in a different ways according to each region, and the Ramen is one of them, and we tried the Ramen in Fukuoka. I ordered a traditional one, which was pork, the broth tasted light but at the same time very tasty and the egg was perfect. Felippe ordered a different one, of minced beef, with a broth slightly different from the traditional, more reddish.
THE JAPANESE PANCAKE, OKONOMIYAKI
Okonomiyaki is a very popular food in Japan. Brazilians often called The Japanese Pancake. But the origin of the name is Okonomi what you like or want and yaki grilled or fried. There are also different versions of the Okonomiyaki, in Osaka for example, it looks more like a pancake, there is also another version in Hiroshima, which they added fried noodles as well.
The dough is made with flour, eggs, water and chopped cabbage. It is topped with chives, onion, beef, bacon, cheese, octopus, squid, shrimp, vegetables and mayonnaise on the top. Another thing that you should include is the Okonomiyaki sauce, which the basis is of shoyu, english sauce, tomato extract, sugar, salt, and pepper.
We have tried the two versions, Hiroshima and Osaka style, particularly as we prefer the Osaka one, as it has fewer ingredients and is tastier. The difference between one and the other is only the fried noodles, Osaka is just the dough, with the toppings, which it can be beef, pork, seafood or vegetables. The Hiroshima style that we tried, it was with vegetables and bacon, and the Osaka style, it was with beef.
Takoyaki is a ball-shaped Japanese snack, the dough is made with flour, water, eggs, dashi broth, which is cooked in a special molded pan. It is typically filled with minced or diced octopus, tenkasu (tempura scraps), chopped chives, benishouga (red pickled ginger) and small prawns. To turn in the ball-shaped, they use a metal toothpick, and the goal is for them to be crunchy outside and creamy inside. It is topped with nori, mayonnaise and a special takoyaki sauce, which the base is of ketchup, english sauce, shoyu sauce and sugar.
It is considered as a snack, it is a popular street food and is easy to find on the streets food markets, supermarkets and food courts in Japan. It is common to cook at home, which was our case, we tried the Takoyaki in Osaka, one of the regions of the Takoyaki, we had a lot of fun preparing. The taste of Takoyaki is unique, incredible and tasty, the octopus and the dry shrimp, makes the flavor even more intense and the mayonnaise and the sauce gives the final touch.
The Japanese dumpling is a kind of stuffed cake with vegetables and/or meat, which can be fried or steamed. It is original from China, but Japan has adopted it very well.
The dumpling has a filling with minced meat (preferably pork), chinese cabbage, sesame oil, oyster sauce, shoyu sauce, sake, chicken broth, ginger, and garlic. The shape is similar to a ravioli and the sauce that is served together is the ponzu sauce, based on shoyu, lemon, and orange.
We cooked the dumpling at home, we prepared the filling and the dough it was a ready one, that can be found in the supermarkets, the base of the dough is of flour and hot water. It can be steamed or fired, we prefer the fried version.
Tonkatsu in Japanese is the pork cullet, it is a dish of Japanese cuisine, and one of the most popular in Japan. Which consists of a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet, usually served with chopped cabbage and/or miso soup.
We tried the Tonkatsu in Tokyo,this is an easy dish to find at the convenience stores and even at the supermarkets. It is a good for those who like fried pork, as it has a very striking flavor. I would like to talk also, about the miso soup, which is one of Tonkatsu’s sides.
The miso soup, in Japanese, is misoshiru, it is a dish of Japanese cuisine, consumed daily by the Japanese. It is usually prepared with soy, hondashi, tofu, chives, sometimes other vegetables. The misoshiru is served before the main course and should be consumed hot. This soup is a basic dish of Japanese cuisine, served at breakfast, lunch or dinner, always as a side by other dishes, such as rice. The word misoshiru is meant fermented soy broth, consisting of two words where miso means fermented soy and shiru broth.
We ate quite a lot of miso soup, during our journey in Japan, especially at breakfast, when we were staying in some places.
Udon is one of the most representative dishes of Japanese cuisine, which is white noodles made from the mixture of wheat flour, salt, and water. It is a thick noodle in a bowl, with hot or cold broth, and covered with different ingredients. The broths are based on katsuobushi (dried bonito, which is a fish) and shoyu. The seasoning is shitimi tougarashi (7 types of spices). One of the versions of this dish, says that a Buddhist monk brought the Udon from China in 806 to Kagawa, a province located on the island of Shikoku. According to another version, the Udon comes from Muginawa, a type of fine white pasta, made from wheat flour, rice flour, and salt.
It is possible to buy pre-cooked udon noodles in the supermarkets. Its cooking is fast, but it is necessary to follow the instructions at the back, since the preparation time can vary according to each brand. There are several ways to have udon, but one of the most traditional ways, especially in summer, is to consume it dipped in an ice-cold broth. But there is also the hot broth, which was how we tried. It was on a cold and rainy day, the Udon is not an expensive dish. The version we tried, it was with seafood and lots of chives.
TEMAKI, SUSHI AND SASHIMI
The Japanese people usually eat Temaki at home, where everything is prepared at the table and each one prepares your own temaki. Te means hand and Maki roll. It is possible to find temaki in the supermarkets, at the delicatessen, not always, but we saw few times available for sale.
The sushi and the sashimi, as anywhere in the world, it is very expensive, raw fish is unique anywhere in the world, and in Japan is no different, the value varies according to the fish, the tuna is the most expensive fish. Like the temaki, it is possible to find sushi and sashimi to sell at the supermarkets, with the option of buying the piece of fish or even already cut into slices, the quality is good and the price is affordable. The Japanese do not have the habit of going out to a restaurant to eat sashimi, because it is very expensive, they usually buy at the supermarket and eat at home.
The sushi is different because besides of the option to buy at the supermarkets and the convenience stores, there are several sushi restaurants, where the small plates are passing in front of you and you choose what to eat. This is a good option to eat sushi, you will pay for what you chose to eat and the quality of the fish is always very good and fresh. We had the opportunity to go to sushi place twice, and n the quality and taste of the fish in Japan is unique and incomparable.
The variety of seafood in Japan is large, we could see fish on the street markets, a lot o seafood such as octopus, squid, scallop, urchin, crab, fish eggs and oysters. We were able to tried in Hokkaido, which was freshly taken from the inside of the aquarium and prepared in front of us.
We had already eaten scallops other times, but they were not fresh, it was frozen, the taste and the size it was incomparable. We did not add any type of seasoning, it was cooked in the barbecue, the water inside of the shell is enough to increase the flavor, we added only a little bit of butter, which the flavor, this was one of the most delicious things we eat in Japan.
Tempura is one of the many popular dishes in Japan, the recipe was brought by Portuguese Jesuits in the middle of the 16th century. On the Catholic tradition, you should not eat red meat during of the Lent, and the vegetables and seafood tempura have become an alternative food for the missionaries.
The origin of the name tempura is still controversial. Some say it is originated from “Tempora,” a Latin word that translates as a period of time and probably referred to the 40 days of the Lent. Others say that tempura came from the Portuguese word, that means seasoning.
The Japanese people liked quite a lot this dish and it has become one of the most classic dishes of Japanese cuisine. The Japanese have changed the recipe, the dough is thinner on the Japanese version, using lighter oil and adding more vegetables, until getting to the dish we know today. Became very popular when they started to sell on the streets and nowadays there are even restaurants specialized in tempura.
The tempura can be made with different vegetables and seafood, the secret is in the dough, which is made with wheat flour, ice water, ice cubes and a pinch of salt, the secret of the dough is not to mix too much and keep it ice-cold.
We had the opportunity to make the tempura at home with our dear #warmshowers friends, they lived on a farm we went together to harvest some vegetables. We made the batter and then fried, it got amazing.