About japanese cuisine (part 1)

Yield: 1 servings

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Japan has come to be recognized the world over for its nearly unrivaled level of excellence in the production of high-tech gadgets and gizmos. The attention to quality and detail in their products is truly astounding. But this attention to detail, this dedication to quality, did not begin with the production of sophisticated automobiles and electronics. Indeed, as far back as one can look into the history of this remarkable island country, evidence is readily available that the Japanese have an acute eye for detail, and a love of beauty. Perhaps one of the most pleasurable aspects of Japanese culture to illustrate this point is their cuisine. Japanese food is at once both simple and complex. Ask any native to describe traditional Japanese food, and you will surely hear words like simple and subtle. Compared to Western cuisines and those of China, Korea, and other Asian countries, Japanese food is much moremild and natural, always containing the freshest ingredients available. This is due in part to the deep respect that the Japanese have for nature.

They believe that the natural form and flavor of the ingredients should be preserved as much as possible. It is this innate wholesome quality that is drawing ever-increasing attention and popularity to this age-old cuisine. The complexity of Japanese food comes not in the actual making of each dish, but in the care that is taken both in the selection of the ingredients and in the serving of the finished product. In Japan, it is said that a truly fine meal will please not only the palate, but all of the senses: taste, sight, smell, and hearing as well. Even the texture of the food is taken into careful consideration. The cook selects the ingredients not only for the unique flavor of each, but also for the color that each will lend to the finished dish. Thus a total appreciation of the harmony of beauty and flavor may be achieved. Another consideration in the selection of ingredients is the time of year. As much as possible, Japanese cooks use fruits and vegetables that are in season at the time. Spring, for example, brings such wild plants as seri (watercress) and warabi (fern shoots) which can be readily obtained from woodlands and forests. With summer comes many garden vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, eggplants, peas, beans, and cucumbers. A wild mushroom harvest takes place in autumn when the pine forests abound with the large [1]matsutake. In the winter time, meals contain a number of root vegetables like carrots, turnips, and daikon, a large white radish. There are a number of ingredients, of course, that are available year round. Such fresh products of the sea as cod, tuna, sea bass, and yellowtail can be found on display at the fish markets any timeof the year. Other delicious items are octopus, sea urchin, and various kinds of edible seaweed. There are a number of foods that are considered staples in the Japanese diet, and these are eaten year round, as well. The first of these is, of course, rice. No Japanese meal would be complete without it. Rice plays such a central role in Japanese cuisine that the word for cooked rice, gohan, has come to mean food in the Japanese language. While a traditional Japanese meal has no matsutake designated main dish, rice is the most important food served. Side dishes are meant to complement the delicious taste of the cooked rice.

Submitted By SAM LEFKOWITZ On 08-17-95

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