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They are typically smaller and less flavorful than the ones in peak season. Appreciating hashiri has been a custom in Japan since the Edo period beginning in AD, and continues to this day. Japanese have a deep awareness of seasonality, embedded in living traditions of kisetsu-kan sensing of the season. Kisetsu-kan goes well beyond appreciating seasonal foods. These traditions mark turning of the seasons. They also serve as reminders that nature is kind and will continue to provide for us. Your email address will not be published. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Seasonality shun Seasonality is a cornerstone of the Japanese diet, one of the most sophisticated culinary traditions is the world. Here are a few examples: Matsutake mushrooms are eagerly awaited in the fall, and restaurants design special menus around them. Akajiso Red Shiso in June. About Latest Posts. Yoshi is a contributing editor for Miyazaki Whispers. Yoshi's interests are Japanese and western cuisine and kimono art.

Tags: Japanese traditions , seasonality in Japan. Almost without exception, those called for are readily available in most large supermarkets or Asian grocery stores; in the rare case they are not, suitable substitutes have been given. Those of you already familiar with Japanese and Korean cuisine will, I hope, find recipes to interest and excite you in these pages; and I think you will be tempted to explore dishes with which you are less well acquainted.

For those of you who are coming to Japanese and Korean cooking for the first time, I have taken care to make sure the essential steps are clear and precise, with detailed instructions on the following pages for cooking the much-used ingredients such as rice, noodles and chilli , and pointers on how to joint a chicken, portion fish and select and season a wok. For most recipes, the names have been given in the dominant or most common language or dialect of the country concerned, followed by the English name in italics.

Japan Japanese food stands apart from all other Asian food because of its simplicity and purity. To those brought up in a tradition of cooking that prides itself on subtle sauces or spice blends that tantalise and defy analysis, this sparseness of seasoning may come as something of a surprise. But once Japanese food has been approached without prejudice, and sampled with good appetite and an open mind, it wins admirers from all culinary backgrounds. Nothing in any other cuisine approaches the silkiness of pale pink salmon or buttery tuna belly toro sashimi.

It has to be experienced to be believed. And it goes without saying that any seafood for sashimi needs to be premium quality and super fresh. There are no strong, fishy tastes because only the choicest portions of the freshest fish are used. It is a dish for the connoisseur with a discerning palate, the dipping sauces of soy and wasabi and perhaps a shiso leaf adding flavour without masking the taste of the fish itself. What is the special quality of Japanese cooking? Is it the beautiful presentation?

Is it the small quantities in which food is served so that one appreciates the appearance, aroma, taste and texture in a special way? I think it is all these — and a certain attitude that the Japanese have towards food. It is considered not only fuel for the body but also food for the soul. There is as much attention given to the right bowl or plate on which to present the food, and the arrangement of the food on that plate, as to the preparation of the food itself.

The surroundings in which a meal is eaten are also carefully chosen so that a peaceful atmosphere prevails. An alcove in the room will provide a setting for a simple ikebana arrangement. A Japanese meal should be an experience for all the senses. Great emphasis is placed on freshness, quality and foods in season. Japanese cooks shop every day so they are certain of the freshness of ingredients. The first of any seasonal food is always greatly prized, and they are prepared to pay high prices for the privilege of tasting the first strawberries, matsutake mushrooms or other seasonal treats.

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Comparing Japanese cooking with other Asian cooking, another difference is that most traditional Japanese cooking is done in or over water, while other cuisines use oil as a cooking medium. Water-based cooking gives a lightness and delicacy of flavour that is most appealing.

Steaming means that the pure flavours of the food and most of the nutrient value are retained. Similarly, katsuobushi, dried, smoked and thinly shaved bonito, delivers an intriguing complexity to the stocks and sauces it is simmered in. Toasted nori, a great favourite in Japan, is prized for its strong flavour. Wakame, a seaweed popular in soups and other simmered dishes, has an unmistakably marine smell and taste.

Seaweed salad may not sound appetising, but the finely shredded bright green sea vegetable, tossed in a delicious dressing that includes sesame oil, mirin, rice vinegar and shoyu Japanese soy sauce , packs a flavour punch and a tender crunch unlike anything else I have tasted. Tofu or soy bean curd, low in kilojoules calories and high in protein, is a mainstay of the Japanese diet. It is served at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Its flavour is so delicate that it might be mistaken for a custard that is neither sweet nor savoury, but once someone takes a liking to this food, it becomes almost a fetish. Miso fermented soy bean paste and shoyu are two more soy bean products that are fundamental to Japanese cuisine. Japanese soy sauce is the most universally used seasoning and who, having savoured the wonderful difference it makes to all kinds of food, would be content to do without it? Perhaps the best feature of Japanese food is that it is so light. Even deep-fried foods such as tonkatsu or tempura are renowned for their lightness.

Tempura batter is feather-light and so thin that it is almost transparent, providing a crisp coating that helps the food cook both in the hot oil and in its own steam within the fragile batter covering. Pure vegetable oil is used for frying, and is usually a mixture of different oils such as corn oil, olive oil and a proportion of sesame oil for flavour. It is heated to just the right temperature to keep fried food digestible and non-greasy.

On days when, as Catholics, they were forbidden to eat meat, they asked for prawns shrimp fried in batter. What the Japanese did with the basic idea was to refine it, create a batter of exquisite lightness and make the cooking and serving of it a triumph of splitsecond timing. Th is changes with the seasons. A seasonal motif, such as a slice of carrot shaped like a blossom in springtime, or in autumn carved to resemble a maple leaf, reflects a changing of moods. Summer foods, cool and light, are set off by green leaves and delicate plates, while winter brings on steaming nabemono foods such as shabu-shabu and sukiyaki, to be cooked and eaten at the table.

Even the plates and dishes for serving and eating are chosen for their seasonal suitability. Th is awareness of the changing of the seasons permeates Japanese culture and thinking, and the choice and presentation of food.

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The Japanese word for this seasonal feeling is kisetsukan. It is virtually impossible for someone who has not lived in Japan and experienced this first-hand to understand and express this heightened awareness. But happily it is possible, without too much trouble, to cook Japanese food and enjoy it. Great importance is attached to the cooking of rice, for if there is one thing the Japanese home cook must be able to do, it is to cook rice and cook it perfectly.

Nowadays, automatic rice cookers are widely used, but for centuries rice was cooked without these modern marvels and has always been cooked well. The absorption method is used; though slightly different from the methods used in other Asian countries, the recipe on page 17 is simple and always gives good results. Gohan Cooked rice Serves: 6 White rice cooked by the absorption method is the staple food of Japan, and short- or medium-grain varieties are preferred.

Rice is made up into other dishes with vegetables, fish or meat but most often it is served as the mainstay of the meal with which other dishes are eaten. An automatic rice cooker, which ensures perfectly cooked rice every time, is almost an essential kitchen appliance, but just as reliable is this traditional method. Wash the rice well and drain in a colander for 30 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and steam for 15 minutes without lifting the lid. Turn the heat to high for 20 seconds still with the pan covered, remove the pan from the heat and allow to stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Dipping a rice paddle in cold water before each serving prevents cooked rice grains sticking to it. Musubi Rice balls Makes: 4 Rice balls are usually taken on picnics and are sometimes fi lled with pieces of raw or smoked fish. They may also be very simply flavoured with sesame seeds or seaweed. If using fish, push a strip into the centre of each rice ball, moulding the rice around it. Roll the rice balls lightly in gomashio or powdered nori to coat. Uramaki California rolls Makes: about 8 Th is is an inside out sushi roll — the seaweed, which encloses a fi lling, is wrapped in rice then coated with caviar.

I think I like flying fish roe tobiko best for its resilient crunch. The tiny eggs literally pop between the teeth. Toast the nori sheets over an open flame or place under a hot grill broiler until crisp. Lay a sheet of nori on the bamboo mat and cover with a thin layer of sushi rice. Flip the seaweed over, rice side down, on the mat. Arrange slices of avocado lengthways along the centre of the nori.

Squeeze a little Japanese mayonnaise in a line alongside the avocado and top with the crabmeat. Roll up, starting at the edge nearest you, by lifting the mat to get it started and continue rolling away from you, peeling back the mat as you go. Coat the finished roll in caviar, pressing it on firmly until it sticks to the rice.

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Cut each roll into slices to reveal the contrasting colours. Serve cold. To make the chicken filling, put the chicken, shoyu, mirin and sugar into a separate bowl. Squeeze in the juice from the ginger, discarding the fibres.

Stir well to combine. Heat a few drops of the oil in an omelette pan over low heat. Pour in the egg and cook until set on the bottom, but liquid on top. Put the chicken filling in a neat line across the omelette and roll the egg mixture firmly around it, away from you.

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Remove to a plate and serve immediately, garnished with spring onion. In a bowl, combine the garlic, ginger and shoyu. Add the beef, turning to coat, and leave to marinate for 30 minutes. To make the dipping sauce, combine the shoyu, mirin, sugar and ginger, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Divide among individual sauce bowls and set aside. Heat a little vegetable oil on a griddle plate or in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Cook the capsicum and eggplant — the capsicum first as it requires longer cooking. Add the beef, prawns and oysters as required, cooking only until just done — do not overcook.

To serve, dip the ingredients into the sauce and eat with hot white rice. Lightly score the surface of the eggplant with the point of a sharp knife and then brush the surface very lightly with sesame oil. In a bowl, combine all the remaining ingredients, except the sesame seeds, stirring until smooth. Preheat a grill broiler to high and place the eggplant on a tray.

Cook the eggplant on each side under the grill, then spoon a scant teaspoon of the miso mixture onto each one. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and continue cooking until the surface starts to bubble and appears lightly golden. Serve with white rice. Agedashi Tofu Tofu in dashi Serves: 3 Dusting the tofu in potato starch gives it the characteristic golden, slightly gummy coating. Drain the tofu on a few layers of paper towel. Place more layers on top, then place a flat tray on top to help soak up and press out any excess moisture.

Put the dashi into a saucepan with the soy sauce and mirin and bring to the boil.

Remove from the heat and set aside.