of Japan consists of a group of islands that does not have large parcels of flat land to
grow grains to support large amounts of meat from animals - this along with Buddhism has
led to a high use of vegetables in the diet. Fresh vegetables, tofu, rice, and sweet and
savory sauces form the basis for many Japanese culinary traditions. In daily
meals, vegetables have generally constituted the main ingredients of dishes and
soups accompanying rice. Also a variety of sea plants that have been used since ancient
times and remain an important part of Japanese cooking today.
vegetarian diet in Japan is known asr sho¯jin-ryo¯ri. This diet relies on soybeans.
These include tofu, abura-age (fried tofu), ko¯ri-do¯fu (freeze-dried
tofu), and yuba (paper-thin processed tofu), as well as mushrooms, sea plants,
sesame, walnuts, and vegetables. Fu, which is produced by condensing wheat gluten,
has also been a popular foodstuff. The Japanese vegetarian diet is both well balanced
and quite healthy. It supplies protein from tofu and similar products, fat from sesame,
walnuts, and vegetable oil, vitamins from vegetables, and minerals from sea plants.
A cookbook providing 100 different recipes for tofu cooking was published in 1782 and
became so popular that a second volume, containing another 138 recipes, was issued the
following year. Many of these recipes were devised by Buddhist monks, who abstained from
eating meat for doctrinal reasons and relied heavily on tofu as a source of protein.
Japan is also known for its seasonal
diets of locally produced food. Fall brings mushrooms, chestnuts, potatoes and local
fruit. Winter offers hot pots and stews, along with a variety of pickled vegetables
and red miso. In Spring, the Japanese favor leafy vegetables (often bitter), and in
Summer cucumbers, cold noodles with eggplant, soybeans, and grated fresh vegetables as
garnish are enjoyed.
The cuisine of Japan is shaped by its
four distinct seasons and by regions and by tastes and cooking methods. It also has a
great emphasis on fresh ingredients. It is a cuisine that first and foremost delights the
Popular Japanese Vegetables
Mushrooms are highly prized in Japan. Matsutake is a mushroom that
grows only in Japanese Cypress forests.
Ginger is widely used in Japan as it is in other parts of Asia.
Used in pickles, as a condiment, in cooking, to flavor tempura, cutlets, etc.
Radish (daikon) It may be sliced and added to soups, or pickled and
served as an accompaniment to almost any meal. It is mashed and used in dipping
sauces for sushi and tempura.
Spring onions are used in soups, noodle dishes, as a flavor in foods like
cutlets and as a garnish.
Lotus root is common in pickles and tempura.
Bean sprouts (very popular in noodles)
Capsicum (bell pepper to Americans)
Watercress (especially in soups)