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Kaiseki
Kaiseki is the best of Japanese cuisine. Artfully presented, superbly prepared and elegantly served this makes an ultimate dining experience. Kaiseki is a form of an individual spread that is laid out in personal dishes for the indivdual.

The Kaiseki presents the best of Japanese sensibilities - the presentation that is laid out with the height of Japanese design. Just like the Japanese garden - the Kaiseki reperents stucture, seasons, drama, calm, intrigue and spirit. Simple ingredients that have their identity and character preserved are transformed into culinary art.  Every dish served in what is often a ten-course meal is a celebration of the artistry and subtleties of nature. A feast for the senses - Culinary genius - truely born from the Japanese soul.

 



Noodle (Ramen,Soba,Udon)

Ramen
Ramen are Chinese noodles made the Japanese way. This is the fast food of Japan and is devoured by millions of Japanese.

Regions across Japan have built their own Ramen identity with their own distinctive flavor and style. Restaurants too specialize in Ramen and have their own following with their own brand of flavor and style. They may even serve only one type of ramen having perfected their recipe. Many have standing space only. There's no etiquette to eating ramen and many slurp to show their appreciation and contentment with the ramen.

Ramen is usually seasoned with miso (bean paste), shoyu (soy) or shio (salt) flavored soup though the stock base is made from meat bones. They may be topped with meat, bean sprouts or bamboo shoots.

Soba and Udon Noodles
Udon noodles are white in colour as they are made from wheat flour.
Soba,noodles are darker  and are made from buckwheat flour.
Restaurants may serve both but many specialize in either one as they make the noodles fresh.
Soba and udon have rural origins and they are served reflect rustic tastes and ingredients. Both can be served hot in a thin soup of fish stock and soy or cold with soy based dressings. Dishes vary with the garnishes you add. Wild vegetables, tempura, seaweed and raw egg are all common additions but meat is almost unheard of.

 


Sushi and Sashimi
Contrary to popular belief, the word sushi is not synonymous with raw fish. It refers to anything made with vinegared rice. This is often topped with raw fish to make nigiri-zushi but vinegared rice with cooked fish, other meats, egg or vegetables is also sushi. Cuts of raw fish on their own are called sashimi. This is considered a quite different dish from sushi. It is usually served, beautifully presented, at the beginning of a meal of other dishes.

You are likely to be familiar with nigiri-zushi already as it is now widely available outside Japan. These are bite-sized pads of rice with raw fish (or other ingredients) pressed on top. This is the kind of sushi that you get at sushi bars. Calling them bars is appropriate since the chefs work behind the counter with cuts of fish rather like a barman works with bottles.

Popular raw fish include salmon, tuna, squid and yellowtail. These are the most palatable for those still getting used to the idea of eating fish raw. Cooked eel and shrimp and Japanese-style omelette are also used on nigiri-zushi. More adventurous diners should try raw shrimp, abalone and sea urchin roe - some of the most distinctive flavours around. Both sushi and sashimi should be eaten with a touch of pungent wasabi horseradish and just a little soy sauce.

If you need any convincing that eating raw fish is a good idea, consider the health benefits. It is high in protein and omega-3 fatty acids as well as low in fat, rice is a great source of complex carbohydrates and seaweed is rich in iodine. A typical sushi dinner of 7 to 9 pieces may only contain a healthy 300-450 calories.

 


Sukiyaki and Shabu-shabu
Both of these popular Japanese dishes involve thinly-sliced beef cooked at the table. The beef is served raw, arranged aesthetically on a large plate, giving you a chance to see the fine marbling of fat that is necessary to give the beef the required tenderness and flavour.

Thin slices of beef, leeks and other vegetables, tofu (bean curd), shirataki (thin noodles made from konnyaku) are cooked in warishita (a special stock of soy sauce, mirin (sweet sake) and sugar). Served with a whisked raw egg for dipping.

For sukiyaki, the pan is cast iron and shallow. Into it are added the beef along with vegetables such as green onions, shiitake mushrooms and edible chrysanthemum leaves as well as tofu and konnyaku noodles. The seasoning consists of liberal amounts of soy, a brewed sweetener called mirin and sometimes sake. Each person has a small bowl containing raw egg into which the cooked items are dipped before eating. The result is succulent and sweet beef and vegetables given a silky coating by the raw egg. Sukiyaki is a relatively new dish to Japan. It is said to have been thought up in the Meiji Period (1868-1912) after the emperor instructed his people to eat more beef.

Shabu-shabu is cooked differently though the ingredients are largely the same. The pot used is earthenware and half-filled with a stock made from kelp and dried bonito. Into the pot, diners add the meat and vegetables in small batches. The dipping sauce used is a citrus-flavoured soy mixture called ponzu which gives everything a nice zing. “Shabu-shabu” is said to be the sound that thinly-sliced beef makes when being cooked lightly in a bubbling broth.

Many restaurants serve sukiyaki and shabu-shabu but it is also easily made at home. Both are great to enjoy with family and friends gathered round the steaming pot.

Tempura
Fried foods were introduced to Japan by the portugese and the Dutch.  The Japnese took to it and especially Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, who liked this new culinary acquisition so much that he gorged himself to death as a result; it is told.

Commonly used for tempura are seafood such as fresh shrimp, white fish and squid and vegetables such as eggplant, sweet potato and perilla leaf. The condiment used with tempura is a sauce of thin fish stock and soy sauce to which grated radish and ginger has been added. Tempura is light, crisp, succulent and hardly greasy at all. The trick to tempura is to achieve a batter coating so light as to be barely so the fresh ingredients can be cooked quickly and enjoyed.


Yakitori
“Yakitori” is Japanes “grilled chicken” and the popular examples are - small pieces of chicken on bamboo skewers broiled over charcoal.

Yakitori is usually served with cold beer or sake..

Izakaya
This is the tradition of drinking along with foods (otsumami) served with drinks.   Going out for drinks in Japan generally means going to an izakaya - the Japnese pub.

 

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