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Japanese Food and Culture. The Island of Japan. The Meal ( gohan ). Two Kinds of Food: ‘Staple’ and ‘Other dishes’ Staple (gohan) is rice Other dishes (okazu) are fish, meat, vegetables. Traditional Concept of Meal . Neutral flavor of rice considered complement to meal

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The meal gohan l.jpg
The Meal (gohan)

  • Two Kinds of Food:

    • ‘Staple’ and ‘Other dishes’

    • Staple (gohan) is rice

    • Other dishes (okazu) are fish, meat, vegetables


Traditional concept of meal l.jpg
Traditional Concept of Meal

  • Neutral flavor of rice considered complement to meal

  • Fill up on gohan, okazu stimulate appetite

  • Traditional meal has no Western counterpart

  • Sake = rice, so the two are not consumed simultaneously

  • Most basic meal: rice, soup, side dish




The table l.jpg
The Table

  • Zen

    • Traditional, personal table

    • Box with tray, individual sets of bowls, chopsticks, spoons

    • 20-30 cm per side 15-20 cm high

    • Cleaned 3x a month

    • Location from kitchen indicated status

    • Men > Women, Elderly > Junior


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The Table

  • Chabudai

    • Low dining table

    • Adapted from Western dining tables

    • 30 cm high

    • More convenient than zen

      ●Fewer plates set

      ●Cleaner

    • Indicative of culture change


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The Table

  • Table and Chairs

    • Today Western dining table and chairs are adopted

    • Began with farmers (to avoid mud on tatami floor)

    • Gradually spread in popularity

    • As Japanese economy grew and democracy expanded, expensive Western furniture was in vogue



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Chopsticks and Manners

  • Japanese differ from Chinese

  • Made of lacquered wood

  • Women and children have smaller chopsticks


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Chopstick etiquette

  • Breaches of etiquette:

  • Clutched, Piercing, Scooping, Cramming, Licked, Crying, Racking, Chewed, Dragging, Hesitating, Roving, Probing, etc.

  • No sharing of chopsticks!

    • Spiritual contamination

  • Chopstick rest


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Etiquette-As You Like It

  • Traditionally: alternate rice and side dish

  • Acceptable to hold bowl of rice/soup to eat

  • Sake served warm

    However: Japanese table manners developed on the premise of eating from tiny individualized tables (zen), while using Japanese tableware for Japanese cuisine consisting mainly of rice.

    Today Japanese, Western, or Chinese-style utensils may be used, foreign foods are part of the cuisine, etc.

    Traditional etiquette has not made the transition


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SOUP

  • Soup

    • Present at all meals (“one soup, one side dish, and rice” for the minimum complete meal)

    • Two kinds:

      • Sumashi-jiru—clear stock/salt broth

      • Miso-shiru—miso dissolved into thick solution

        Includes vegetables, meat, etc. to be eaten with chopsticks

        Broth is typically drunk from bowl, which is held in the left hand (chopsticks right)


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Umami aka “Deliciousness”

  • Dashi—soup stock made chiefly from kelp but also dried bonito, dried sardines, and shitake mushrooms

  • Acts as a multiplier and enhances flavor of other foods

  • Called the 5th taste (not present in Western cuisine)

  • Prof Ikeda Kiknae of Tokyo University isolated umami and produced crystal form known as monosodium glutamate (MSG) in 1908


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Sashimi—Cuisine not cooked

  • Japanese philosophy: “Food should be enjoyed as close as possible to natural state”

  • Sashimi—raw fish

  • Raw -> Grill -> Simmer, depending on freshness of fish

  • Prefer sea fish over freshwater because of the odor


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Sushi—Fast Food

  • 19th century popular snack food

  • Men majority of sushi chefs

  • Dip fish side in sauce

  • Pickled ginger between pieces to “extinguish taste”

  • Nigari-zushi—rice with raw fish on top

  • Maki-zushi—seaweed rolls

  • Inari-zushi—bean curd pouch w/ rice




Japanese cuisine l.jpg
Japanese Cuisine

  • Suyaki—beef

  • Fugu—puffer fish, delicacy

  • Tofu and Natto--soybeans

  • Tempura

  • Noodles

  • Pickles and Preserved Seafood

    • Daikon


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Dessert?

  • Mochi—rice cakes

  • Sugar historically rare

  • Green tea taken after meals to “quench thirst and change the mood”

  • Sweets taken with tea between meals

  • Dessert stems from Western influence


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Sake v. Green Tea

  • Sake wine and tea are opposites

  • Sweet-tooth type or drinking type

  • Ceramic cups, bowls, pots used for green tea

  • Cups with handles used for coffee

  • Milk and soda are served in glasses


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Culture Change

  • Isolated for 2.5 centuries

  • This period is known as the Edo period

  • Allowed Japanese culture/cuisine

    to distinctly develop

  • 1958 Japan forced to trade with US, Britain, France, Netherlands, and Russia

  • Raw silk and tea

  • Contact with Western culture  adoption of meat into cuisine


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Western Influence

  • Meat—started with army, sick soldiers developed liking for beef, and spread the Western custom throughout country (Sukiyaki)

    • Pigs, chicken, horse meat cheap alternative

  • Milk—influence of Dutch

    • Began for nursing mother, the young, the weak

    • “stinking of butter”


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Western Influence

-As foreign foods are adopted, intake of rice decreases

-Though adopt foreign foods, still keep traditional principles

-Food modified for chopsticks

-Soy sauce replaces special sauces

-“reorder and reorganize” foreign elements to fit Japanese form


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Western Influence

  • Bread—equated with rice so bread and rice not eaten together (like sake)

  • Pizza



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