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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
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
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
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
the table8
The Table
  • Chabudai
    • Low dining table
    • Adapted from Western dining tables
    • 30 cm high
    • More convenient than zen

●Fewer plates set


    • Indicative of culture change
the table9
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
chopsticks and manners
Chopsticks and Manners
  • Japanese differ from Chinese
  • Made of lacquered wood
  • Women and children have smaller chopsticks
chopstick etiquette
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
etiquette as you like it
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

  • 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)

umami aka deliciousness
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
sashimi cuisine not cooked
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
sushi fast food
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
Japanese Cuisine
  • Suyaki—beef
  • Fugu—puffer fish, delicacy
  • Tofu and Natto--soybeans
  • Tempura
  • Noodles
  • Pickles and Preserved Seafood
    • Daikon
  • 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
sake v green tea
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
culture change
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
western influence
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”
western influence25
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

western influence26
Western Influence
  • Bread—equated with rice so bread and rice not eaten together (like sake)
  • Pizza