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Eating in Japan






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Sushi  (Recipe)

Food in General

Food of all types and from every country under the sun, is one of the great pleasures of life in Japan.  Not only has Japan developed one of the world's great cuisines, which offers palate-tickling sensations that range fro the subtle joys of "sashimi" to the hearty basics of its noodles, but some of the best world-class chefs have come to Japan to cook for its discriminating gourmets.  Tokyo especially, as befits its status as a global capital of finance and business, is host to a lip-smacking cornucopia of food flavors and textures.

To begin scratching the surface of Japan's vast selection of culinary variety, take a walk in the vicinity of any subway or train station.  The eating and drinking establishments that congregate here are sure to represent a plethora of domestic cooking, with prices generally quite reasonable.  For non-Japanese speakers, some restaurants display plastic and wax replicas of their dishes in their front windows, or provide a menu with color photos.

Another good place to find reasonable priced meals is in larger department stores, which will often devote an entire upper or basement floor to different restaurants.  Some modestly priced restaurants ask patrons to purchase tickets for each dish, either from the cashier's counter or vending machine.  Tipping, by the way, is not practiced in Japan.

Japanese Cuisine

Once known in the west either in the form of "sukiyaki" or the more exotic "sushi," Japanese cuisine has in recent years become much more familiar and appreciated around the world.  Many visitors to Japan will have already sampled the pleasures of raw fish or batter-fried shrimp.  But few first time visitors to Japan are prepared for the variety and sumptuousness of the food as it is traditionally prepared.  Eating in Japan is an experience to be enjoyed and remembered fondly for the rest of your life.

Among the types of cooking found in Japan are:

Sukiyaki - prepared right at the table by cooking thinly sliced beef together with various vegetables, tofu and vermicelli.

Tempura - deep-fried food in vegetable oil, after being coated with a mixture of egg, water and wheat flour.  Among the ingredients used are prawns, fish in season and vegetables.

Sushi - a small piece of raw seafood placed on a ball of vinegared rice.  the most  common ingredients are tuna, squid and prawn.  Cucumber, pickled radish and sweet egg omelette are also served.

Sashimi - sliced raw fish eaten with soy sauce.

Kaiseki Ryori - regarded as the most exquisite culinary refinement in Japan.  The dishes are mainly composed of vegetables and fish with seaweed and mushrooms as the seasoning base and are characterized by their refined savor.

Yakitori - made up of small pieces of chicken meat, liver and vegetables skewered on a bamboo stick and grilled over hot coals.

Tonkatsu - a deep-fried pork cutlet rolled in bread crumbs.

Shabu-shabu - tender, thin slices of beef held by chop-sticks and swished in a pot of boiling water, then dipped in a sauce before being eaten.

Soba and Udon - two kinds of Japanese noodles.  Soba is made from buckwheat flour and Udon from dipped in a sauce, and are available in hundreds of delicious variations.

Japanese "sake" or rice wine, goes extremely well with a variety of Japanese dishes.  Brewed with rice and water, sake has been a Japanese alcoholic beverage since ancient times.  Because it can be drunk warmed up, the "feelings" come on more quickly and in winter it warms the body.  When drunk chilled, good sake has a taste similar to fine-quality wine.  There are local sake breweries in every region across the country, which make their respective characteristic tastes based on the quality of rice and water as well as differences in brewing processes.

Information on Japanese cuisine provided by the Japanese Embassy

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Food in General

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Food in General

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How to Make Sushi

Things you'll need: 
Most can be found at an Asian market if your local grocery store doesn't carry them.  If you go to an Asian market, tell them you are going to make sushi and they will help you get the right items. Japanese and Korean Asian markets are the best places to purchase these items (not Chinese).

rice (short or medium grain) - needs to be ready first
rice vinegar (or white vinegar)
salt (or sea salt, preferred)
roasted seaweed
(laver or yakisushi nori - different names for roasted seaweed)
sharp knife
plastic wrap
cutting board
plastic gloves

bamboo mat
(optional, for rolling sushi)
rice cooker (Japanese or Korean rice cookers are the best types)

Fillings / condiments (choose all or some)

The most popular ingredients for the california roll are avocado, imitation crab meat, and roe.  Other ingredients can be added according to your preferences / tastes.

avocado - Find a soft but firm avocado (leaves an indention when pressed) .  It needs to be peeled, seeded and cut into strips (lemon may be rubbed on avocado to prevent browning)
cucumber - peeled, seeded and cut into strips
imitation crab meat
carrots - peeled and sliced or grated very thin
egg(s) - cook scrambled egg(s) into a thin omelette and cut into strips (it is usually used in Korean style sushi called kimbap)
tempura (fried fish cake) - cut into strips (it is usually used in Korean style sushi called kimbap)
pickled radish (usually yellow or white) - if whole, cut into long strips
(or can be purchased pre-cut) (it is usually used in Korean style sushi called kimbap)
roe (fish eggs) - usually orange
wasabi - pre-prepared in a tube or powder form. 
If powder form, add water to make thick paste - tube form is easier to use and lasts longer.
soy sauce - Japanese style mild soy sauce (add water to decrease saltiness)
pickled ginger - usually thinly sliced and can be pink, red, or natural color
toasted sesame seeds

The Process: 

  1. Cook rice in rice cooker or pot.  It is really important to have the right ratio of rice to water.  If there is too much water, it will mushy and too soft.  If there is not enough water it will be too hard and dry.  A general estimate is 1 cup rice to 1 1/2 cup water, but it depends on the heat source that's being used.  The way to have the best rice is to use (buy) a rice cooker and follow the directions.  It usually has perfect rice every time. If a rice cooker is not available, try cooking in a pot with the above measurements (1 cup of rice per 1 1/2 cups of water).  Cook rice (covered) on high until it boils rapidly, then turn down heat to middle or low until cooked.  DO NOT open the lid too often or the rice will dry out.  If you smell a slight scorched smell, test the rice to make sure it's soft enough. It is a good idea to rinse the rice until the water runs clear and then soak for about two hours. 

  2. While rice is cooking prepare the sushi vinegar - Mix 1 teaspoon (per cup of rice cooked) vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 to 2 teaspoons sugar, 1 to 2 teaspoons water.

  3. When rice is cooked, mix with the sushi vinegar mixture (see above) and IMPORTANT cool the rice quickly.  (Don't use a metal bowl, the vinegar reacts with it.)  Use a hand fan (or other fan)  to cool it while stirring rice.  After rice is cool, taste it to make sure it's seasoned well.  The rice, if prepared correctly, will have a glossy sheen and will be chewy.  It's it's too salty, add a little more sugar.  If too sweet, add a little more salt. The vinegar smell will disappear as the rice cools.  Cover rice and prepare other ingredients.

  4. Peel avocado, seed and slice it into 1/3 inch strips.  Place in a bowl or other container and, with plastic gloves on, slightly mash the avocado with your fingers.  This prevents the avocado from falling out of the sushi roll.

  5. Peel cucumber and cut in half.  Remove the seeds by running your finger down the middle (discard seeds) and cut  into long thin slices.

  6. Remove imitation crab meat from package and plastic overwrap.  If you think the crab meat is too thick (big), cut it in half (longways).

  7. Remove seaweed (nori) and cut the long side in half, so you have two pieces from the one sheet.

  8. If the roe is frozen, it needs to be thawed.  Thirty minutes at room temperature should be sufficient.

  9. Wet the cutting board slightly (helps prevent the rice from sticking) and put cooled, seasoned rice on a sheet of seaweed.  Wear plastic gloves to prevent your hands from sticking to the rice.  Put approximately a tennis ball or baseball sized ball of rice on the nori.  Spread rice evenly, without handling it too much.  Sushi experts usually use six movements to cover the seaweed with rice.  Press the rice firmly to the seaweed then lightly sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

  10. Flip seaweed over so that the rice is on the cutting board.  The black side is where the ingredients are placed, the rice is the outer part of the roll.

  11. Place a few strips of avocado in the center of the seaweed (long sideof seaweed horizontally in front of you), then a few strips of imitation crab meat and use a spoon to apply roe.

  12. Fold the side of seaweed closest to you over the avocado, crab meat and roe then firmly fold the other side of the seaweed (farthest from you) back over the roll.  Shape the roll gently with your hands (into a roll or square). The rice will help the sides stick together.

  13. Slice the roll into 6 or 7 uniform pieces, using a wet cloth or bowl of water to clean the knife.  (So the rice doesn't stick to knife)

  14. Transfer rolls to a plate with some wasabi, soy sauce and ginger. Wasabi can be mixed in the soy sauce - but be careful - wasabi is VERY hot!

  15. Enjoy the wonder Japanese cuisine -  the California roll!

Once you become accustomed to making these, use your imagination to create one-of-a-kind delicacies!  Sushi is food art, so let your creative juices flow!


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