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Japanese Cuisine


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Japanese sushi on a wooden board Carefully and artfully prepared, Japanese food has gained recognition as one of the most healthful and aesthetically pleasing cuisines in the world.  Japanese culture places a strong emphasis on tasteful presentation of food prepared with quality seasonal ingredients, including rice or noodles, meat, fish, seafood, and vegetables.  Short grain sticky rice is often used as a base, but can be alternated with soba (thin buckwheat noodles), udon (thick wheat noodles), or ramen (wheat noodles which are traditionally Chinese).  The main dishes are known as okazu, and include a protein such as beef, chicken, seafood, or tofu, as well as vegetables.  Popular okazu include sushi, sashimi, tempura, and yakitori, which are often flavored with miso, soy sauce, or dashi.  A typical Japanese meal includes a bowl of white rice, a bowl of soup, pickles known as tsukemono, and several different okazu.  Chopsticks are used for most dishes except for soup, and meals may be accompanied by sake, a wine made from fermented rice.

The overarching culinary philosophy of Japanese cuisine is encompassed in the word "washoku" which literally means the "harmony of food".  Washoku refers to the act of being conscious of what is eaten and its capacity to nourish, as well as to the nutritionally balanced Japanese food which is prepared according to this principle.  The philosophy of washoku is guided by five colors, five tastes, five senses, five outlooks, and five principles.  Five colors, or "go shiki", recommends that a balanced meal include the colors red, yellow, green, black, and white.  Five tastes, or "go mi", aims to balance the flavors of salty, sour, sweet, bitter, and spicy.  Five ways, or "go ho", suggests that food should be prepared by a variety of methods including broiling, simmering, and steaming.  Five senses, or "go kan", is about being mindful of the aesthetics of the food, including the sight, smell, and texture.  Five outlooks, or "go kan mon" encourages the partaker to be respectful of those who cultivated and prepared the food, to do good deeds, to come to the table without anger, to eat for the nourishment of the soul as well as the body, and to seek to attain awareness and understanding.  Traditional Japanese cuisine embodies a way of life, and partaking in it provides a delightful dining experience that is sure to please all five senses.

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