While a number of other culinary traditions emphasise the variety of major ingredients that go into a meal, in Japan, what’s important is variety in preparation styles. So a well-rounded meal ought to have more than a few preparation styles traditionally referred to as goho which covers the five basic methods – simmering, steaming, grilling, frying and raw. Of course there are other styles as well including pickling, blanching, pureeing and smoking.
In deference to goho, here’s a listing of some of Japan’s most popular items of cuisine according to preparation styles:
Sashimi: Also known as tsukuri meaning raw, sashimi is raw seafood that is expertly cut. Sashimi is usually served atop grated daikon (white radish) and accompanied by wasabi, Japanese horseradish.
Sushi: This is basically an arrangement of raw fish/sashimi and sushi rice which has been treated with vinegar. However toppings may also include other meats and vegetables which may be cooked or marinated. The common ingredient is sushi rice.
Sukiyaki: This hot-pot or nabe dish, traditionally prepared at the table, consists of finely-sliced meat, vegetables and other ingredients like tofu and noodles.
Oden: This popular winter dish is a slow-cooked preparation of fish cakes, eggs, seaweed and radish in dashi soup.
Chawanmushi: Made from eggs and dashi soup stock this healthy steamed eggpot is popular among all age groups and is traditionally the first meal fed to children.
Yose Mushi: This dish combines vegetables and seafood in a pleasant light broth.
Teppenyaki: Meat and vegetable items are grilled on a flat iron plate known as a teppan in an open-style format which displays every stage in the making of the dish.
Teriyaki: In this preparation, foods are coated in a distinctive sweetened soy sauce known as teriyaki before being roasted or grilled.
Yakitori: Popular with after-hours crowds, these bite-sized pieces of skewered chicken are coated in sauce before being barbecued over charcoal.
Agedashi Tofu: To prepare this popular appetiser, cubes of silken tofu are dusted with starch, deep-fried and served in a broth.
Tempura: In this snappy preparation introduced to Japan by the Portugese in the 16th Century, seafood and vegetables are dipped in a light batter and deep-fried.
Tonkatsu: These deep-fried pork cutlets, popularised in the 19th Century, are usually served with miso soup and shredded cabbage.
Miso Soup: A popular accompaniment to meals, this soup is made from fermented soya bean paste called miso dissolved in dashi stock.
Tonjiru: This tasty winter soup is made from meat, usually pork, and vegetables in dashi stock, flavoured with miso.
Donburi: This classic dish consists of a bowl of steamed rice topped with savoury items like tempura, egg, chicken, seafood or vegetables.
Fried Rice: Also known as chahan, fried rice as a style was brought into Japan from China. It includes vegetable and meat ingredients stir-fried into rice.
Kare Raisu: This preparation of cooked rice with curry sauce is something of a national dish and is usually accompanied by pickle.
Rice Bowl: The cornerstone of all Japanese meals is a bowl of sticky white rice. The classic pairing is with a plum pickle called umeboshi. It is also eaten with sauce, egg and a range of toppings.
Soba: These buckwheat noodles that are commonly served in hot or cold preparations such as chilled green tea soba called chasoba and hot soba served with wakame seaweed.
Somen: This summer favourite which is also made from wheat flour, is much thinner than udon or soba and nearly always eaten cold, with vegetables.
Ramen: Brought over from China it has become Japanese in time. Ramen noodles are usually served in a preparation of hot broth flavoured with miso or soy. Udon: Thicker than soba, these wheat flour noodles are usually prepared the same way as soba. Chilled udon noodles topped with nori and hot udon with vegetables, are popular dishes.