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Japanese cuisine is cultural heritage

How much do we Europeans know about traditional Japanese cuisine? What foods other than sushi do we associate with the Land of the Rising Sun? Westerners tend to get confused about the different styles of Asian cooking, not realising that every country on the continent has its own characteristic style of cooking practices. Like Europe, where traditional foods differ from country to country, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, China and all the other Asian nations have their own culinary specialities.

    Japanese recipes with Kikkoman sauces

    Japan’s traditional cuisine, known as ‘washoku’, is very closely associated with the country’s culture and philosophy, and it has even been accorded world cultural heritage by UNESCO. Washoku consists of the kanji characters ‘wa’, meaning Japan or harmony, and ‘shoku’ meaning to ‘food’ or ‘to eat’. Washoku is traditionally nourishing food that puts smiles on people’s faces. Cooking is an integral aspect of life in Japan, and the Japanese invest a lot of time and effort into the preparation of their meals. Small portions of light and perfectly prepared dishes are served to encourage guests to take their time and not overeat. The food is often served on beautiful tableware because aesthetics are also an important aspect of Japanese dining.

    Special handling of ingredients

    Japanese cuisine mainly includes seasonal and regional ingredients. Rice, fish and vegetables are particularly popular foods in Japan. Special care is taken when cooking them not to mask their original aroma, natural characteristics and intrinsic flavour. That’s why the Japanese traditionally use mild seasonings and very little fat in the cooking process. The fact that people in Japan have a remarkably long life expectancy is often attributed to their careful selection of quality ingredients and the preparation methods they use.

    Traces of the past

    Japan’s special relationship with food and the country’s traditional preparation methods are thousands of years old. A long-standing social taboo meant that the Japanese hardly ate any meat for around a thousand years. This resulted in a distaste for the flavour of ‘fat’ that has influenced preparation methods right up to the present day. Japanese food is generally low in fat, healthy and well-tolerated, with many of the dishes eaten raw and often incorporating nutritious edible seaweed.

    Soy sauce is also a tradition

    Soy sauce has played an important traditional role in Japanese cuisine over the centuries. Our Kikkoman Naturally Brewed Soy Sauce has been made according to the same recipe for 300 years. However, despite all the country’s deep-rooted culinary traditions, the Japanese are very receptive to foreign cuisine and like to use it as a source of inspiration.