The word washoku literally translates to food of Japan. It is a collection of traditional Japanese food that has drawn a lot of attention from the whole world because it is definitely delicious as much as it is healthy. It has even been registered in UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
The thing is that washoku is both complicated and simple at the same time, it is even sophisticated as much as it is plain, and that is where the wonder lies in. It is full of umami and the way it is presented definitely is purely aesthetic.
The normal washoku is composed of four major elements: cooked rice, soups, tsukemono or Japanese pickles and side dishes. Basically, put the format is known as ichiju-sansai or a bowl of soup with three side dishes.
Roots of Washoku
Washoku has is deeply rooted in the history of the Japanese people as the serving and cooking techniques used in making it dates back to around four hundred years ago. On the other hand, even if washoku is traditional, it is also very flexible that it can vary from a normal everyday food into a course meal during feasts.
The word “washoku” started to be used in the Meiji era in order to properly distinguish what is purely Japanese food apart from the foreign meals and dishes that were being introduced to the country that time. As washoku is written in kanji as 和食, with the first character 和 “wa”, meaning Japan, Japanese or harmony. It is considered indigenous, traditional and it is one of the most important values in the culture of the Japanese people.
Respect for Nature
Japanese people respect nature and the four distinct seasons that they have plays a significant role in their culture as much as it does on washoku. Washoku is important to Japanese people since it shows just how much they respect nature as it reflects the four seasons. There are two main things that are being considered when preparing a washoku meal: balance and aesthetics.
Balance in a sense that the natural flavors of the ingredients are drawn out instead of being masked by the heavy sauce and that there is a variety of different colors and flavor and above all, healthy. On the other hand, aesthetics also plays an important part because the plating of the meal and the use of traditional Japanese settings will give more hospitality to the guests.
Washoku Cuisine Dishes
One of the best things about washoku is that the dishes have a very wide variety so that even if it is traditional, it never becomes tiring because there will be something new at every corner. Here are some dishes that are included in the cuisine.
This dish is basically vegetables and seafood that is battered and then deep fried in neutral oil and then served with a light sauce for dipping. The preparations may vary depending on the region it is prepared at.
Japanese pickles or known to the Japanese as “tsukemono” is one of the big players in the terms of Japanese traditional meals. It is made up of radish, cabbage, cucumber and some other vegetables that promote nutrition and gives a boost to health without losing the touch of taste since it is both crunchy and delicious.
- Sashimi and Sushi
The practice of eating raw fish that is thinly sliced goes way back 500 BCE for the Japanese people and it is one of the things that people all over the world want to try out when they go to Japan.
Also known as grilled fish, this dish is one of the protein sources in washoku meals. It is basically fish that is seasoned and then grilled. Some of the most popular fishes used in making this dish are salmon and mackerel.
- Udon and Soba
These are the two main type of noodles in Japan. Udon is flour noodles that are chewy and thick while soba is made from buckwheat flour and is thin and long. Noodles make it to the least considering that Japan is also known for their ramen.
This dish consists of thin slices of beef and vegetables that are cooked in a sweet sauce broth. The cooked beef is then dipped in a beaten egg that is raw in order to bring out a richer and creamier flavor.
The role of food in Japanese history is really deep so tune in and find out even more about it!
Alecksandra is a food hobbyist and otaku who has a deep interest in Japanese culture and cuisine. She likes knowing how every food out there in the open came to be, the meaning of their very names, why they taste the way they do and the diverging concepts that are behind every dish. One day she will travel to different countries to go restaurant hopping and share her food adventures to the world.