Japanese cuisine (“Washoku 和食” in Japanese) uses ingredients, including fish, vegetables, and rice, available in the natural environment. One of the unique characteristics of Japanese foods is using fresh ingredients and cooked and fermented ingredients. Typical Japanese foods include Miso soup, Sushi, Tempura, Tofu, and Udon Noodles. These foods remain popular among all range of generations in Japan as soul foods and delicious and healthy foods. Japanese foods also attract non-Japanese people who travel to Japan.
What are Japanese foods attract us? How the Japanese foods tempt your taste buds? Japanese cuisine uses a variety of ingredients as if cooking is art. Therefore, we enjoy eating many dishes and tasting the ingredients in foods to taste the art.
Enhanced Tastes of Natural Ingredients
One of the basic principles in Japanese cooking is using natural flavors, tastes, and textures of the ingredients. For example, simmered vegetables (“Nishime 煮しめ” in Japanese) include boiled burdock, boiled lotus root, and carrot. When you eat Nishime, you notice that each vegetable has different tastes and texture. For example, Lotus root has a creamy taste, and carrot has a sweet taste. Other famous Japanese dishes include grilled fish and hotpot sliced meat (“shabu-shabuしゃぶしゃぶ” in Japanese). These traditional Japanese foods are lightly seasoned to eat.
Secret Taste Enhancers: “Sa Shi Su Se So”
Japanese cooking uses five basic seasonings: Sa Shi Su Se So. The order of using these seasonings starts from Sa (sugar), followed by Shi (salt), Su (vinegar), Se (Soy Sauce), and So (Miso).
- Sa (Satou, 砂糖) Sugar: The first seasoning to use for cooking because it takes time to sweetened the ingredients.
- Shi (Shio, 塩) Salt: Salt draws water from the ingredients by its osmotic pressure.
- Su (Su, 酢) Vinegar: Vinegar adds the sour flavor.
- Se (Syouyu, 醤油) Soy Sauce: Soy sauce adds the flavor and umami.
- So (Miso, 味噌) Miso: Miso is the last seasoning to add because it is the fermented seasoning with a rich flavor.
These five basic seasonings balance the five basic tastes of sweet, salty, sour, better, and umami for ingredients without standing out the seasonings themselves.
Natural Taste Enhancers: Shibumi, and Karami
In addition to five basic tastes, Shibumi (渋み) and Karami (辛味) are taste enhancers coming from natural ingredients that make you be addicted to the foods.
Shibumi – When you drink Matcha, you taste creamy, a little sweet, bitter, and Shibumi. Shibumi is an astringency, coming from catechin in green tea. While Shibumi itself is not delicious, it makes the taste of the drink unique.
Karami – Japanese foods have a couple of unique Karami tastes. Karami in Japan has various characteristics. For example, Katami has of Wasabi Spice (わさび) stimulating our nose. Meanwhile, the Karami of Sansho Pepper (山椒) generates a solid numbing feeling on the tongue. Another Karami of red pepper (とうがらし) gives a hot and burning sensation.
These taste enhancers are the secret harmonizers of tastes in Japanese cuisine. Japanese cuisines also stimulate your taste senses in many ways to feel and taste nature through foods.