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Monday, 19 September 2011 13:08

Turning Japanese

According to Japanese tradition, at the start and end of each meal diners greet each other with the phrase itadakimasu which, roughly translated, means "respect to those who helped make this meal happen." This formal expression of appreciation and respect is traditionally said across dinner tables throughout Japan, and now, all over the world.

Much of Japanese cuisine is generally regarded as a culinary art, seeped in history, and separate and distinct from other cuisines of the world. Because of this, Japanese cuisine had a limited appeal beyond the border of the country but in the past 30 years this view has changed.

In the eighties and nineties, traditional Japanese fare of sushi, ramen noodles, sashimi and soup began to proliferate into the mainstream food markets worldwide. With the international popularization of sushi, Japanese style cooking is now all the rage in today's kitchens and restaurants. The popularity of Japanese cuisine has steadily grown in Australia, with Japanese restaurants and take-away eateries popping up in food courts and dining suburbs across the nation.

A typical Japanese meal is comprised of plain white rice, served with a protein such as meat or fish, and several side dishes of vegetables. Each item combines to create a balanced meal that is full of flavour. Unlike in Western cultures, Japanese dinners are not made up of a number of courses that are eaten sequentially. Instead dinner time in Japan comprises a selection of meals placed in front of the diner all at once, to be eaten together. In this way, a little from each dish is eaten in no particular order, until all the dishes are empty.

Over the years the Japanese cuisine has morphed with non-Japanese cuisine creating an eclectic style of food known as 'fusion'. French influences are apparent in omu raisu (rice-filled omelette) and German inspired tonkatsu (chicken or pork cutlet), a Japanese style Wiener schnitzel. Both of these fusion dishes are found on the menus of restaurants throughout Japan.

Shiawase na shokuji – 'happy eating'


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