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Aimee Takamura

Due: April 20, 2015

Cultural Foods Project: Japan
Japans food culture is largely centered around rice and miso soup with
accompanying main dishes and various sides. A typical diet is rich in grains,
fish, and vegetables, but lacking in dairy. In more recent times, red meat
consumption has been on the rise as Japan increasingly adopts a westernized
diet. In terms of preparation, characteristic styles include ingredients like
miso, ume (plum), and soy sauce, making this diet pattern high in sodium.
However, the small portions and high intake of fatty fish contributes to the
overall healthful qualities of Japans traditional eating pattern.
Major Foods
Rice, noodle, fish, meat, and vegetable dishes are among the most common
types of foods eaten. Rice is the staple grain and often eaten at every meal.
Common ways rice is eaten is accompanying a main dish like curry, fish, or
meat; in the form of sushi; musubis (rice shaped in various shapes, usually
triangular, and wrapped in nori (seaweed)); fried rice; or with tea in a dish
called chazuke. Noodles varieties like soba and udon are popular in Japan,
and can be found in dishes like ramen, yakisoba (grilled noodles with pieces
of meat and vegetables like onions and cabbage), and somen (cold soba
noodle salad with a vinegar dressing).
Fish is probably the most widely consumed protein in the typical Japanese
diet, whether it is raw, fried, grilled, steamed, or salted. Common fish dishes
include sashimi (slices of assorted raw fish), sushi, tempura (battered and
fried), nitsuke (fish poached in sweet soy sauce), aji (dried fish), and
steamed/broiled varieties like saba (mackerel), butterfish, salmon, and ahi.
Meats are also popular in Japan and prepared in a variety of ways as well.
Typical items include yakitori (grilled teriyaki BBQ chicken skewers), yakiniku
(grilled meat and vegetables served with dipping sauces), teriyaki (anything
cooked in this signature sauce), oyakodon (rice bowl topped with meats,
chicken, fish, egg, etc.), and katsu (battered and fried meats).
Vegetable dishes vary in Japan and can be part of a combination dish or
eaten as separate sides. Common items include pickled items called
tsukemono, vegetable tempura, cold tofu and agedashi tofu (fried), and
seaweed salad.
Many of these food items mentioned above are often arranged into what is
called a bento boxa multiple compartment plate filled with an assortment
of small portions of foods, and served with miso soup. Miso is a typical flavor
made by fermenting soybeans with salt and a fungus called koji. It is most
often used as soup bases and in sauces, marinades, and glazes.
Food Customs

Aimee Takamura
Due: April 20, 2015
In Japan, etiquette is important. Most traditional restaurants and households
serve meals while seated on the floor at a low table. Chopsticks are the
utensil of choice, and should never be sticking straight out of ones food or
used to pass food from one person to another. These are practices that are
associated with funerals and should always be avoided at the dining table.
In addition to general dining etiquette, sushi etiquette exists. There are many
rules to follow when eating at a sushi bar:
Sushi should be eaten in one bite. If unable, cut it before eating.
Wasabi and soy sauce should never be mixed together; use them
The ginger that accompanies a sushi dish is a palate cleanser. It should
be eaten between different types of sushi, not with it.
It is fine to use your hands to eat sushi
A typical day of eating in Japan begins with breakfast, which includes rice,
fish, miso soup, egg dishes, and various other sides. Breakfast items do not
really differ from those eaten for lunch and dinner. Timing wise, meals in
Japan follow a similar pattern that it does in the US.
An interesting fact to point out is that umami, also known as the fifth taste, is
derived from the Japanese word umai, which means delicious. It describes a
savory flavor, most commonly used when talking about meats, mushrooms,
and combinations like butter and soy sauce.
Implications for Dietetics
Japans typical diet has many healthful components: small portions, the use
of mostly fresh and unprocessed foods, high fish and soy consumption, and
the incorporation of a variety of foods on a daily basis. However, as Japan
becomes more and more westernized, meat consumption is beginning to
surpass that of seafood, and sales and prevalence of processed and fast
foods are increasing. With these shifts in food culture, Japanese people are
developing chronic conditions common in the US like heart disease and
diabetes at higher rates than ever before. As far as the field of dietetics is
concerned, nutrition education is key. We see the Japanese eating more
westernized foods and encountering the same nutrition-related problems
that many Americans face today. Reversing this shift is critical in regards to
health and preserving the nutritionally beneficial qualities inherent in
traditional culture and cuisine.

Aimee Takamura
Due: April 20, 2015

Food pyramid:
From the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and Ministry of Agriculture,
Forestry and Fisheries.

Aimee Takamura
Due: April 20, 2015

Salad: Tsukemono (pickled cabbage)
Adapted from:
(10 oz, 280 g) cabbage
(2 oz, 50 g) Japanese cucumber
1 red chili pepper
1 x 3 kombu
1 tsp. kosher salt
sesame seeds and soy sauce for serving
Cut cabbage into 1-2 pieces.
Cut cucumber in in half and peel. Then cut in half lengthwise and into
thin slices diagonally.
Remove seeds from the red chili (if you prefer less spicy) and cut into
Toast kombu over open flame so that the kombu will become tender
and easier to cut into thin strips.
Put all the ingredients in the airtight plastic bag and add 1 tsp.
kosher salt.
Let sit for 2-3 hours.
Once the cabbage is pickled, take out and squeeze the excess liquid
Sprinkle white sesame seeds and drizzle a little bit of soy sauce.
Appetizer: Agedashi Tofu Recipe
Adapted from:
1 package soft tofu

Aimee Takamura
Due: April 20, 2015

2 tablespoons flour
cup dashi (Japanese cooking stock)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoons mirin
Oil for frying
Garnish: bonito flakes, green onions

Gently cut the soft tofu into 1 cubes and arrange the cubes on paper
towels to drain for at least 20 minutes. Make sure you flip the cubes
and change the paper.
Mix the sauce ingredients and heat gently. Keep warm until your tofu is
Heat oil to 355F for frying.
Lightly dredge the tofu pieces in the flour and add to the hot oil.
Fry until golden, turning once.
Remove and drain on paper towels.
Put the tofu in a dish, pour the warm sauce on and top with garnish if
Enjoy immediately!
Main dish: Chicken Yakisoba
Adapted from:
Serves 4-6
1lb chicken breast, thinly sliced
1 lb Soba noodles (dry)
1/2 cup chopped shallots (or 1 cup chopped yellow onions)
1 small head cabbage (Chinese cabbage or Napa cabbage)
1 1 cups carrots, Julienne, shredded, or sliced
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
Add ins: Chopped fresh broccoli, asparagus tips, fresh green beans,
fresh corn, Japanese squash, butternut squash or zucchini
Garnish with fresh chopped green onions. pickled ginger or Anori
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup rice wine (Mirin)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)

Aimee Takamura
Due: April 20, 2015

Mix together until sugar is dissolved and set aside.

Cook noodles according to package directions.
Over medium high heat add oil to a large skillet or frying pan. Add the
chicken and pan fry until it turns white. Next, add the onion and carrot
and cook until they soften slightly. Then add the cabbage and cook
until soft. Add the bean sprouts last.
Stir noodles into the mixture. When everything is nicely mixed
together, pour 2 or 3 tablespoons of water over it and stir-fry a little
Add the prepared sauce.
Toss the noodles and veggies with the sauce and serve immediately.
Garnish with pickled ginger, chopped green onions, Anori or fresh
chopped cilantro. Enjoy!