Japanese food has become fashionable in western society for some years now. However, many people are still baffled and even anxious about how to eat this cuisine properly. To help you enjoy more your next meal at a Japanese restaurant, here are some ideas on how the Japanese customarily eat certain dishes.
One delicacy that has gained tremendous popularity is sushi. This is usually raw fish on little blocks of delicately flavored rice. Makizushi is its variation of rice and a vegetable or fish expertly rolled up in a sheet of nori (seaweed) and sliced into pieces.
In a sushi bar, the pieces of sushi come in pairs or more per serving. They are served with finely sliced red ginger and a small dish of soy sauce. Traditionally, wasabi (green horseradish) is already applied between the fish and the rice. If you want more horseradish, you will have to ask for it. In most Japanese restaurants in foreign countries however, extra serving of horseradish is already placed on the sushi tray. But you should try your sushi first before asking for more horseradish, because it may already have enough heat. One tip says you should breathe through your mouth, so you won’t sniff the spice.
Don’t worry if you don’t know how to use hashi (chopsticks) when eating sushi. Not all Japanese food must be eaten using chopsticks. Sushi is usually picked up with bare hands. When dipping the sushi in soy sauce, only the fish on top should touch the soy sauce. Of course, accidents do happen and, chances are, there may be some rice that would fall into the sauce. To be able to relish its flavor, put the sushi in your mouth with the rice side up and the fish side down, so that the fish will be the first to touch your tongue.
If you are appalled by the thought of eating raw fish, you can still enjoy sushi. You may want to try ebi (cooked shrimp), tamago (egg cooked like an omelet with a slightly sweet taste), kyuri (cucumber) or unagi (grilled eel).
Another staple dish of Japan is ramen. They are actually noodles that came from China, but were somehow adopted by Japan. Japanese varieties of these noodles include soba, udon and somen. They generally differ in the flour used and the thickness of the noodles. They may be served hot in a soup, cold with a soy-based dipping sauce, or sautéed with some vegetables and small pieces of meat.
This is where you have to have chopsticks skills, which you can acquire after some practice. One other thing you should remember when eating ramen is to slurp, even if your mother always told you not to. In Japan, slurping is your way of expressing appreciation of the food that you are having. Another reason for this is so that you can suck in some air and be able to enjoy your noodle soup while it is piping hot.
Most restaurants in Japan are specialty restaurants or shops that have limited offerings. You go to a sushi bar for sushi, sashimi and other related Japanese food. If you want some noodles, you should go to a ramen house. The amazing plastic dish models in display cases in front of Japanese restaurants will tell you what they offer. You can also use these models to point out the dish that you want to have, if you do not know how to read their menu or speak their language.
Lastly, green tea is usually served at the end of every Japanese meal. They are commonly a complimentary beverage in restaurants. It is believed to help you digest your food and, with its astringent quality, cleanse your mouth. It is drunk without any milk or sugar. The liquid is carefully poured into tea cups up to only about three-quarters and never to the brim.