Japanese cuisine is oftentimes sensitive to the five senses, as seen here
Photo by: Gustavo Veríssimo, Creative Commons
The emerging popularity of Japanese cuisine in the international scene is best observed in the proliferation of sushi bars and Japanese restaurants alongside American fast food chains. Known for its nutritious value and health benefits, a lot of people are slowly shifting towards Japanese food, making it one of the most popular choices for health-conscious eaters. But along with the popularity comes confusion – what is authentic Japanese cuisine? How can you tell if you are part-taking of a real experience of Japanese flavors or of a close imitation?
First off, Japanese cuisine as it is known today is a fusion of traditional food, called washoku, and ingredients and cooking techniques adopted from other countries. This has resulted in a wide variety of dishes that developed in response to cultural and generational changes in Japan. Despite all the cultural differences that exist between all the regions of Japan, there are elements that are shared by these dishes that make them distinctly Japanese.
One of these elements is the influence of the seasons. Japanese have a high regard for nature and the different seasonal changes that occur throughout the year. This deference is reflected in their cuisine, which uses only the freshest ingredients and those that are in season. Foods are made to look like cherry blossoms during spring and a flowing river or waterfall during summer.
Another characteristic of Japanese cuisine is its emphasis on aesthetics and presentation. Dishes are served with the belief that eating begins with the eyes and that the more beautiful the presentation of food, the tastier it is. Serving platters are picked carefully in order to emphasize the color, shape, and texture of the food they hold.
Perhaps the main element that separates Japanese cuisine from the rest is on how it evokes the five senses. Presentation is meant to capture the sight with catchy arrangements that resemble different things from nature. Sound is also a vital part in the experience especially when one is slurping noodles or pouring out sake. The sense of touch is not left behind with the different textures available from the softness of rice balls to the roughness of tempura. And finally both smell and taste are involved as one eats the meal the complete the whole experience.
With these elements in mind, it will not be difficult for you to distinguish the experience of genuine Japanese cuisine from a lousy knock-off.