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Tempura: The Internationally-Known dish
Tempura is a Japanese dish made by coating vegetables, shrimp, smelt-whitings, and other seafood with flour and eggs before frying them in oil. It was known as one of the “three foods of Edo,” with the other two being sushi and soba noodles. Available from food carts in the Edo Period, tempura became a popular food for the masses and continues to be a popular choice in home cooking. However, it also has a place in fine dining, as restaurants specializing in tempura have dedicated their efforts to using the best ingredients and frying methods. Tempura has become a symbol of Japanese cuisine, and its similarity to fritters has won the hearts of many foreigners.
The most basic way to eat tempura is to dip it in tentsuyu (“tempura dipping sauce”) garnished with a small amount of grated radish. Depending on the ingredients used, salt and citrus juices may also be used. Some restaurants offer different varieties of salt, so it might be best to ask for advice before taking your first bite.
I know about tempura! It's really famous! Who knew they change sauces and seasonings based on the ingredients? Japanese food is so deep!
Eel Kabayaki: A Display of the Finest Culinary Techniques
Eel kabayaki (“square fillets in broiled in a soy-sauce-based sauce”) has been loved by Japanese people since ancient times. The brilliant combination of its soft, full texture surpassing that of any other fish and its mildly-sweet coating has solidified its status as an immensely popular dish. Eel kabayaki has a long history that originated during the Edo Period in the 1600s, when it was popularized as a dish for laborers working to reclaim land in Edo Bay. The only difference is that those laborers would dip their grilled eels in miso and vinegar. The kabayaki style that we are familiar with now did not surface until the 1700s.
In the culinary world, eel kabayaki chefs live by a saying that goes “Three years to skewer, eight years to split, and a lifetime to broil.” That is how long it takes to master the techniques required for preparing the dish. It is said that finding the ideal broiling method for each eel is an incredibly challenging task.
Sauce is the deciding factor for how eel kabayaki tastes. Although it is generally created by combining dark soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine), sugar, alcohol, and other components, every restaurant has its own recipe that produces a unique taste. When eel is marinated, its oils and flavor enter the sauce, making it even more delicious over time. Because of this, most restaurants replenish sauce to existing batches instead of making brand new ones from scratch. The result is the formation of a “secret sauce.” In Japan, there are days called Doyo no Ushi no Hi (“Midsummer Day of the Ox”) in July and sometimes in August. On this day, it is customary to eat eels that provide plenty of vitamin A and B to help people overcome the challenging summer heat. This custom has existed since ancient times.
It has a long history, and only masters with the finest techniques can prepare it. Not only that, it's also nutritious! You have to try it when you're in Japan!
Miso Soup: The Japanese Taste of Home
In the culture of Japanese cuisine, miso soup is the ultimate type of soup that is served with rice. It offers a familiar “taste of home” that Japanese people enjoy from their childhood, and it is an essential part of everyday dining.
The name of miso soup changes depending on the main ingredient inside. Tofu miso soup and clam miso soup are examples of this change, and the abundance of variations is one of miso soup's greatest traits. When ordering a set meal in a Japanese restaurant or cafeteria, there will always be miso soup on the side, as it is a must for Japanese people.
Oh~ the taste of home! ♪ So that's why everyone in Japan loves miso soup so much. To think the ingredients inside would make the soup's name change. Very deep indeed!
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