Japan Guide - Food

For many people who visit Japan, the thing they enjoy the most – apart from the snow of course – is the food.

Nowadays, Japanese food has entered the mainstream in many western countries. Nonetheless, eating in Japan will give the visitor a unique and pleasurable culinary experience. Discovering new foods, customs and places to eat on your own is one of the best things about traveling abroad, but for those who want a little help - here's a quick look at some of the things you'll find on the menu.

If you are used to jumbo sets and super-size servings, you may take a bit of acclimating when it comes to Japanese food. You’re sure to find restaurants that will fill you up, and all you can eat (and drink) restaurants do exist (known as tabe-hodai and nomi-hodai respectively). However, in Japan, the presentation of the food is as important as the food itself. Furthermore, dishes are designed to appeal not only to the palate, but the eye as well. Whereas American restaurants are known to pile as much food as possible onto your plate, the Japanese custom is to use several small plates, with the food carefully arranged into bit-sized portions.

Noodles

Anywhere you go you in Japan, you are never far from a ramen, soba or udon shop. In Japan, noodles are differentiated by their ingredients. The two basic types are those made with buckwheat and those made with flour. Soba noodles are made from buckwheat and are most popular in Northern Japan, where the climate is cooler. Soba noodles firm and range from light to dark gray in color. The most common wheat flour noodle is udon, a soft white round noodle. Somen is thinner and kishimen is a long flat variety. Both kinds of noodles are served in a variety of different ways, sometimes in a warm broth, or sometimes cold and dipped in sauce.

Ramen is also extremely popular in Japan. Though, not traditional Japanese food, this egg noodle from China is especially popular as a late night meal for those out on the town and can be found on most menus. The two most popular types in Japan are shoyu (soy sauce) ramen and miso (fermented bean paste) ramen, although there countless kinds of ramen to choose from. Most ramen is served hot in a bowl, but in summer time you can order cold ramen noodles as well.

Sushi & Sashimi

Moderately priced sushi bars are some of the most distinctive of all small Japanese restaurants. There are several different kinds of sushi with the most well-known being nigiri-zushi: raw fish, seafood, or vegetables placed on top of vinegared rice sometimes with a touch of wasabi and dipped in soy sauce. Another kind of sushi is maki-zushi: seafood, vegetables or pickles rolled with rice inside a sheet of nori seaweed. Inari-zushi, a favorite for kids, is vinegared rice and chopped vegetables inside a pouch of friend tofu bean curd.

Sushi restaurants also come in a variety of kinds with cheap shops to very expensive restaurants. If you visit a sushi restaurant, you'll be amazed at the skill of the chefs as they prepare the orders, keep track of bills and serve the food. Good sushi shops can be expensive depending on what you order, so it might be a good idea to go with someone who can help you navigate the menu. If you want to try sushi but you don't want spend too much money doing it, kaiten sushi is a good and fun way to go. At these sushi shops, plates of sushi go around a circular conveyer belt and customers take what they want as it slides by. The sushi chefs will also take your order if you don’t see what you want. The price (and quality) depends on the color of the plates. When you're done they simply count your plates and give you the bill.

Sashimi is simply raw seafood, usually served as an appetizer and eaten alone (without rice). Sashimi is usually dipped in soy sauce and wasabi (Japanese horseradish) before eaten.

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Japan General Information

Part 1 Information on Japan
Part 2 Getting to Japan
Part 3 Tourist information
Part 4 Passport and visas
Part 5 Costs and money issues
Part 6 Post and telephone
Part 7 Internet and newspapers
Part 8 Measurements
Part 9 Health and safety
Part 10 Accommodation
Part 11 Food
Part 12 More food!

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