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Staple of Japan

Rice

Rice is the staple of Japan.
When we have no main dish, we can please ourselves even if there is only rice.
In Japanese, commonly, raw rice is called "kome", and boiled rice is called "gohan".

Leading part of Japanese scenery

Rice is cultivated mainly in whole of Japan.
Probably I think the scenery that you see from a train or bus window is almost rice field when you visit in the country.

In spring, farmers let water flow to rice fields and plant rice seedlings there.
Until the end of tsuyu, we can see the scenery of rice field like many square ponds.

In summer, rice grows up. We can see like green field of grass.

In autumn, the color of rice change from green to yellow and rice bears. It looks like golden carpet.
After harvesting, we can see stubble field.

Rice field in spring In summer In autumn

How to cooking rice

Most basic cooking of rice is boiling in Japan.

  1. Wash raw rice.
  2. Put the rice into a pot and add 1.2 times the amount of water.
  3. Put the pot with a lid over high heat. After this, don't open the lid until finish.
  4. When it begins to boil, turn the heat to medium.
  5. Turn off the heat, when water is boiled away. You can't look into the pot, so this requires years of experience. As a rough guide, it is for 30 minutes.
  6. After waiting for about 15 minutes, please eat.

This is the traditional procedure, but most people today cook rice with electrical or gas rice cooker.
It cooks rice automatically from (3) to (5).

Boiled rice is very white and soft, and we feel slightly sweet in our mouth.

Raw rice Completed boiled rice

Various rice cooking

We usually eat simple boiled rice.
But we sometimes want various taste or cooking of rice.

It is nice to eat with small amount of topping having a strong flavor.
"Natto", "furikake and "tsukuda-ni" are popular as the topping.

"Natto" is the nice food to eat in this way.

"Furikake" is dry congiment, and it consists of chopped katsuobushi (dried and ground bonito), sesame seeds, chopped nori (seaweed), salt and so on.

"Tsukuda-ni" is small seafood, meat or seaweed that has been simmered in shoyu and mirin.

Also "Tamago-kake-gohan" is a favorite rice eating.
In a rice bowl, hot rice and a raw egg is mixed. And a drop of shoyu is added to taste.
In some ryokan, a raw egg is served for breakfast, so most Japanese guests eat Tamago-kake-gohan.

When we want to eat rice rapidly or smoothly, we make "Ochazuke".
Hot water, hot tea or dashi is poured on the rice. We can shovel the watery rice into our mouth.

You have only to do above practices to eat rice according to your taste.

Sometimes we make "Onigiri".
Onigirii is a rice ball formed into triangle or oval shapes and wrapped in nori.
Generally, it is filled with umeboshi. salted salmon, katsuobushi or any other salty or sour ingredient.
It is portable, so it is often made as the box lunch at workplace, school or excursion.
Most convenient stores stock various onigiris in many popular fillings and tastes.

When rice is boilded, we make some alterations on the procedure.

"Kayu" is rice congee. It made by boiling rice with 5 to 7 times the amount of water.
We commonly make it when we are ill. And it is one of the healthy menu of Buddhist cuisine, so some hotels prepare it as breakfast.

Before rice is boiled, we can mix dashi and shoyu with water.
This is "takikomi-gohan", and generally chopped vegitables or mashrooms are mixed together.
It is very tasty because the rice are flavored by soup and ingredients.
"Takikomi" means "boil and mix".
This is also called "gomoku-gohan" (rice with various ingredients), "aji-gohan" (tasty rice) or "maze-gohan" (mixed rice).
In Kansai area, this is called "kayaku-gohan" (rice with ingredients).

At auspicious occasion of own family or relatives, we make "sekihan" (means red rice).
It is made by boiling rice with azuki (small red beans), so it is reddish brown.

Natto on rice Furikake on rice Tsukuda-ni on rice
First, put a raw egg on rice. Ochazuke Onigiri
Making onigiri Kayu Takikomi-gohan

Mochi

"Mochi" is translated as rice cake in English.
It is made by pounding steamed glutinous rice into paste and molding shape. Immediately after mochi is made, it is very soft but it gets hard with time.

Japanese people have a custom to eat mochi on New Year's Day.
For the first breakfast of new year, "zoni" is certainly served.
Zoni is the soup boiled with mochi, veditables and other ingredients.
And mochi is the rice substitute in this time, and we bake and eat it.

During New Year's Days, special mochi is offered to the gods, and it is called "kagami-mochi".
Kagami-mochi is consist of two round mochi and the smaller placed on the larger.
It is decorated on household altar or important place in the house.

Baking mochi
Zoni on New Year's Day
Kagami-mochi

Bread

Bread was introduced from Portugal in the 16th century. So we say it "pan" from pronunciation in Portuguese.
But popularization of bread was since the end of the 19th century, and it is not so old.

Today many families eat bread for breakfast.
You can find some bakeries in any city, and you can get favorite breads at most convenience stores or supermarkets.
For foreign traveller, breads are the foods that someone can get easily in Japan.





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