Japanese Recipes Which Appeal To Western Palates

Having lived in Japan for many years, I was able to experience a large variety of the dishes available in the land of the rising sun. At first, I was very adventurous and wanted to eat the dishes most different to my own culture’s familiar tastes. After some years living abroad though, I started to feel like many of my expatriate friends and craved the tastes of home in my own house. With comfort food, one can often relax and create a little atmosphere of Western comfort, even while living in a tiny Japanese apartment.

Here are a couple of Japanese dishes which are easy to stomach for the foreigner who has been in Japan too long, or for the uninitiated who wants to sample Japanese food without diving straight into sushi:

Katsu Curry

I first had katsu curry while on student exchange in the Saitama region, close to Tokyo. As a 15 year old active boy, I required a lot of calories to make it through the day. The school cafeteria served up katsu curry as an option everyday and it soon became my favorite Japanese comfort food.

The meat of the dish is tonkatsu (the ton means pork, katsu is the style of batter), which is thin to medium thickness pork fillets, breaded and deep fried. There are a range of dishes made with tonkatsu, and even a tonkatsu sauce, which is not used in katsu curry, but is often found on tonkatsu along with shredded cabbage as a garnish.

The aforementioned fried pork is laid upon a bed of rice and then covered in a mild Japanese curry (more closely related in flavor to an English beef stew then any Western concept of curry). The typical garnish is a bright red pickled ginger, julienned. This may be placed on the curry when served or offered as a condiment at your table.

Karaage

For those trying to avoid too much cholesterol in their diets, be warned, these recipes may not suit you. Again, as a 15 year old boy and even now, I still think karaage is one of the easiest Japanese foods to eat as a Westerner.

One could easily assume karaage is just fried chicken, as done in many other countries. While similar, there are some subtle differences. One point to note is that while karaage is most often made with Chicken, it is not always the case. You may be served gobo karaage which is the same batter, but used to fry burdock root. A difference from common fried chicken you may find in the United States of America, is that the meat is first marinated in sauces such as soy combined with garlic or ginger. After marinating either for an hour or overnight, the main ingredient is then lightly covered in a flour or starch and fried in oil. Many cooks will double or triple-fry the karaage, with a resting period of 15 minutes between fries.

The resulting food is always delicious and while Japanese enjoy covering karaage in mayonnaise before eating, to me, that feels wrong, so plain karaage or with a little Frank’s Hot Sauce is the perfect pseudo-Western food to be found all over Japan.

Try an Authentic Japanese Recipe: Teriyaki Chicken

Teriyaki is one of those words Japanese that we’ve amalgamated into the English language and now appears everywhere – like Samurai, Ninja – but unlike those mythical knights of old, Teriyaki sauce is actually quite easy to make yourself and isn’t so much of a secret.

Today I’ll show you the ingredients you need to make your own Teriyaki sauce and give a few serving suggestions for a light meal. Of course, Teriyaki sauce is commonly associated with chicken, but if you’re vegetarian then there’s no reason to not try it with fried tofu or soy-based meat substitutes.

Ingredients:

– 6 tbsp of soy sauce

– 2 tbsp of mirin

– 3 tbsp of cooking sake

– 1 tbsp of sugar

– 2 tbsp of oil

– 4 chicken legs

– Japanese rice, or some potatoes to accompany

Preparation:

Making the sauce is actually rather simple – just combine the soy uce, mirin, sake, and sugar in a fry pan. Heat on a low flame until the sugar dissolves then boil for about two minutes.

To prepare the chicken legs, wash then dry (with a kitchen towel) and cut into small pieces (only needed if you’re planning on eating with chopsticks). Feel free to use chicken breast instead of legs, but the Japanese swear he leg is tastier than the breast meat. Personally I can’t stand bones. Saute them until brown, then pour the previously made sauce on top and cook for a further 20 minutes with the pan covered the whole time.

Of course, this dish is best served with Japanese rice, but you could also use the chicken and sauce for own main meal idea, with potatoes or a salad, for instance.

Nutritional Reasons Japanese People Don’t Get Fat

With the astonishingly high level of obesity in the western world, as well as skyrocketing cost of health care associated with obesity-related medical conditions, we really ought to take note from Japan. Did you know that more than 30% of Americans are struggling with obesity, compared to only 3% of Japanese? Why are Japanese 10 times less obese than Americans? Is it attributed to pure luck, or is it because they are on a specific diet plan? Is this phenomenon attributed to genetics? Perhaps Japanese are not as busy as we are here in America, and therefore, they have plenty of time to devote to exercising?

If you are one of those, trying to rationalize why Japanese people don’t get fat, you are not the only one. It is my goal to help you understand better. As a starter, I can tell you that Japanese are not on a low-fat diet, or any other diet plan for that matter. Let me attempt to provide you with concrete answers. So without further ado, here are the key nutritional reasons Japanese people are not overweight.

Japanese recipes are small and contain a variety of meals:

Contrary to Americans, Japanese recipes are smaller, and the portions contain a variety of meals. I have been very vocal about the importance of eating smaller meals at each sitting, in order to allow the body to have enough energy and enzymes to metabolize each portion. The key reason for the continued rise in the obesity rate in America, besides the fact that most products are junk foods, is that the meal portions are getting larger, not smaller. Consequently, Americans do not have enough natural digestive enzymes to break down those large amounts of meals. This results in an accumulation of unprocessed food in the under-belly area over time. The bloated physique of most overweight people, is not always due to fat accumulation, but rather, to unprocessed food accumulation. To prevent this phenomenon from happening, try to adopt the Japanese method of eating smaller meal portions, and a variety of food selections.

Breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day in Japan:

I have said it before, but I will say it again: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you want to avoid getting overweight, you should not skip breakfast. Japanese people are aware of this. They typically eat a big healthy breakfast in the morning, and I am not talking about muffins, and bagels, or coffee. They consume a variety of small courses such as steamed rice, green tea, miso soup with scallions and tofu, a piece of fish, or small sheets of Nori seaweeds. That is another secret that explains why Japanese people don’t get fat. Breakfast not only fuels their body with the energy they need to get the day started, but it also prevents them from eating a large lunch, because it gives them a feeling of fullness for several hours. If you want to avoid joining the other 75 percent of overweight Americans, get in the habit of eating a healthy breakfast in the morning. Skipping breakfast is one of the most common fat loss mistakes people make.

Japanese recipes are cooked very gently and light:

Japanese do not follow any particular diet plan. The reason the obesity rate is so low in Japan is that Japanese recipes are cooked atop a stove, using techniques such as simmering, steaming, grilling, or sautéing, usually using low fat. They typically use flavored broth, and healthy oil, to season their food. This is yet another weight-maintenance secret that explains why Japanese people don’t get fat. Despite the light nature of the cooking, the meals are usually satisfying, while not giving the Japanese people the feeling of being full. This cooking style helps them stay away from unhealthy snacks, until their next meal time. In contrast, here in the US, most meals are overly seasoned, and are packed with chemically enhancing content, as they make their way from the freezer to the oven, to the lunch table. Eating food that is too rich, is the surest way to pack calories quickly. Therefore it is not surprising that Americans are always on a certain diet plan to lose weight.

Japanese people often skip dessert:

Japanese often skip dessert. In fact, most Japanese people do not fancy food that is too sweet, contrary to their American counterparts. A Japanese confection like a melon pan will not present any appeal to Americans, as they view it as dry, bland, and ultimately unsweet. I can’t stress enough that if you have just finished eating your meal at the restaurant, and you are offered dessert, please resist the temptation as much as you possibly can. If, despite all your self-control efforts, you still can’t resist it, I suggest you pack the dessert and eat it later.

Conclusion:

So there you have it. You do not need a diet plan. Stay away from junk foods, cook your meals gently, in the same fashion as Japanese recipes (cook them gently), with healthy oil. Most importantly, eat several meals throughout the day and do not skip your breakfast. You will be thankful for making these small changes. As you can see, none of them are beyond your reach. Good luck!