It is no secret that the Japanese are renowned for their longevity and good health well into old age. The secret to this is probably attributed to ‘shun’, a concept of eating food that is in season so that they are in their prime.
This means less seasoning or complicated recipes are needed to prepare a healthy, tasty meal, with only shoyu (soya sauce)and wasabi (derived from Japanese horseradish) used as a dipping.
The sense of season is prevalent in their food choices and is widely celebrated in the Japanese culture. For instance, springtime is symbolized by strawberries and bamboo shoots, while summer means you get to enjoy watermelon, peaches, tomatoes, Japanese cucumbers and sweet corn.
Kinoko mushrooms, grapes, pears, persimmons, chestnuts, sanma (a kind of fish dish) and shimmai (new rice) are elements of autumn, whereas winter dishes are spinach, daikon (radish), negi (Japanese leeks), mikan (tangerines), cod and yellowtail fish.
A typical meal consists of rice, miso soup and three side dishes. The main side dish is usually fish, whether raw, grilled or simmered, whereas the two side dishes are usually vegetables such as taro potatoes, radish, seaweed or pickled vegetables.
All year round favourites are Tofu, Shitake Mushrooms, Prawns, Soba Noodles, and Wakame. The most common beverage is green tea, taken warm or cold.
Food presentation is taken to a whole new level, with entire businesses dedicated to food containers such as baskets, boxes and tiffins. Not surprisingly, food is often offered as gifts to loved ones.
One common Japanese culture is to eat until 80% full to avoid the sluggishness and sleepiness that follows a full stomach. Food is savoured slowly, chopstick after chopstick, to appreciate the full flavours of each mouthful and to achieve fullness with less food.
- Low in cholesterol, fat and calories
- High in fiber
- Fresh and uses whole foods as ingredients
- A balanced meal each time
- Believed to keep internal organs, hair and reproductive system healthy
- Simple ingredients good for the skin and digestive system
- Needs longer time to prepare
- High in salt levels and not advisable for those with hypertension
- Tendency to get hungry fast, leading to more food intake