An Introduction to Kaiseki Cuisine
At a Japanese Ryokan
, one of the highlights is dining on Kaiseki
is a Japanese traditional, multi-course dinner. Indeed, many Japanese think of a ryokan as a place to dine on Kaiseki rather than as a type of accommodation.
|Kaiseki Cuisine is considered the “King” of Japanese Cuisine!
What exactly is Kaiseki?
The term Kaiseki means hot stone in a kimono fold, and it is believed that Zen priests would tuck hot stones wrapped in towels next to their stomach to cure their hunger pangs during their morning and afternoon prayers.
The kanji in the term “Kai” means: “a fold in a kimono” and “Seki” means “stone”. In this way it was believed that only a small amount of Kaiseki would be enough to take away your hunger.
|Dishes like these reflect the different seasons and nature of Japan
Originally, Kaiseki was a simple, vegetarian meal served during the traditional tea ceremony. It was thought the tea would taste better if the guests were not so hungry. Today Kaiseki is no longer a strictly vegetarian meal but may also include both meat and fish.
One Kaiseki dinner can consist of anywhere from 6 to 15 different kinds of food.
Here are some examples:
“shiizakana” (appetizers served with Japanese sake)
“mukouzuke” (sashimi – slices of raw fish)
“kuchitori” (a small side dish)
“suimono” (a soup)
“nimono” (simmered vegetables)
“aemono” (food dressed with sauce)
“kounomono” (Japanese pickles)
“hassun” (food from the mountains and the sea)
“sunomono” (food marinated in vinegar)
“yakimono” (grilled fish)
“mushimono” (steamed food)
“nabemono” (Japanese hot pot)
The kind of food served will change according to the different months, seasons and what is freshly available at the local market. It is also depends on the area. For example, a Kaiseki served in February in Kyushu
would be different than a Kaiseki served February in Northern Japan
It is said that Kaiseki is a meal at one with nature. In fact, guests will often find such things from nature as flowers and leaves adorning the food. The ingredients are natural, of high quality and chosen according to the season. Most important of all, the ingredients are all freshly served.
This is why it is so important that guests are expected to check in on time at a ryokan. Check-in time is before 17:30 or 5.30pm, so the chefs have time to properly prepare the Kaiseki meal. However, if guests check in late then the Kaiseki is ruined since the ingredients are no longer fresh.
Throughout the meal, each course is served immediately after it is prepared so as to maintain the freshness of the ingredients. The design and the display of the food is a reflection of shapes found within nature.
For example, the food represents such things as forests, mountains, islands, flowers, and leaves. The food and the tableware also contrast in color, texture, flavor, consistency, and shape just as in nature.
|Beer goes very well with most Japanese dishes. So is the cup half-full or half-empty?
The Kaiseki menu changes throughout the year, and the cycle of change begins in November when the year’s first tea is ready for grinding. This year is divided into 12 months, and both the food and the tableware reflect the changing months and seasons.
The Origins of Yakiniku
Yakiniku finds its origins in Korean
style BBQ cooking.
|Yakiniku with family, is particularly heart warming & satisfying!
According to one story, Yakiniku
found its beginnings when people from the North Korean peninsula living in Japan immediately after World War II
sold beef hearts cooked in their native cooking style as an alternative to beef on the black market
|In Yakiniku; “you” – are the chef!
This original style of Yakiniku cookery that so captured the hearts of the Japanese people back then, underwent various developments in Japan
in the way that it is eaten and seasoned, giving a different dish to that’s now found in Korea
Stylistic features, such as prepared raw ingredients cut beforehand into a size that is easily eaten, the option of choosing your preferred ingredients and then grilling them yourself, are characteristics of Japanese Yakiniku. It also shows a wider variety in the sections of meat that are served.
Beef is most commonly eaten; however, pork and chicken can also be added to the same wire mesh grill, and internal organs are also much in demand. The tendency in Japanese cooking
to place importance on the actual choice of the ingredients is reflected in Yakiniku; marinading is often kept to a minimum.
In many cases, Yakiniku is eaten as a group. Sitting around the same fire of the grill, while poking at the grilled meat with chopsticks, allows the feeling of being at one with the group to bond.
There are 2 important points to cooking delicious Yakiniku. The first is of course, the quality of the ingredients. The second is the way of grilling the meat. Given that in the case of Japanese Yakiniku, you have to grill it yourself; the main factor controlling the outcome is your skill in cooking.
The basics are simple. Don’t grill the meat too much. Imagine what you want the outcome of your cooking to look like. All Yakiniku meat is different from steak, the difference being that it is much thinner.
|We love our Yakiniku!
Just averting your gaze from the meat for a short time while grilling can result in it turning into a piece of charcoal. Nobody would obviously want to eat that! For this reason, it’s no good to recklessly heap meat on to the grill mesh.
Grill the ingredients that you want to eat a little at a time. It’s good to lightly roast the surface of the meat while enjoying the difference in the taste, softness and texture of the ingredients.
Since we’re in HEP 5 – After our BBQ Yakiniku meal, we headed up to the arcade, inside Joypolis Osaka for some fun with video games!
HEP 5 is a popular shopping & entertainment complex in Umeda
Here’re some Links on some of my previous trips to HEP 5, please feel free to click!
Video Game Arcades in Japan
|This is a UFO Catcher, in Japan!
An amusement arcade or video arcade is a venue where people play arcade games like video games, pinball machines, electro-mechanical games, redemption games, coin-operated billiards, air hockey tables and merchandisers such as claw cranes – which are knows as UFO Catchers, in Japan.
In Japan, these amusement arcades are called: “Game Centers”.
In Japan, some types of arcades are also legally permitted to provide gambling machines such as slot machines or Pachinko machines
|With this machine, you gamble using your remaining tokens, to win even more tokens!
These games are usually housed in cabinets, like those in the pictures above.
Video games were introduced in amusement arcades in the late 1970s and were most popular during the golden age of arcade video games, the early 1980s.
Arcades became popular with young adults and particularly adolescents, which in the United States; led parents to be concerned that video game playing might cause children to skip school.
This has affected Japan to a certain degree too and there are now time curfews that minors must observe, before entering the arcade.
I’ve heard from a friend from the United States that many video arcades began closing in the late 1990s, as the technology of home video game consoles began to rival that of arcade games. However, that is not the case with Japan, where video arcades remain popular.
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