The beauty of Japanese cuisine is in its wide variety of ingredients and cooking methods. The various ways of preparing the many different categories of ingredients combine to create healthy, nutritionally well-balanced meals. Here is an introduction to some of the principal categories of Japanese cuisine. Once the characteristics of each category are understood, Japanese cooking can be more fun and healthier.



A great variety of Japanese soups

One of the essential dishes in Japanese cuisine is "shirumono." Shirumono is loosely translated as "soup," but is generally made with foods from the sea, such as dried bonito, kombu kelp, and small, dried sardines.

Typical Japanese soups include "misoshiru" made with miso paste, "suimono" made with dashi, and "surinagashi" made with a mixture of pureed ingredients and dashi. There are many other kinds of soups but the most popular soup in Japanese households is "misoshiru." Misoshiru is miso paste diluted with dashi with various garnishes, such as vegetables or tofu, added. The variety of miso, dashi and garnishes differ depending on the region and the family.

"Suimono" is literally "suu-mono" (something that is sucked) and is soup made with dashi from dried bonito or kombu stock simmered with fish, meat, and vegetables and seasoned with soy sauce, salt and miso. "Sui-mono" is also called "sumashi-jiru" (clear soup).

"Surinagashi" is a soup made with dashi stock and pureed seafood, green soybeans, gingko nuts, or tofu. Because suri-nagashi is a rather thick soup, additional ingredients are unnecessary. The soup is often topped with some small garnish, such as a few leaves of mitsuba (wild parsley) or shungiku (garland chrysanthemum).

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Surinagashi is a soup using ingredients pureed in a blender and mixed with dashi. Making the best of the ingredients is one of the secrets of Japanese cuisine and this dish is a typical example.

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You can make this delicious soup using itten-goban-dashi. Prepare the soup with vegetables in season and proteins, such as chicken and seafood, to get well-balanced nutrition.

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Potatoes are a pantry staple and are used in a miso soup combined with a variety of ingredients.

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A miso soup simmered with pork, root vegetables and konnyaku. It is called ton-jiru or buta-jiru.

Taro Root Kenchin-jiru

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Kenchin-jiru is made with tofu, daikon, carrot and shiitake mushrooms. The meaning of kenchin is not known but some believe that kenchin comes from Kencho-jiru which used to be prepared at the Zen temple Kenchoji in Kamakura.

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