5 Colors, 5 Flavors, 5 Ways
that are balanced in flavor include some foods that are salty, others sweet and/or sour, bitter and spicy. Including a variety of flavors in every meal helps avoid food
cravings that might lead to over-eating. Balancing flavor helps to limit sodium and sugar
SALTY 鹹 kan
The category SALTY flavor includes salt, soy sauce, and miso used in the kitchen when preparing and cooking various foods. Many condiments and dipping sauces at table are from the salty category.
SOUR 酸 san
The category of SOUR includes vinegar, naturally tart foods such as citrus, and some pickled foods that acquire sour or tart flavors as they ferment. Sour or tartly flavored condiments and dipping sauces also used at table to flavor foods.
SWEET 甘 kan
SWEET category includes sugar, mirin, honey and syrups used in cooking to balance salty and tart flavors. Sweeteners are occasionally brought to table where diners use them to flavor foods directly. Mizu ame, a thick, honey-like sweetener used in making confections, is processed from rice and/or barley, in much the same way that corn syrup is processed from the starch of maize.
BITTER 苦 ku
This category includes coffee, tea, some herbs and vegetables. In the mountainous areas of central Japan, a group of (naturally bitter) vegetables (ferns, bracken) known as sansai are foraged early in the spring.
Bitter flavors are thought to aid in digestion, and help to clear the palate, getting ready to experience forthcoming foods as flavorful.
SPICY 辛 shin
Although Japanese food is often thought of as mild compared to other Asian cuisines, there are several distinctive, and powerful, spices that are regularly used as flavor accents: