5 Colors, 5 Flavors and 5 Ways
The way in which you prepare a food dramatically changes its appearance, texture, perception of flavor, and even its nutritional value. Traditionally, Japanese
menus were conceived of as a series of courses, each with a dish
prepared in a different way. Meals constructed in this manner used
limited food resources (just a few ingredients) to maximum advantage.
The word cooking, in English, implies the application of heat when preparing a meal, though the recent attention given to raw foods has changed that somewhat. Washoku notions of balance however require that varied methods be used, unlike many who suggest that only raw foods be consumed.
True, applying heat can destroy certain elements (such as
temperature-sensitive vitamin C), diminishing their nutritional value. But, the application of heat makes most foods easier to digest, thereby increasing absorption of their nutrients. Searing and simmering certain foods helps convert their starches to sugar, making them seem sweet -- naturally -- eliminating (or at least, reducing) the need for additional seasonings.
It is the inclusion of both raw and cooked foods, prepared in a variety of ways, that ensures maximum nutritional value and gustatory pleasure.
In Japanese, the word niru is used to describe a range of activity that includes simmering, stewing, boiling,
blanching, and braising -- nearly anything cooked submerged in (or at least covered by) a bubbling liquid. It is probably the most commonly employed method of food preparation, producing soups, stews, and salad-like side dishes (briefly blanched then tossed in a flavored sauce).
GRILL 焼く yaku
In Japanese, the word yaku is used to describe a range of activity that includes grilling, broiling,and skillet-searing. Baking (cooking in dry, enclosed heat) was not part of the traditional Japanese kitchen.
Preparing food for table does not always require the application of heat. Ingredients can be transformed in other ways: peeling, grating, marinating to name just a few. Perhaps the best known Japanese raw dishes are sushi and sashimi.
Note: The category nama includes most tsukemono “pickles,” even though occasionally brief blanching is needed to control enzyme action.
FRY 揚げる ageru
Originally introduced to Japan from China by way of Korea, it was centuries later when the Portuguese arrived in Nagasaki that batter-coated, fried foods became part of Japanese cooking. The resulting tempura has become synonymous with Japanese cookery.
Today, agemono (fried food) includes
stir-frying and sauteing, too.