|Anne Liese's Fibers and Stuff|
Please remember that China and Japan are two separate countries. Japan imported a lot of items and culture from China but just because they had something in China does NOT mean Japan picked it up! In some cases Japanese food is closer to Korean food, but again one can not assume too many similarities.
Timeline (a work in progress)
(Mostly from Ishige if not noted otherwise)
Popular food preparation in the 9th Century (other than rice):
yakimono - grilled meat or fish
It is important to remember that while most European fare relies very heavily on oil in its cooking methods (sauteeing, frying, deep frying) Japanese cuisine relies heavily on water for steaming and simmering. There was really only one fried food before the Portuguese introduced breading and deep frying (early tempura). It was called "Chinese Cakes" or togashi and consisted of a flour-based dough that was deep fried in sesame oil as a sumptuous dessert for the rich. Even tempura didn't really catch on widely until the 18th century, due to its heavy, oily taste.
A typical Heian banquet was primarily fish and wild fowl with few vegetables. One description listed (Ishige 74):
himono - dried food, i.e. salted salmon or pheasant, dried abalone
simmered (nimono), dried & grilled octopus (yakimono)
All the food was set out in individual portions on a banquet table ahead of time; more cold dishes than hot. After the main feast was done, a less formal drinking party commenced, with loads of sake, konton noodle soup, other hot soups, and elaborate fish or fowl dishes, such as grilled fish stuffed with nuts and seaweed (tsutsumiyaki) or a pheasant cooked in front of the guests.
Animals that existed in Japan but weren't eaten for much of the period because of Buddhist prohibitions against eating animals (things in the sea don't count as "animals"): various birds (incl. quail, duck, pheasant), deer, monkey, boar, bear, oxen
Eggs: duck, quail
Fish: carp, sea bream, salmon (sake), trout, yellowtail (hamachi), mackerel, bonito (dried & shaved), sardines and other small fish, fish eggs, fish fry, various parts of fish i.e. ovaries
Shellfish and other sea creatures: abalone, clams, scallops, crab, shrimp, octopus, squid, jellyfish, sea squirt
Sea vegetables: konbu, wakame, nori, agar-agar, hijiki, many other kinds
Grains: LOTS of rice, millet
Beans: green soybeans (edamame), other soybeans (used for tofu and miso), adzuki beans
Vegetables: daikon radish, root vegetables similar to carrots and turnips (kabu, komatsuna), burdock root (gobo), potato-like roots (satoimo, satsumoimo), sweet potato (yamaimo), edible grasses, Japanese eggplant, bamboo shoots, chrysanthemum greens, asian spinach, mustard greens, Chinese cabbage (hakusai)
Mushrooms: shiitake, maitake, matsutake, enokitake, shimeji
Fruits: ume (acidic member of the apricot family, usually pickled with red shiso or made into umezu, juice), peaches, pomegranate, persimmons, citron, yuzu
Nuts: Gingko nuts, chestnuts, pine nuts, walnuts, acorns
sansho - seed pods made into "pepper", young leaves called
Some definitely post-1600's foods:
wheat flour bread and noodles (udon)
The presentation of food has always been very important to the Japanese; it's not just a sushi thing. Formal meals were always served in individual portions, each carefully arranged visually.
Some typical treatments include:
Heaping mound with garnish on top
Examples of garnishes:
Mound of sesame seeds or fish eggs (roe)
The placement of dishes in front of the diner is also very important. For various types of meals there are specific locations for specific dishes. This can be compared to the modern western placement of glasses and eating utensils when setting a table.
The Japanese were described by a Chinese visitor in 200CE as eating with fingers from a dish with attached base.
In the Nara period ambassadors to China brought back with them eating methods and etiquette that lasted through the Heian era. This included eating with chopsticks (hashi), which filtered to the lower classes and has remained the primary eating method to this day. The Chinese used spoons for serving dishes and eating rice and soups, but the Japanese customs of individual portions, eating sticky rice and bringing the bowl directly to the mouth for drinking soups made the spoon unnecessary. Court banquets modeled after the Chinese included metal and glass dishes and metal spoons for eating rice and liquids but those materials were too expensive for the average person and so their use died out with the decline of the courts.
All content copyright the author, Jennifer Munson firstname.lastname@example.org The author makes no guarantees for instructions and recipes on this site; neither does she accept responsibility for their outcomes. Verbatim copies may be made for educational purposes only provided they contain original copyright marking.
This page created September 4, 2002
Last updated August 02, 2005