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Japanese Food

Described as one of the healthiest national cuisines, Japanese food comprises mainly of seafood and soybean, from which the Japanese get the bulk of their protein. Recently, however, meat, such as beef and pork, has been added creatively into the cuisine, but when you go to a Japanese restaurant in the UK, you will probably find that the menu has mainly fish or seafood dishes on offer.

Japanese restaurants - Flavours to savour

A Japanese meal is generally made up of rice, a main dish of fish or meat, and a side dish of cooked vegetables, soup and pickled vegetables. Japan's predominant religion, Zen Buddhism, influences Japanese cuisine through Kaisek, the Zen way of cooking that embraces nature, harmony and restraint. This means that Japanese food is simplistic with little use of oil and spices, as natural flavours are enjoyed without the heavy sauces and complex mixtures you may find in Chinese, Indian or other cuisines.

Japanese cuisine includes many foods that are left raw or only slightly cooked to maintain their freshness. One of the most well known types of Japanese cuisines available in the UK is sushi, a mix of vinegar-soaked rice with raw fish or shellfish. Starting out as a method of pickling fish hundreds of years ago, sushi has now become an artful and unique dining experience. Sushi can be served with raw fish or seafood, tofu, chicken, fresh or dried vegetables and seaweed, and can be eaten as it is, or be dipped into shoyu (Japanese soy sauce).

Japanese restaurants - First visit food

If you're going to a Japanese restaurant or sushi bar for the first time then it is advisable to take someone with you who has had the cuisine before. However, if this is not possible you should find that waiters in a Japanese restaurant are more than willing to help and advise you.

Those of you planning to eat sushi for the first time should probably start with maki, which is thin slices of fish and rice wrapped in seaweed. Initially, share out a single roll, which comes with about six pieces, between you and a friend. Not all maki contains raw fish, you can also get it with vegetables, flaked tuna, and even chicken inside the roles, so you don't have to go the whole hog on your first visit.

Get a feel for Japanese restaurants

If you go to a traditional sushi bar then you'll probably find a row of seats assembled around a table with rotating belt in the middle, which carries the individual portions of sushi around so you can take what you want.

In a Japanese restaurant, you will either find long tables where large parties, or a number of smaller parties are seated together to enjoy a meal; or smaller round tables for a more intimate experience. Most Japanese restaurants are minimalist yet elegant, and aim to create an oasis of calm.

Find Japanese food in the UK

If you're looking for a top class Japanese restaurant, sushi bar or noodle bar then you should find plenty of great ones to choose from across the UK. Wagamama is a national chain of Japanese restaurants where you can find a wide selection of Japanese influenced noodle dishes, including noodle soup and noodles in spicy sauces, along with some rice dishes.

If you are in London then why not try the award-winning Japanese restaurant Zuma, one of the most popular in Europe. The authentic décor was put in place by a celebrated Tokyo designer and the food is exquisite and traditional.

Things to look out for at Japanese restaurants in the UK There are a number of things to look out for when heading to a Japanese restaurant or sushi bar. The first thing is that the Japanese eat with chopsticks and drink soup directly from the bowl, so don't expect any knives and forks at your table.

In addition, before eating their meal the Japanese put their hands together as if in prayer and say ‘Itadakimasu', which means, I receive this food with thanks. After finishing the meal, both hands are put together again and ‘gochisousama deshita' is said, which means, that was a feast. Although you will probably not be expected to do this in a Japanese restaurant in the UK, don't be surprised if you see some guests sticking to tradition.

When eating a typical Japanese meal, you should follow this simple order like the Japanese do: take a bite from the main dish or side dish, eat some rice, then drink some soup from the bowl and start the cycle again until the meal is finished.

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