Japan: 6 specialties to enjoy

To bite into one of these Japanese specialties is to dream of the skies of the Pacific, far from our winter.

Onigiri The ancestral snack

Manga lovers are familiar with this small round or triangular ball of rice that their heroes buy-in konbinis, Japanese grocery stores open 7 days a week and 24 hours a day. Onigiri is often topped with pickled plum, salmon or tuna, and wrapped in a piece of nori seaweed to be transported without difficulty. This ancestor of street food appeared in the Middle Ages and found himself on the samurai menu. The triangular version, more current, easy to put on a support, is obtained thanks to a specific device.

Makizushi The sushi of the bandits

According to legend, this dried black seaweed, surrounding a mixture of rice impregnated with sweet vinegar and raw fish, was invented to allow the yakuza (the Japanese mafia) to eat without getting their hands dirty when they played cards. This “sushi roll” is also at the origin of the famous rolls. This inverted maki, with the seaweed inside, was imagined by a Japanese chef in California, in the 70s, to conquer the American clientele. Successful bet: Los Angeles has made California rolls its specialty.

Gyoza Grilled ravioli

Gyoza is inspired by jiaozi, a Chinese ravioli with cabbage and pork. It was in the 1930s, at the time of the invasion of Manchuria, that the Japanese would have learned the secrets of the recipe from the occupied inhabitants. But, since then, it has been brought to the taste of the archipelago. The dough is thinner and lighter, the seasoning of the stuffing is more winged and one of the sides is grilled. Today very popular, the bite can be enjoyed in ramen restaurants and in bistros called izakayas.

Tempura A little Portuguese air

It was the Portuguese Jesuit missionaries, who landed in the land of the Rising Sun during the great discoveries, who ignited the spark of the famous frying. Tempura is a lighter version of peixinhos da horta, Iberian vegetable fritters. In the seventeenth century, it is swallowed on a skewer, standing in front of a counter. Faced with growing success, the first specialized restaurants flourished in the second half of the nineteenth century. The strength of frying? Its fillings declined at will, from white fish to eggplants, through shrimp or shiso.

Dorayaki Iconic sweetness

In France, it was in 2016 that gourmets discovered this solar pastry. It was on the big screen, in Naomi Kawase’s poetic film, The Delights of Tokyo. The dorayaki, superimposed on two filled pancakes, is sacralized by Tokue. The old lady manages to get hired in a shop in the megalopolis because she makes it like no one else. With her distorted but magical hands, she patiently prepares Anko, a sweet paste of red beans. Beyond the classic formula, this cake can be brushed with chestnut cream or matcha, or even ice cream!

Udon Favorite noodles

Based on wheat flour, these white, thick, and slimy strips can be enjoyed hot or cold. Considered a traditional Japanese dish, udon is however based on a manufacturing process that would have been brought back from China during the Middle Ages by a Buddhist monk. In the seventeenth century, they would have come out of the temples and would have seduced the people. Old-fashioned kneading, along with the feet, is one of the steps that make them so unique. Since the 1980s, Kagawa Prefecture, the cradle of this pasta like no other, has become a place of culinary pilgrimage.

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