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Cooking Methods

Japanese food is all cooked on the stove-top; an oven is never used. There are five traditional cooking methods: boiling, grilling, deep-frying, steaming, and serving raw. "Serving raw" is considered a cooking method because although the food is not cooked, preparation (in terms of peeling, slicing, etc.) is still required.

The ideal Japanese meal has at least one dish cooked in each manner. Color is also a factor; there are five colors: green, yellow, red, white and black. "Black" means the dark purple of an eggplant or some kinds of cabbage. The ideal meal involves a balance of these colors, cooking methods, and a balance of the six tastes: bitter, sour, sweet, hot, salty, and mild.

In addition to the importance of setting a proper place, which is equally important in the West, the arrangement of the food on the plate itself is also important: dishes are filled to two-thirds their capacity. One reason for this is to not obscure the pattern on the surface of the dish.

Table Settings

In setting a Japanese table, the location of dishes and utensils is as important as it is in Western cuisine. The diagram below shows a general schematic for a table setting.
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This arrangement may differ slightly: for example, when noodles are served, the noodles themselves go where the soup usually goes, and the dipping sauce goes where the rice usually goes. This is because the noodles are often eaten after dipping in the sauce-that is when they are left.

The principle difference between the Japanese arrangement and the western arrangement is that in the American arrangement, the meat is always placed directly in front of the eater; in Japan, the meat is placed off to the right. Another difference is that chopsticks are placed directly in front of the eater, instead of off to the side like silverware in the western tradition.

The examples below show some sample table settings that vary from season to season. Usually, the pattern of the dishes is changed according to the season-for example, maple leaf-pattern for the fall, plum blossom-pattern for spring-as well as the type of food served.
                               formal banquet setting.jpg (169085 bytes) formal banquet setting
 tempura tray.jpg (61176 bytes)

tempura tray

noodle tray

                     doll festival tray.jpg (84522 bytes)

girls' day doll festival tray


Additional Resources on Japanese Table Settings & Etiquette

Eric’s Chopsticks Gallery - Chopsticks rests

Chopstick etiquette

Japanese Manners & Etiquette

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