Japanese Winter Foods

Shabu-Shabu

Shabu-shabu is a Japanese nabemono hotpot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in water and served with dipping sauces. The term is onomatopoeic, derived from the sound emitted when the ingredients are stirred in the cooking pot. The food is cooked piece by piece by the diner at the table. Shabu-shabu is considered to be more savory and less sweet than sukiyaki.

The dish is usually made with thinly sliced beef, but some versions use pork, crab, chicken, lamb, duck, or lobster. Most often, ribeye steak is used, but less tender cuts, such as top sirloin, are also common. A more expensive breed of cattle, such as Wagyu, may also be used. It is usually served with tofu and vegetables, including Chinese cabbage, chrysanthemum leaves, nori (edible seaweed), onions, carrots, and shiitake and enokitake mushrooms. In some places, udonmochi, or harusame noodles may also be served.

The dish is prepared by submerging a thin slice of meat or a piece of vegetable in a pot of boiling water or dashi (broth) made with konbu (kelp) and stirring it. Normally, the raw meat is dipped into the hot stock for just a few seconds, as the pieces are sliced paper-thin. Putting all meat into the pot at one time may result in overcooking the meat. Cooked meat and vegetables are usually dipped in ponzu or goma (sesame seed) sauce before eating, and served with a bowl of steamed white rice. Once the meat and vegetables have been eaten, leftover broth from the pot is customarily combined with the remaining rice, and the resulting soup is usually eaten last.


Ramen

Ramen is a Japanese dish with a translation of “pulled noodles”. It consists of Chinese wheat noodles served in a meat or (occasionally) fish-based broth, often flavored with soy sauce or miso, and uses toppings such as sliced pork (叉焼chāshū), nori (dried seaweed), menma, and scallions. Nearly every region in Japan has its own variation of ramen, such as the tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen of Kyushu and the miso ramen of Hokkaido. Mazemen is the name of a ramen dish that is not served in a soup, but rather with a sauce (such as tare), like noodles that are served with a sweet and sour sauce.


Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki is a Japanese dish that is prepared and served in the nabemono (Japanese hot pot) style.

It consists of meat (usually thinly sliced beef) which is slowly cooked or simmered at the table, alongside vegetables and other ingredients, in a shallow iron pot in a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. The ingredients are usually dipped in a small bowl of raw, beaten eggs after being cooked in the pot, and then eaten.

Generally, sukiyaki is a winter dish and it is commonly found at bōnenkai, Japanese year-end parties.

Sukiyaki is a one pot dish (nabemono) that was developed during the Meiji era. Different regions have different ways of preparing sukiyaki. There are two main styles, the Kanto style from eastern Japan and Kansai style from western Japan.

In the Kanto style, warishita (a mixture of sake, soy sauce, sugar, mirin and dashi) is poured and heated in a pot, then meat, vegetables and other ingredients are added and simmered together. In Kansai-style sukiyaki, meat is heated in the pot first. When the meat is almost cooked, sugar, sake and soy sauce are added, then vegetables and other ingredients are added last.

The vegetables and meat used are different between the two styles. Because beef was expensive in the past, the use of pork was common in the northern and eastern regions. Other ingredients added to modern sukiyaki include chicken (tori-suki), fish (uo-suki), udon noodles (udon-suki), negi, shiitake mushrooms, shirataki and slightly grilled tofu. In both styles, raw eggs are used as a dipping sauce and steamed rice with black sesame seeds is served.


Chanko Nabe

Chankonabe is a Japanese stew (a type of nabemono or one-pot dish) commonly eaten in vast quantity by sumo wrestlers as part of a weight-gain diet.

The dish contains a dashi or chicken broth soup base with sake or mirin to add flavor. The dish is not made according to a fixed recipe and often contains whatever is available to the cook; the bulk is made up of large quantities of protein sources such as chicken (quartered, skin left on), fish (fried and made into balls), tofu, or sometimes beef, and vegetables (daikon, bok choy, etc.).

While considered a reasonably healthy dish in its own right, chankonabe is very protein-rich and usually served in massive quantities, with beer and rice to increase the caloric intake. Leftover chankonabe broth can also later be used as broth for sōmen or udon noodles.

Chankonabe is traditionally served according to seniority, with the senior wrestlers and any guests of the sumo stable receiving first choice, with the junior wrestlers getting whatever is left.


Oden

Oden (おでん) is a type of nabemono (Japanese one-pot dishes), consisting of several ingredients such as boiled eggs, daikon, konjac, and processed fishcakes stewed in a light, soy-flavored dashi broth.

Oden was originally what is now commonly called misodengaku or simply dengaku; konjac (konnyaku) or tofu was boiled and eaten with miso. Later, instead of using miso, ingredients were cooked in dashi, and oden became popular. Ingredients vary according to region and between each household. Karashi is often used as a condiment.

Oden is often sold from food carts, though some izakayas also serve it, and dedicated oden restaurants exist. Many different varieties are sold, with single-ingredient dishes sometimes as cheap as 100 yen. While it is usually considered a winter food, some carts and restaurants offer oden year-round. Many of these restaurants keep their broth as a master stock, replenishing it as it simmers to let the flavor deepen and develop over many months and years.


Toshikoshi Soba

Toshikoshi soba (年越し蕎麦), year-crossing noodle, is Japanese traditional noodle bowl dish eaten on New Year’s Eve. These custom lets go of hardship of the year because soba noodles are easily cut while eating.

The custom differs from area to area and it is also called misoka soba, tsugomori soba, kure soba, jyumyo soba, fuku soba, and unki soba. The tradition started around Edo period (1603-1867) and there are several theories believed that long soba noodles symbolize a long life. The buckwheat plant can survive severe weather during the growing period, soba represents strength and resiliency.


Ozoni

Zōni (雑煮), often with the honorific “o-” as o-zōni, is a Japanese soup containing mochi rice cakes. The dish is strongly associated with the Japanese New Year and its tradition of osechi ceremonial foods. Zōni is considered the most auspicious of the dishes eaten on New Year’s Day. The preparation of zōni varies both by household and region.

It is said that zōni finds its roots in samurai society cuisine. It is thought to be a meal that was cooked on-field battles, boiled together with mochi, vegetables and dried foods, among other ingredients. It is also generally believed that this original meal, at first exclusive to samurai, eventually became a staple food of the common people. Zōni was first served as part of a full-course dinner (honzen ryōri), and thus is thought to have been a considerably important meal to samurai.

The tradition of eating zōni on New Year’s Day dates to the end of the Muromachi period (1336–1573). The dish was offered to the gods in a ceremony on New Year’s Eve.


Nikuman

Nikuman (肉まん; derived from 肉饅頭 niku (meat) manjū) is the Japanese name for the Chinese baozi (包子) made from a flour dough and filled with cooked ground pork, beef or other ingredients. It is a kind of chūka man (中華まん lit. Chinese-style steamed bun) also known in English as pork buns.

Nikuman are steamed and often sold as street food. During festivals, they are frequently sold and eaten. From about August or September, through the winter months until roughly the beginning of April, Nikuman are available at convenience stores, where they are kept hot.


Nabemono

Nabemono (鍋物, なべ物, nabe “cooking pot” + mono “thing”), or simply nabe, is a variety of Japanese hot pot dishes, also known as one-pot dishes and “things in a pot.”

Most nabemono are stews and soups served during the colder seasons. In modern Japan, nabemono are kept hot at the dining table by portable stoves. The dish is frequently cooked at the table, and the diners can pick the cooked ingredients they want from the pot. It is either eaten with the broth or with a dip. Further ingredients can also be successively added to the pot.

There are two types of nabemono in Japan: lightly flavored stock (mostly with kombu) types such as yudōfu (湯豆腐) and mizutaki (水炊き), eaten with a dipping sauce (tare) to enjoy the taste of the ingredients themselves; and strongly flavored stock, typically with miso, soy sauce, dashi, and/or sweet soy types such as yosenabe (寄鍋), oden (おでん), and sukiyaki (すき焼き), eaten without further flavoring.

The pots are traditionally made of clay (土鍋, donabe) or thick cast iron (鉄鍋, tetsunabe). Clay pots can keep warm for a while after being taken off the fire, while cast iron pots evenly distribute heat and are preferable for sukiyaki. Pots are usually placed in the center of dining tables and are shared by multiple people. This is considered the most sociable way to eat with friends and family.


Yakiimo

Yakiimo is a roasted sweet potato and is seen as a very popular snack in Japan. This is not a roasted chicken or something like that, I hope you understand me! It is a famous food for Japanese people and if you are a vegetarian then this is the perfect one you must try here in Japan.


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