Japan takes tradition seriously and it reflects well in their cuisine. The country’s delightful food pairings and drinks are a must-try for anyone who wants a taste of their culture. What’s more, these gustatory delights are not only pleasing to your palate, they also have great benefits for your health.
After a long, tiring day at work, nothing can compare to the satisfaction you’ll feel after partaking of contemporary Japanese cuisine. And what other way to complete your meal than to pair it with a delicious Japanese drink?
Here are 6 scrumptious Japanese drinks and food pairings that will make you yearn for more:
Sushi and Wasabi
This is a well-known food pair in the world of Japanese cuisine. Usually, with every piece of sushi, you’ll get a double punch of wasabi. A dab of the condiment is placed in the rice which is then dipped into a soy sauce mixture, then blended again with another dab of wasabi.
Most traditionalists can’t eat raw fish without wasabi but there are also some casual sushi fans who can’t handle the heat. Unfortunately, passing on wasabi will make you miss out on the following benefits:
- “Softens” the smell of the fish
- Draws out more of the sushi flavor
- Suppresses microorganisms that may cause food poisoning
If you aren’t comfortable eating food that’s raw, endure the spiciness of wasabi while acquiring the benefits that come with it.
Rice Balls and Laver
Laver is a type of seaweed used in Japan to wrap rice balls or onigiri.
By nature, rice balls are almost made up of entirely carbohydrates. To convert carbs into energy, your body will need vitamin B which laver has plenty of.
The good thing is, the amount of vitamin B needed for a single onigiri’s carbohydrates is almost the same as the amount delivered in the laver that takes to wrap one.
Miso Soup and Seaweed
Miso soup and seaweed always go hand in hand.
With the seaweed’s flimsy texture and almost total lack of flavor, it turns out that it can compensate for the high sodium content of miso soup. The nutrients found in seaweed help reduce both sodium and blood pressure levels in your body.
Yam and Raw Tuna
Tuna is one of Japan’s favorite type of fish and is often served with grated yam to add variety to its visual presentation.
It may take some time to get used to the stickiness of Japanese yam. But the reason for this polarizing texture is its protein “mucin” that helps the body absorb other proteins which tuna is abundant in.
Sansho and Freshwater Eel
Freshwater eel or unagi is normally butterflied, spread with sauce, grilled and topped with a pinch of a slightly bitter, pepper-like powder seasoning called “sansho”. Aside from giving more color to unagi, sansho helps lessen the fishy eel smell.
Using sansho as a condiment also warms up digestive organs and breaks down the oil contents of unagi – both of which help in digestion.
Tonkatsu and Cabbage
For those who are really hungry, tonkatsu paired with a pile of shredded cabbage will definitely fill you up.
Tonkatsu is a dish that comprises of pork cutlets coated in flaky bread crumbs which are then deep–fried. As cabbage is rich in vitamin U, this food pair also helps prevent gastric hyperacidity or stomach ache.
Made from fermented rice, this warm, thick-textured and sweet low alcohol beverage is often offered at shrines and temples during the New Year. In winter, it is also commonly found in tourist spots. Many consider this a warming and robust Japanese drink.
You can find green tea everywhere in Japan. However, this drink is from specially grown and harvested powdered matcha, making it the best green tea experience. To enjoy the deep, rich flavor of matcha, partake in the tea ceremony when in Japan.
Aojiru means green juice or drink which is made of kale greens along with green tea leaves and barley grass. Although the drink is bitter in taste, it is rich in vitamins and minerals which make it a good dietary supplement that promotes longevity.
Inspired by cherry blossoms, sakura tea is an amazing blend of floral and sweet notes. It’s not only rejuvenating and relaxing but also great for your skin. This drink is prepared with pickled cherry blossoms in plum vinegar.
Many studies show that cherry blossom extract in teas can actually help strengthen the immune system. This makes it a good drink for increasing longevity and maintaining good health.
This is a tea made from roasted buckwheat kernels and is used in making soba noodles. Often found in soba restaurants, this Japanese drink’s nutty and malty flavor makes it quite popular.
Chilled soba-cha is a vital refreshment during Japan’s humid and hot summers. As it’s brewed from barley kernels, it is a caffeine drink that has a wheat flavor without any calories.
The world of Japanese cuisine offers a wide variety of tastes and textures that can satisfy both traditional and more adventurous diners.
One thing is certain, everyone can agree that Japanese food and drinks are not just unique in taste but also brimming with health benefits.
Make sure to try them to truly embrace the glory of Japanese cuisine. After all, a great way to experience a country’s culture is through good food. So go ahead, indulge!
Jenene Bronwin Batts is the Senior Marketing Coordinator at Tourism Development & Investment Company or TDIC. She oversees website maintenance, PR requests, marketing initiatives and all general guests’ enquiries for the company’s destinations, including KOI Restaurant & Lounge and Boa Steakhouse in Abu Dhabi.