When you think of good food you may think of countries with the greatest culinary reputations such as Italy or France. While these countries are known worldwide for their artisan dishes, having spent six months in Japan recently, I have come to realize that Japan has some of the most sensory enriching foods in the world—so much more than just sushi and raw fish.
In Japanese, the word ご飯 (gohan) refers to a meal. With time it has come to mean rice, which shows how essential rice is to the Japanese people. A bowl of rice may sound boring to some, but towards the end of my stay, a small bowl of fresh warm rice had come to be the favourite part of my meal. Rice represents an endless combination of things to put on it. Fish drizzled in an array of salty and sweet sauces, or fresh and colourful seasonal vegetables with each their own burst of crisp flavour. Rice is a home cooked meal but can also be found in 5-star restaurants and at every corner side street vendor. If anything, rice is a palate cleanser to me when every dish is jam-packed with sensations, the comforting flavour of a bowl of steaming rice is perfect between bites of incredible food that alight your taste buds.
Japan is more than just rice of course. Quintessential to the Japanese culture is also noodles. One of the cheapest dishes that can be found, but always one of the tastiest. To me, Japanese noodle dishes out-rival any Italian pasta dishes that you could dream of. There is traditional ramen with its decadent broth and thinly cut slices of fatty pork, hard boiled egg, and of course, filled to the brim with soft ramen noodles. Another one of my favourite meals is dipping noodles. This is usually served as a plate of heaping cold noodles, but a bowl of boiling hot, flavourful broth. The act of dipping instantly warms up the noodles and creates a melt in your mouth sensation. Even instant noodles are delicious in Japan, with over five billion servings of instant ramen eaten yearly, Japan dominates the noodle market.
Of course, Japan is filled with hundreds of thousands of varying dishes that have nothing to do with carbs, but one would be hard pressed to find a shop or little restaurant that didn’t sell at least one of these things. My experience abroad in Japan was one of the greatest culinary adventures I think I’ll ever have, and I will always remember the creative, and mind-boggling dishes I ate there. Japan is known for its wacky creations, and love of anime. Though this is true, there are many sides to this diverse country. To me, Japan is rich broths filled with heaping portions of noodles, carefully made by the elderly shop owner who lives down the street. Japan is elegantly arranged slices of fish that were caught fresh that day and prepared by a chef who learned from his father before him. Japan is tiny restaurants hiding in the corner of an ally, with a menu that has been passed down and unchanged for generations. Japan is a culinary adventure you will never forget.