Culinary World Tour: Japan | Veggiecation© a Culinary-Nutrition Education Program About Vegetables
Friday, 29 August 2014 10:55

Culinary World Tour: Japan

We are believers in the power of food. The power it has to heal, to connect people, save our earth, help economies grow, and cross cultural bridges. You can speak with food and show love with food. People can build bonds with countries just through eating food from that region because it helps open our minds to a world outside ourselves, if only just a little.  We have always sought to create recipes that are culturally relevant – whether it’s an Edamame Dip or a soup with Latin spices. We thought it would be fun to dig a little deeper and look take a longer look into the foods of various cultures.

Being based in the New York City area, we have access to a wide range of foods from all over the world.  Being the food lovers/cooks that we are, we’ve experimented with more than a couple cuisines in our own kitchens and classrooms. We want going to share these explorations with you in this new blog series about foods of the world. First stop on our world tour – Japan!



There are so many different types of Japanese food, but most people immediately imagine sushi when they think Japanese. Sushi has been popping up in delis and supermarkets, not to mention in Japanese restaurants that you can find on almost every other block in Manhattan. Lots of people love sushi! It’s tasty and fun. But did you know that the rolls like California, spicy tuna, and rainbow are not even technically sushi? These types of rolls are considered “maki.” Sushi is where the fish sits on top of the rice and sashimi is where the fish stands alone. See below!

While we love “sushi,” we also have great appreciation for all of the other amazing types of Japanese food like:

Bento Boxes – A mixture of food that usually include rice, a protein, pickles, a veggie, and maybe even a miso soup. Bento doesn’t necessarily mean a specific type of food, rather, it’s about the way the food is presented – a.k.a in a bento box – and the fact that you’re getting an assortment of food.

Okonomiyaki – We know that “cabbage pancake” sounds strange, but if you’ve ever tasted authentic okonomiyaki, you know just how amazing it is! Traditionally, it’s shredded cabbage, a little bit of egg, water, flour and baking soda cooked on a skillet (it can also be made vegan very easily). The whole thing is usually topped with delicious sauces but can be eaten plain as well. This low-cal dish is filling , super tasty and nutritious!

Japanese Macrobiotic - Macrobiotic is more of a dietary regimen, such as vegan or gluten free, than it is a type of food. However, if you have ever went to a vegan restaurant or met a vegan person, you know that everyone does it a little different. A macrobiotic diet is said to be one of the healthiest ways of eating. It’s simple and usually contains – grains as a staple food, protein (usually beans/soy), sea vegetables, vegetables and no processed foods. Japan popularized the macrobiotic diet so a lot of macrobiotic eaters consume Japanese influenced foods.

Ramen – Not the  high sodium ramen you get out of a package at your super market. We’re talking the delicious and hearty, fresh made noodles type of ramen. This is now getting more and more popular here in New York and noodle shops are popping up everywhere! Beware however, one regular bowl of ramen (with soup) will cost you almost half your calories for the day so make sure to plan accordingly or split the dish if you decide to indulge!

Izakaya  - Imagine Spanish tapas, but Japanese - this is more of a type of restaurant than it is a type of food. It’s all about small dishes that come in a wide array of flavors, types, and range of healthy items. This type of restaurant is perfect for sharing and enjoying over the course of a couple hours. What’s the rush when you’re with good friends?

Here’s a tip for incorporating a splash of Japanese flavor into your home cooking!

Though it’s hard to pin down any one distinct flavor to describe the essence Japanese food, we would recommend starting with miso. Miso has so many incredible health benefits and has a wide range of use. It’s great for soups, dressings, sautéing and more! It’s definitely a great addition to your at home condiment supply.

Though miso is generally high is sodium, it doesn’t have the same impact on our cardiovascular system/blood pressure that regular sodium does. try seasoning with miso rather than regular table salt when it fits! Miso is a great source of antioxidants, fiber, and protein as it’s made from the soybean. It’s also a fermented food, which aids in digestion.


Read on for a super healthy and delicious recipe called Kinpira Gobo!photo 2

Make this at the beginning of the week and enjoy for a couple of days! Kinpira gobo can be eaten hot or cold and is perfect as a side or on top of rice.


  • 3 Cups Gobo/Burdock Root, Peeled and cut into matchsticks.

Tip: use the back of a kitchen knife to peel the skin off rather than a peeler! Great for digestion, the heart, and the blood! It’s low-calorie too so there’s no need to feel guilty if you need the whole batch!

  • 1 Cup Carrots, Peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • ½ Cup Konnyaku , cut into matchsticks. 

A mild yam turned into a gelatinous cake. It’s also great for digestion and controlling blood sugar.

  • 2 Tbsp Sake
  • 1 ½ Tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tbsp Mirin – Sweet sake used for cooking only
  • 1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
  • 1 Tsbp Seasame Seeds


Coat a frying pan with cooking oil (your preference!) and sauté the Gobo over medium heat for roughly 5-7 minutes (it should be tender but not raw). Then add the Carrots and Konnyaku

Add the Sake, Soy Sauce, and Mirin to the pan and let the liquid cook down (this may take a while!)

Once the liquid is almost all gone, add the sesame oil and sprinkle on the sesame seeds.


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