Most of us will rate sashimi as a lunch option for the health-conscious. Now, the world has recognised the importance of Japan’s traditional cuisine too – by adding it to the United Nation’s cultural heritage list (that’s along with Stonehenge and the pyramids)
Japan has become only the second nation in the world after France to have its national dishes designated heritage status by UNESCO officials.
The traditional cuisine of Japan is known as ‘washoku’ and the decision to protect it was amid rising fears that fast food and western diets were threatening the country’s culinary heritage.
Population studies have repeatedly shown that rural people living in Japan and subsisting on traditional diets that are low in meat and high in seafood, miso (fermented soya bean paste), rice, pickles and sea vegetables live longer and are healthier than their Western counterparts.
Our favourite shop bought Japanese brand has to be Clearspring. Their divine organic range of miso pastes, instant soups, divine teas, seaweeds, tamari and shoyu sauces and much more are super-high quality and available in most health food stores.
We love the Organic White Miso with Tofu £3.59 for a pack of four (make it like a cup-a-soup with only 20-odd calories, it’s great as a warming 4pm snack). I love the sea vegetables too and buy the nori strips, toast them over a hot flame until they turn green and put them into salads and soups. They don’t taste fishy but add a meaty flavour. Nori contains iodine and vitamins A, D and K and helps the body detoxify.
If you’ve got more time, here’s a recipe we stole from the chefs at Clearspring
HEARTY WINTER STEW
Serve with brown rice (serves 3)
- 6 blocks of snow-dried tofu
- 500ml of bouillon using Miso Bouillon Paste
- 2 tbsp Tamari Soya Sauce
- 1 tbsp Mikawa Mirin
- 1 bay leaf
- a pinch of rosemary
- 1 onion, cut into 8-12 wedges
- 3 carrots, cut into bite-sized chunks
- 1 stick of celery, cut on the diagonal into 5cm lengths
- 10-12 mushrooms, halved or quartered
- 3 x 2cm slices of buttercup squash, OR 7 x 1cm slices of butternut squash
- 12 broccoli florets
1. Reconstitute the snow-dried tofu by soaking it in lukewarm water for 5 minutes. Repeatedly dampen the tofu and squeeze out excess water until the liquid that comes out is no longer milky. Cut tofu pieces in half lengthwise, then cut each of these halves into thirds.
2. In a large saucepan, bring half of the stock to a simmer with the tamari and mirin. Add the bay leaf, rosemary, onion, and tofu. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the remaining stock, carrots, celery, and mushrooms.
3. Cover and simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes. Add the squash and simmer until the vegetables are nearly tender, which will be about 10 minutes. If the pan is nearly dry, add 100ml cold water mixed with 1 teaspoon of soya. Add the broccoli and simmer for about 5 minutes, until tender but still a bit crunchy. Serve with brown rice or fried noodles.
If you don’t fancy cooking one of our favourites for traditional homey Japanese cooking right now is Assa Japanese at 52 St Giles Street, London, WC2H 8LH
It’s unpretentious and canteeny which we love. The service is straightforward (don’t expect much attention after delivery of your food and drink) but the food is super-fresh and the sashimi sliced in front of you. The high turnover of mostly Japanese people is reassuring and the seriously traditional Japanese dishes at low prices make it my favourite fast, healthy lunch on my days wandering around Soho.
We also love Shoryu Ramen Bar, read our Healthista Eats blogger Charlotte Dormon’s review
Like this article? Sign up to our newsletter to get more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.