It is no coincidence that the Japanese have a very low mortality rate and overall healthier lifestyle. Recent research and scientific articles point this to the Japanese diet, or the official dietary guidelines followed by the Japanese population. I will call it guidelines simply because they do not think of this as a diet per say, they do not restrict anything from their daily food intake. It is all based on portion control, mindful healthy eating and Hara hachi bun me (腹八分目/はらはちぶんめ) which translate into “only eat until you are 80% full”.
The Japanese diet consists of a load full of grains, fish, pork, vegetables and soy. This must be why they live longer, healthier and are leaner. Eating for a purpose other then to satiate hunger sounds mind blowing to us westerners, but trust me, they are on to something very important.
Some of staples that you will need in your kitchen to start include Mirim sweet rice cooking wine used on most broth and stir fry recipes, Nori for garnishing and wrapping, sesame oil and seed, soy sauce, buckwheat, ramen and udon noodles are the most used. You will also want to stock up on short grained rice, fish, pork and a lot of vegetables such as shiitake and shimeji mushrooms, snow peas, spinach, cabbage and scallions. The base of most Japanese cooking is a hearty broth, so mastering your home made broth skill is a plus.
The Japanese approach to food is very much mindful and natural, this means that they are very conscious of what they put on their plate. Eating a lot of raw ingredients, steaming or boiling over frying, these are the things that will make you healthier and happier on the long haul.
Here are some popular home style Japanese dishes to get you inspired to incorporate some of that oriental flavor to your daily meals. Bonus? Recipes usually contain less ingredients and have shorter prep times, but some ingredients are harder to find and you may need to hit your local Asian market for some specific ones.