Foods that are ready-to-eat, especially in public places such as markets, are known as street foods. They are commonly vended by hawkers. Street foods can be categorized as regional or international since they have spread beyond their regions of origin. Others categories include finger and fast foods. These foods have similar features such as being cheap and readily available in various restaurants. The Japanese culture plays a big role in the patterns of vending street foods. For example, it is rude to walk in the streets of Japan while eating. The essay discusses the major street foods such as Onsen Tamago, Takoyaki, Dango, Wakame, and Karaage chicken that are common amongst the Japanese people. It will further address when and how they are prepared and served among others.
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Japanese Events and the vending of Street Foods
Every year in Japan, many festivals are conducted across the country. These events are made colourful with the presentation of various traditional street foods that are served as sweets and savoury. The homes of street foods are mainly found in Nakasu and Fukuoka districts where street foods dominate even when there are no events (White 114). Various well known Japanese street foods are classic delicacies that have been in their cultural system since the beginning of the twentieth-century. It is difficult to sell a majority of such classic foods in the open streets as compared to restaurants. White reveals that many consumers have attested that foods bought from the restaurant taste different from vended in the street (114). Various classic street foods of Japan are discussed below.
Onsen tamago are basically eggs that are cooked by the well-known hot springs of onsen (Seki and Brooke 50). The eggs are poached their shell. The cooking process is slow; hence, it brings about a custard-like texture to the eggs. This food is normally served together with a dashi and soy sauce (Seki and Brooke, 50). When perfectly done, the egg white becomes soft and silky while the yolk remains firm. It retains its original colour and a cream texture as that of an uncooked egg. It is easy to note that the outcome is an opposite of the ordinary boiled eggs that have a firm albumen and soft yolk (Seki and Brooke 50). To achieve the desired texture, the temperatures must be monitored since the egg yolk solidifies at 158 degree °F (70 °C) while the albumen does so at approximately 176 degrees °F (80 °C). Therefore, it is recommended to maintain the cooking water temperature between 149°F and 168°F to realize the desired quality (Counihan and Van Esterik 77).
When preparing the dish, one must defreeze the egg for about an hour to ensure it gains room temperature. Preheating it in the oven to 168 degree °F follows. The pot is then filled with water before heating it over a stove until the thermometer reads 155°F. The eggs are then lowered gently into the pot with hot water. It is covered and put on the oven. The oven must be kept at 168 °F for approximately 45 minutes (Counihan and Van Esterik 79). In cases where the oven fails to read 170°F and below, the temperature readings must be checked constantly while turning it off and on to maintain the temperature at 168°F. After the minutes have elapsed, the eggs are placed in cool water for a minute. They are then cracked in individual dishes. Dashi based soy sauces of about three table spoons are then added to each egg (Counihan and Van Esterik 84).
Takoyaki are basically fried ball-shaped snack of eggs that are filled with ginger, wheat flour-based batter, fresh octopus, and onions. The dish is mainly popular in Kansai and Osaka where it originated. It is currently one of the common foods available in the streets of Japan as well as in festivals. It is thus popular among the Japanese (White 114). It is normally brushed with a Takoyaki sauce after cooking it in a Takoyaki pan. The centre of the food is soft and gooey while the octopus is tender in texture. It is topped by savoury sauce that is sticky. In addition, some fish flakes are served in boxes of six pieces (White 114). The ingredients used to prepare the meal include readymade batter mix that has okonomiyaki flour. Homemade batter can also be prepared using 200g of flour, 2 eggs, 450ml water, & a pinch of dashi stock (White 114). Other items include freshly boiled octopus, negi spring onions that are nicely chopped, benishoga red pickled ginger, tenkasu tempura flakes, Takoyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, aonori green seaweed sprinkled, and katsuobushi bonito flakes. The preparation time should be ten minutes. Similarly, the cooking time is approximately ten minutes (White 114).
The methods used to prepare the meal include a first stage preparation of batter. 2 eggs, 200g of flour, 450ml of water, and dashi stock are mixed in a bowl. Heating of the Takoyaki plate on a gas stove follows. Next, some oil is heated in the holes. The octopus is then cut into smaller, desired pieces that are placed in the holes before filling the top with the batter mix (White 114). Properly sliced spring onions are added to the mix together with red carroty and tempura chips. This procedure enhances the flavour. There is a need to wait until the mixture is half cooked. It is then flipped over using a wooden skewer. This step is done by poking the outside of the batter within the holes. Rotational flipping continues to allow it to cook (White 114).
The Takoyaki should be round and evenly cooked as the cook keeps rotating it in the individual holes. When ready, they should be golden in colour. The Takoyaki is then placed on a plate. Next, it is brushed with Takoyaki sauce and Japanese mayonnaise. Lastly, aonori seaweed and katsuobushi flakes are sprinkled on top of each Takoyaki. The food can also be made using chicken if one dislikes the octopus (White 114).
Dango is a type of Japanese dumpling and sweet mochiko that are sticky. The street food is normally served throughout the year due to its numerous varieties that are available during the different seasons of the year (Gallani 120). Dango comes in different favours and colours. They can be placed on sticks then grilled over charcoal to enhance their smokiness and caramelizing taste. Mochiko and Shiratamako are made from sweet rice while Joshinko is made from sticky rice (Gallani 120).
Various dango varieties include the Anko (a sweetened red bean paste), chandango (green-tea flavoured), and bocchan dango that contains three colours namely red beans, eggs, and green tea (Gallani 120). Others have a variety of colours. Denpun dango are obtained from Hokkaido. They are prepared using potato flavour that is baked with boiled sweet beans (Gallani 120). Kuri dango is coated in a chestnut paste while chichi dango is slightly sweet. It is used as a dessert. Others include hanami dango, kibi dango, goma, kushi dango, niku dango, teppanyaki, and mitarashi. This food has basic ingredients such as tofu, mochiko, and Anko (Gallani 120). The method of preparation includes mixing tofu and mochiko in a bowl. It is then scooped out using teaspoons and rolled into balls. The doughs are then cooked in a pot of boiling water till they float. They are then cooked further for 2-3 minutes. Next, they are removed from the water by a ladle to place them on a plate using a paper towel. The dango are then served with Anko (Gallani 120).
Wakame is edible seaweed that is traditionally used in various cuisines in Japan (Bouga and Combet 240). The vegetable is cultivated under aquaculture means. It can be dried as a whole, in flakes, or used as fresh leaves that are preserved using salt. It is mainly used in making salads and soups. It is also a healthy and macrobiotic food due to the low fat and cholesterol contents with higher concentrations of minerals and vitamins (Bouga and Combet 240). In Japan, Wakame is used as a soup (miso soup) and salad (sunomono). It can serve as a tofu salad. It can be served with stir fries, rice, and noodle dishes. As well, it can be served alone as a side dish. It has both sweet and salty flavours with satiny texture. It is normally cut into small pieces due to their tendency of expansion during the cooking process (Bouga and Combet 240). The food is a rich source of vitamins A, C, D, B12, K, and E. It also contains lignin and folates. Besides it has higher contents of minerals such as sodium, iron, and calcium in addition to some chemical compounds such as fucoxanthin that help in the reduction of weight. Therefore, it helps in the burning of fats. The sea vegetable should also be consumed moderately to reduce the risk of hypertension (Bouga and Combet 240).
Some of the health benefits of Wakame include the production and transportation energy and proteins in the body since it has higher levels of magnesium. It also promotes metabolism due to its high content iodine. Besides it brings about the development of healthy bones due to the presence of calcium among other minerals. Various ingredients used for the preparation of this cuisine include avocado, walnuts, baby arugula, extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, and re-hydrated Wakame that is prepared using rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and lemon (Bouga and Combet 240). Wakame is re-hydrated before consumption. The vegetable is soaked in a lukewarm for about 10 minutes to ensure expansion (Lange et al. 40). The water is then drained before plunging the vegetable in boiling water for some time. It is then rinsed immediately with cold water to promote coloration. The vegetable is then trimmed to remove some rough stems. Next, it is chopped. The ingredients are then placed on a plate in a presentable manner (Lange et al. 40). Wakame is then placed on a prepared bed of arugula with some piles of avocado and walnuts. It is then drizzled with olive oil and lemon juices. Some salts and pepper are also sprinkled to add flavours (Lange et al. 40).
Karaage is a deep frying method of cooking meats, especially chicken with no batter. The food is then seasoned with garlic and ginger with soy sauce. It must be coated with flour prior to deep frying. The preparation time is normally 1 hour with 20 minute cooking time (White 114). Various ingredients include chicken thighs, sake, soy sauce, salt, grated garlic, all-purpose flour, corn starch, salt, pepper, and oil for deep frying (White 114). The preparation procedure includes cutting the chicken thighs into 3 pieces in a bowl then mixing them with sake, soy sauce, salt, garlic, and ginger. The content in the bowl is then left to rest for an hour. Flour, corn starch, salt, and pepper are then mixed in a new bowl before marinating them with chicken pieces. These preparations are added with the flour mixture. Thereafter, oil is heated to a medium high heat of 3500F. The chicken is then deep fried for 5 to 8 minutes depending on the heat (White 114).
Fancy foods are important in Japan as they form part of the festival celebrations. The foods are designed based on the cultures of the Japanese people. They are not only consumed in the streets but also in the well-developed restaurants within and outside the country; hence, most of them are sold even outside the country. The fancy foods of Japan are unique due to their characteristic addition of ingredients such as soy sauce, fats, and spices.
Bouga, Maria and Emilie Combet. “Emergence of Seaweed and Seaweed-Containing Foods in the UK: Focus on Labeling, Iodine Content, Toxicity and Nutrition.” Foods 4.2 (2015): 240-253. Print.
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Counihan, Carole, and Penny Van Esterik. Food and Culture: A Reader. London: Routledge, 2013. Print.
Gallani, Barbara. Dumplings: A Global History. London: Reaktion Books, 2015. Print.
Lange, Klaus, Joachim Hauser, Yukiko Nakamura and Shigehiko Kanaya. “Dietary seaweeds and obesity.” Food Science and Human Wellness 1.1 (2015): 40. Print.
Seki, Akihiko and Elizabeth Brooke. The Japanese Spa: A Guide to Japan’s Finest Ryokan and Onsen. Clarendon: Tuttle Publishing, 2015. Print.
White, Merry. “Ramen at Home and on the Road.” Japan Forum 27.1 (2015): 114-120. Print.