Some Western culinary influences in Japan, including Portugal (tempura) and the Americas (teppanyaki), have been so integrated into Japanese cooking, it is difficult to differentiate them from more traditional Japanese cuisine like sushi and kaiseki. Standard Japanese meals usually include rice, soup, pickles and an entree, like fish or vegetables.
If you are not familiar with chopsticks, dining at Japanese or other Asian cuisine restaurants may present a challenge. But once mastered, eating with this simple instrument is a genuine pleasure, since you are not confronted with a variety of unfamiliar eating utensils.
An oshibori towel, in a wrapper or on a small tray, gives you a chance to wipe your hands (or even your face) before you begin the meal.
Except in Chinese restaurants that provide plastic chopsticks, you eat with wooden chopsticks that come in a paper wrapper. Take them out, split them in half, and hold the two halves in one hand with your thumb, forefinger and middle finger, as if holding two pencils. Then let the middle finger slip between the two sticks. One stick will rest between the forefinger and middle finger, the other between the middle and ring fingers. Watch how other people manipulate the sticks to figure out how to pick up pieces of food correctly.
To deal with soup, pick up the small bowl with one hand and sip from the edge of the bowl. You can dip your chopsticks into the soup to pick up small chunks of bean curd or thin slices of seaweed.
Noodles served on a wooden tray are simply picked up in bite-size portions. If served in a hot broth, alternate between picking them up and lifting the bowl to sip the broth. Slurping is a sign of a good appetite and eating with pleasure, and is in this instance, perfectly acceptable.
from Kate's Global Kitchen:
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This page modified January 2007
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