Updated: Apr 12, 2020
As a young child I watched "The Karate Kid". I was hooked. In my elementary school years Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was in theaters and on TV Saturday mornings. I fell in love with martial arts and Japanese culture. I became fascinated with the Japanese way of life, and absolutely obsessed with their idea of respect, honor, and dedicating your very essence into your trade or craft. In feudal Japan, people didn't go to work to provide a means to an end, they went to embodied their craft and dedicated their life to being the best they could be at that craft. This attention to detail and lifelong devotion spilled over into every aspect of their lives, including their home life.
As a young adult out on my own I loved going into Japanese themed restaurants like habachi grills and noodle shops but recognized that this was not "authentic" Japanese food, it was for lack of a better description "Americanized" to better suit their clientele. This notion sent me on a journey over many years to find "true" Japanese food, discover the processes they use to make it, and learn a small piece of the devotion they put into preparing it.
Now let's talk nutritional value, because after all the primary focus of this blog is centered around my fitness journey. A simple Google search for "Healthiest Countries in the world" will reveal Japan, and other Asian countries in the top 10 in most if not all articles your read. Why is this? Well for starters the traditional Asian diet, especially the Japanese diet focuses on "real" food. The kind of food that spoils if left out over night, and has clear expiration dates to it. Food based on natural, or whole food sources.
The traditional Japanese diet is quite unique and polar opposite of the traditional Western diet. For starters the Japanese people typically don't consume a ton of processed foods. Processed foods have been linked to just about ALL of the so called "Western Diseases" such as heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. Without getting on a soap box or going to political into this we simply don't know what the additives, chemical compounds, preservatives, and pesticides put into our foods to increase shelf life are doing to our bodies. Or better yet, we don't know what it will do to our bodies 50 years from now. The typical Japanese family buys their food from local markets and a traditional Japanese meal usually consists of the following:
* Fresh or steamed vegetables
* Fish or lean protein
* Some sort of fermented food (this can be anything from pickles to kimchi
* miso soup
* rice or noodles
There are a lot of fantastic ideas we can take from the Japanese meal structure. For starters meals are served in courses or at least in small separated serving containers. There is a large variety of food so as not to over load on one particular side and over due (ala mashed potatoes at Thanksgiving). Each course is usually beautifully displayed in it's own serving container and at home they typically eat slower than their American counterparts savoring and enjoying each individual course.
Another thing to be mention about the meal structure is that most meals begin with a miso or other soup. This helps to keep them better hydrated than westerners due to the large consumption of water based soup stock with each meal. In addition the drink of choice traditionally was green tea which again goes a long way in helping to maintain hydration compared to sugary drinks and sodas which dehydrate the body but more on that later.
Rice or noodles are always present in a Japanese meal which supply needed energy from the clean carbs not to mention along with the fresh or steamed vegetables and their collective fiber content help to satiate hunger and make you feel full after eating and often times helps to prevent over eating.
Add in the lean sources of protein that help promote a healthy body as well. Traditionally red meat and pork were used less frequently than fish due Japan being an island nation and seafood being a huge industry and readily accessible food supply.
Finally, Japanese people traditionally don't snack on sugary snacks and drinks nearly as frequently as Americans and other westerners do, and when you add in that because of the densely populated cities and excellent public transportation systems most Japanese people walk a lot to and from work or to subways, trains, or monorails it makes them an overall healthier group of people.
Now it is worth mentioning that as time goes on and the "Western" influence has become more and more present throughout the world day to day life in Japan has changed a good bit with the addition of American fast food and other imported goods slowly the population of Japan has become over all less health in recent years compared to it's traditional roots. While this might hold true there are still many lessons we can learn from the Japanese traditional diet, the people of Japan, their way of life, and their incredibly unique traditions that will make us as westerners not only more healthy but could lend in helping us become more polite and to put more pride and effort into our jobs, hobbies, and even simple things like preparing food for our families.
Now that I've rambled about the health benefits of the Japanese diet, and some of their beautiful and awe inspiring culture I wanted to use this as an introduction to a new blog series where I will post about meals that I have learned how to create along with descriptions of the meal, it's components, and some recipes from time to time.
I hope you guys enjoy this new blog series, please like, follow, and share on your social media accounts to help spread the word and join in on this amazing journey through life we are on.
So the picture above was my take on a traditional Tonkatsu Donburi with homemade Miso soup and green tea.
I'll post the recipe in a separate post along with some others that I have been working on along the way but I made a homemade dashi stock out of vegetable stock and bonito fish flakes and then dissolved miso bean paste into the stock and added vegetables and soy to make the miso soup. It tasted very similar to the Japanese steak house version but a little more savory in my opinion. The pork was crusted in a seasoned panko flakes and fried in vegetable oil. And the green tea came from an Asian market down the road. It was decaffeinated unsweetened green tea made from fresh green tea leafs.
I have many more to share and learn new recipes all the time so if you are like me and love Japanese cuisine like and subscribe for more.