By Maris Callahan
When you think of “Japanese food” does it include a heaping platter of sushi? While there are plenty of healthy (and unhealthy) sushi options, there is much more to the Japanese cuisine that make for easy homemade meals.
Much different than the the American diet, notorious for its gigantic portions, the Japanese diet is modest.
Like all cuisine, you can prepare lighter dishes at home than you would order from a restaurant because you have complete control over how much salt, butter, cream or oil you add to your meal. Here’s how to do it:
Expand beyond sushi and seaweed salad by using new sauces, spices and condiments to flavor your favorite seafood, rice or protein. Traditionally, Japanese food is rich in fiber and protein, and low in fat and calories. Japanese cooking blogger Namiko Chen says “The Japanese diet typically includes a lot of wheat, soy beans, seaweed, mushrooms, seafood and vegetables.”
Some of Chen’s favorite dishes to make at home are miso soup, gyoza, chicken teriyaki, beef teriyaki, curry rice and stir-fried udon noodles (also called yaki udon).
Try New Cooking Methods
Many traditional Japanese dishes are simply prepared without much added fat. Broiling, a simple alternative to grilling in which food is cooked with dry heat, is a simple way to prepare fish like lightly salted salmon or hamachi filet. Another popular cooking method, nikujaga, is cooking by simmering or stewing meat and vegetables in a lightly sweetened soy sauce.
Use Low Calorie Condiments
All of the basic condiments for Japanese cooking, such as sake, soy sauce, mirin and miso, are low in calories. Dashi, which is a fish-based stock, is used for most dishes, including versatile and low-calorie miso soup.
Other flavor agents that the Japanese rely on include ginger, shiitake mushrooms, green onions, mint, and basil.
Americanized Japanese food often uses condiments and garnishes that do not even exist in Japan. Reika Yo Alexander, owner of EN Japanese Brasserie, told CNN Eatocracy that most Japanese food in America is a far cry from authentic.
Two of the most common sushi rolls in America’s Japanese restaurants, California rolls and Dragon rolls, are actually obscure in Japan. “Avocado and mayonnaise are featured in each of these rolls,” said Alexander. “Avocado does not grow in Japan and mayonnaise is never used there.”