It's easy to find fermented foods in Japanese cuisine. Indeed, traditional fermentation is common there. That's why Japan is known as one of the leading countries for fermented foods.
Naturally, Japan has suitable climate to process food through fermentation. The country’s temperature and humidity are conducive to traditional fermentation. Hence, Japanese from the 8th century already made fermented foods.
Now, why fermentation can retain its strong position in Japanese cuisine? Basically, it preserves food and add nutritional value. Plus, it also provides new textures and flavours. Japanese people love the taste of fermented foods. Moreover, fermented foods have plenty of benefits. From brain, gut, to body health. In fact, it's likely one of the reasons Japanese people have such a healthy diet.
Here are five Japanese fermented foods which are delicious and healthy at the same time:
Japanese pickles from various vegetables. Ranging from carrot, cucumber, daikon, eggplant, and turnip.
The ingredients can be pickled in several methods: miso, rice bran, sake lees, salt, and vinegar. Then, it will naturally occurring lactic acid bacteria to work and ages the mixture, creating full-flavored pickles.
Tsukemono are usually eaten as a side dish, or a snack to eat along with alcoholic drink. Both tsukemono and white rice typically appear together at meal times. The salty tsukemono is a perfect complement for the white rice.
Natto is soybeans fermented with Bacillus subtilis, which lives on rice straw. Since old times, natto was made by putting soybeans together with the natto bacilli and wrapping it in straw that was normally used for drying harvested rice.
It has sticky texture and distinctive aroma. Some people don't like its aroma and texture, but many Japanese people consume it everyday because of its deep flavours and nutritional value.
In Japan, natto is a popular breakfast food served with rice, a raw egg and karashi (Japanese mustard). It also can be found in salads, sushi rolls, and even pasta.
Also made from soybeans, miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning. First, soybeans are steamed, crushed, then add some koji (yeast) and salt. After a period of fermentation, miso can be added to varieties of food, such as miso soup. Miso is known for its umami taste. That’s why it’s very popular in Japan.
Dried and fermented Japanese plums. The colour is usually dusty-pink, and looks like they have wrinkles. Umeboshi tastes salty and sour, because it’s made by using salt and lactic acid bacteria. People in Japan believe it gives so much energy, thanks to its nutrients and vitamins.
Umeboshi usually sold in wrapped portions at convenience stores. It can also be found inside rice balls, or even soda drink. There are also umeboshi-flavoured candy and snacks which are Japan’s favourites.
It’s fish flakes which usually found as a topping for Japanese dishes, such as takoyaki, okonomiyaki, ohitashi, and salad. Made from bonito fish, Katsuobushi is also a fermented food that takes over several months to process. It has rich umami and smoky flavours. Although it’s incredibly delicious, it’s also good for your body.