The True Origins of the Japanese Tempura

It’s European, Not Japanese

People who love fried foods are also in love with tempura. The delicious and crunchy batter coated dish – be it seafood, meat or veggie inside – is a comfort food for most. Most of us would thank the Japanese for inventing tempura, however, we are barking up the wrong tree, for tempura did not originate in Japan.

In 1543, a Chinese ship with some Portuguese sailors on board was headed to Macau, but was swept off course and ended up on the Japanese island of Tanegashima. These were the first ever Europeans to step on Japanese soil. The Portuguese came with guns, not to harm the inhabitants, but to trade. And though the Japanese didn’t like them, they found their ammunition useful as they were in mid-war at the time. Thus began a Portuguese trading post in Japan, starting with firearms and then other items such as soap, tobacco, wool and even recipes.

The Portuguese stayed until 1639 when they were banished because the Japanese regarded their religion, Christianity, as a bit too dangerous to the Japanese culture. Even if they had sailed away, the Portuguese left behind a rich part of their legacy, especially where food was concerned.

The Japanese today deviated from tradition and made the batter less heavy, incorporating fish, other veggies like eggplant, carrots, sweet potatoes, shiitake mushrooms, and of course, the famous shrimp tempura. If you travel to Portugal now, you’d recognised the green beans tempura and you’d say they’re Japanese. You’ll soon know you’re mistaken. The Portuguese even made their tempura crispier by adding a starch called nutrios. They still cook those green beans of old and they’ll tell you it’s nostalgia.

We Tempura Everything in Bellevue, Almost

When you come to FLO in Bellevue, enjoy our hot food selections which include the classic tempura. See that we gave it a unique flair. It’s just the way we do things here.

Osechi Ryori: Going Traditional for New Year in Bellevue

The Concept of Osechi Ryori

A traditional feast is observed in Japan at the start of the New Year. People go back to their hometowns, pay a respectful visit to their local shrine, and enjoy traditional food. That traditional food is the popular osechi ryori, granted a status as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

This practice goes back to the Heian period (794-1185). Ritual offerings of food are conducted to be presented to the gods on sechinichi days. These days marked the changing of the seasons based on the traditional Chinese almanacs. Some days are more important than others, and by far the most important one is the beginning of the New Year. On this day, special dishes were offered to various gods and members of the elite society partake of it as well.

Long been practised, this tradition soon spread to the rest of society and by the Edo period (1603-1868), they were being practiced commonly around Japan. Various beliefs came about, curiously and especially that on the first days of the New Year, any kind of work – including cooking – was to be avoided. One theory suggests that the deities shouldn’t be disturbed on these days by the sounds of cooking, or that those who are preparing the foods, especially women, should enjoy their rest and not have to work.

The osechi then was only simple food, like vegetables boiled in soy sauce and vinegar. Over the centuries, many more food varieties were added such that it became a more elaborate affair. These dishes have a special meaning.

Black beans, called Kuromame, mean health, so that a person can be able to work hard in the coming year. Kazunoko is herring roe, means many children. Kōhaku kamaboko is a red and white fish cake not only represents the Japanese flag colors, but also mean evil spirits (red) and purity (white). Tazukuri is sardines boiled in soy sauce and symbolic of a plentiful harvest. Datemaki is an omelette mixed with mashed shrimp or fish paste, associated with learning and scholarship. Kurikinton are sweet dumplings out of chestnuts.; yellow in color, associated with gold and financial prosperity. Kobu is connected to the word yorokobu, or happiness. Tai is made into the traditional food that is fed to a baby 100 days after birth; it’s meant to bring joy and happiness in the new year. Shrimp and Soba both mean longevity.

So if you’re invited to an Osechi Ryori, it’s good to know its background and what those foods mean.

New Year with Osechi

Here at Flo in Bellevue, we bring you this very special cuisine in the Japanese tradition of Osechi Ryori. Greet the New Year with our wide exquisite selections set in beautifully crafted presentations.

The Black Cod

Black Cod: The Succulent Non-Cod Fish

Many fish are called cods and there are many cods in the market sharing similar traits – firm, white, meaty flesh. A few of the most common are Atlantic Cod, a favorite for fish and chips; Lingcod, a favorite for recreational fishing by anglers on the West Coast; Pacific Cod, the second most abundant white fish in the world; Alaskan Pollock, the oilier and stronger-tasting most abundant white fish in the world, used in fish sticks and fast-food fish sandwiches; then there’s the Black Cod.

Black Cod or Sablefish is often called ‘butterfish’ due to its intensely rich, buttery flavour, yet very delicate texture. It is a deep-sea fish, living 5,000 feet (or up to 9,000 feet) in muddy depths below sea level in the Pacific Ocean, from Alaska to British Columbia. It is available in Eastern Pacific (from Southern California to Bering Sea) and Western Pacific (from Kamchatka and Russia to Southern Japan). Its predators are Salmon, Sperm whales, Pacific halibut and Orcas. Its diet consists of squid, small fishes and jellyfish.

However, it is not a true cod. Black Cod just resemble regular cod fish. But they mature early and are are long-living (like up to 90 years). This makes them a good sustainable source of food.

Like salmon, black cod can contain as much omega-3 (EPA and DHA), has three times more saturated fats than salmon and has many of the other nutrients found in salmon as well, such as vitamin B12. It also contains amino acids and other minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. Its rich succulent taste and texture is often compared to that of sea bass. It can also substitute for Chilean Bass.

In Japan, black cod is an essential element for sushi. Its high fat content allows it to go through different forms of cooking – frying, steak, smoking, broiling, baking and grilling.

Enjoying Bellevue Black Cod

You will just love Flo’s broiled Black Cod marinated in house-made Saikyo Miso sauce and served with light-tempura enoki mushrooms. It makes one great dinner.

Udon and Soba: Perennial Noodle Favorites in Bellevue

Everyone’s Favorite Japanese Noodles

Udon and soba are so very typical Japanese noodles that they have been integral to the Japanese diet and culture. Both can be added to other ingredients, blending well and giving texture and flavor to the whole dish. They can be served hot or cold even if they are cooked similarly- in a large container of boiling, salted water and considered done when they reach the right consistency.

There are many different varieties of udon and soba in different regions of Japan, though both originate from China. Udon came to imperial Japan during the Nara period (710-784 AD) while soba came much earlier, during the Jomon period (13000 BC to 300 BC)

The noodles also differ in their composition. Udon noodles are made out of wheat flour – they are thick and white in color. They are best eaten as fresh as they are soft and chewy. Neutral in flavor, they are able to absorb strong-flavored ingredients or dishes from curried broths to toppings that include deep fried fish, various vegetables, pork, etc. The texture of dried udon is, however, more dense.

Soba noodles are made out of buckwheat, with a strong nutty flavor. If they have wheat in them, and many do, it means they are not gluten-free. Pure buckwheat soba is gluten-free and stronger in flavor. The noodles are thin and soft, a lot chewier and nuttier than udon. Dried soba looks like flat spaghetti and is usually light beige to dark brown-gray in color.

Both udon and soba are extremely popular, filling noodles to be eaten at any time of the day. While there are other Japanese noodle types, like yakisoba, ramen and somen, the udon and soba are the much loved, traditional and versatile favorites in any honest-to-goodness Japanese restaurant.

Enjoying Udon and Soba in Bellevue

Here at Flo, we serve your favorite noodles together with other great classics. They are our lunchtime specials. We’ve got Tempura Udon or Tempura Soba or our Nabeyaki Udon. Enjoy our noodles like nowhere else, only here at your Japanese restaurant in Bellevue.

Bellevue Japanese Restaurant: Salmon Skin Has Benefits

Salmon and Salmon Skin

It is no secret that salmon is a healthy food choice. The fish is high in good fats, that of Omega-3 which is beneficial to cardiovascular health. Omega-3 is found in the salmon’s fat and in its skin. So how come you tend to remove the skin off the fish before cooking it? Most people do when cooking salmon fillet, others do not like the taste of salmon skin. Others believe that the skin absorbs much of the toxins if the fish swim and feed on other marine life in contaminated waters. Notorious pollutants are PCBs and mercury that can lead to health complications.

However, many great recipes include salmon skins. Why so and is it safe to eat them? Know that Omega-3 is absorbed by the skin during cooking, so there is an additional health benefit. With skin on, the meat also retains its moisture as it cooks. Seared skin adds a crispy dimension to your salmon dish as well, if cooked right.

Salmon skin contains the highest concentration of omega-3 fatty acids which can reduce triglyceride levels and decrease your chances of heart disease. Cooking fillets with the skin on can also keep nutrients and oils inside the fish that might otherwise be lost in the preparation process. While the US FDA recommends two to three times a week eating salmon, it knows about contaminated fish. With the help of the Environmental Protection Agency, the FDA advises on how to consume fish safely.

Firstly, it’s important to know where the salmon you eat comes from. The most contaminated fish is farmed from the Atlantic Ocean, so it might be best to avoid eating its skin. But if your salmon is wild-caught from the Atlantic it is slightly less contaminated. The best salmon skin to cook and eat would come from a wild-caught Pacific salmon. For most other people, the benefits of eating salmon skin will probably outweigh the risks for if the salmon comes from uncontaminated waters.

Eating Safe Salmon Skin in Bellevue

Try Flo’s delicious smoked salmon skin salad when you’re in Bellevue. Our safe-sourced salmon skin salad is mixed greens, yamagobo (pickled burdock root), shaved bonito, and kaiware (winter radish) with Japanese vinaigrette. You will also love our salmon sashimi and sushi. Try healthy and delicious at Flo.