Japanese Cuisine: Different Regions, Different Specialties

Region-Hopping in Japan is a Culinary Adventure

Stretching from north to south, the different regions of Japan have have their own unique climate, hence the different traditions of agriculture, produce and recipes. While there are traditional dishes common throughout the country, many regions and cities in Japan have their own specialities. Here let us look at what specialties stand out as we go from one point to another.

Sapporo

Sapporo in Hokkaido is well known for its ramen shops, common all over Sapporo and other towns in Hokkaido. In fact, there’s a famous “Ramen Alley” or Ramen Yokocho, a narrow passageway with wall-to-wall ramen shops decorated with celebrity-customer signatures. The different cities in Hokkaido were the places of origin of some of the best known ramen found all over Japan.

Tokyo

Monjayaki is so popular in Tokyo that there’s a dedicated Monjayaki street called Tsukishima Monjya Street, or Tsukishima Monja Sutoriito. It was originally a children’s treat, now monjayaki is established as a speciality of the Tsukishima area of Tokyo, near Ginza. Although the dish is often compared to okonimiyaki, monjayaki has more of a liquid base.

Kyoto

Kyoto is known for yudofu is a warming meal, a winter hotpot dish in Japan, especially in Kyoto where winter is very cold. It’s made of tofu put in a kelp soup, taken out and dipped in sauce. Buddhist priests in Kyoto ate this as a source of protein as they’re unable to eat meat or fish for religious reasons. Today many restaurants offer delicious boiled tofu in Kyoto.

Osaka

Takoyaki are grilled octopus dumplings, tasty treats found in parks, along the street, in restaurants, almost anywhere in Osaka. As the octopus dumplings of Kansai are small and easy to eat, they have become a popular dish throughout Japan.

Hiroshima

Hiroshima is known for Okonomiyaki or savoury pancakes, popular even before the WWII. After the war, with food shortages, people developed these pancakes into a meal, adding additional ingredients. The Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki has a six-layered structure, with flour batter, cabbage, and noodles.

Shikoku

Kagawa on the island of Shikoku is famous as the origin of Sanuki-udon, and has many udon (wheat-flour noodle) makers and restaurants. Sanuki wheat-flour noodles are noted for their strong body and smooth texture with many varieties of toppings. Kagawa has many self-service udon restaurants.

Okinawa

Champuru is an Okinawan word meaning roughly “mix.” Champuru dishes are a mixture of various ingredients fried together, and usually named after the main ingredient. The most common types of champuru in Okinawa are goya (bittermelon) champuru, tofu champuru, and somen champuru.

Carpaccio Means Appreciating High Quality

The Carpaccio Journey: Painting to Plate

Carpaccio is a traditional Italian appetizer of raw beef sliced as thin as paper and then drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice, and finished with capers and onions, and sometimes, parmesan cheese. These days, other types of meat and fish (particularly salmon and tuna) are being used as carpaccio.

Traditionally, beef of a high quality, as sirloin or tenderloin, is bought at the butcher’s, specifically asking for carpaccio, trimming all fat. The meat is then seasoned with salt and pepper, chopped fresh herbs like parsley, tarragon, or cilantro and maybe some balsamic vinegar before wrapping it with plastic and chilling it for at least 8 hours. While not to the point of frozen solid, one can proceed to slice it very, very thinly with a very sharp knife and some degree of knife skills. Serve with capers, onions, olive oil and lemon juice, along with some shaved parmesan cheese and chopped fresh parsley. It makes for a good appetizer.

While beef is classic, there are other variations. Seafood carpaccio is very popular. Sushi grade fish, like tuna or salmon, is often on restaurant menus. Sometimes seafood carpaccio will be accompanied with thin slices of jalapeno and a soy dipping sauce. Vegetable carpaccio can be creative – such as artichoke and fennel – sliced razor thin and prepared on a plate. Other proteins, such as lamb, veal, and venison can be used also. However, with any protein, it must be of the highest quality since it will be eaten raw.

The Japanese-style tuna carpaccio is a simple, almost exotic, light meal, though is an appetizer. Tuna must really be fresh, and fresh means it needs to be red and almost waxy-looking. A really simple, but delightfully delicious is tuna carpaccio with capers and shaved red onions, infused with olive oil.

Another is the hamachi carpaccio or yellowtail carpaccio. Like bluefin tuna, hamachi is a migratory fish sometimes called amberjack or buri. Its golden flesh is favored by Japanese sushi chefs. In Japan it is eaten both raw and cooked particularly in winter when it is fattier. When eaten raw and prepared as carpaccio, it is buttery and rich. Can be served with shaved jalapeno and garlic chips served with a light soy sauce.

Prepare your Appetite with Carpaccio in Bellevue

At FLO, before you go main course, we recommend our carpaccio – tuna or yellowtail – high quality and really fresh appetizers that will make your mouth water. Only at FLO Sushi and Sake Bar in Bellevue.

Energizing Freshwater Eels in Bellevue

Stamina and Vigor in Unagi

Freshwater eel is ‘unagi’ in Japanese. As with other marine eels, the freshwater eels are common in Japanese cuisine. The saltwater type of eel variety is called anago. Unagi is prized for its soft, fatty meat and bold, rich taste. It is cultivated mainly during May to October, and generally regarded amongst Japanese as being a summer food, as its high content of vitamins and minerals is believed to provide energy especially in hot weather.

Cooked is the way Japanese eels are always eaten. Due to its rich, fatty taste, the eel dish is usually accompanied with other dishes that have light, subtle flavors to balance the richness of the meat. Ground sansho pepper, a native pepper to Japan with a strong herbal flavor, is a popular condiment to serve with eel, as it cuts through the fatty flavor of the eel. You can enjoy unagi at tempura and sushi restaurants, or at specialty restaurants known as unagiya.

Though popular in Japan, eels are also well appreciated in other cultures, like in the US, Europe, New Zealand, China and Korea. Their meaty, oil-rich and distinctively strong flavor are so loved in Japan whose culture favors natural, healthy and sustainable foods. Eels are believed to provide stamina and body rejuvenation particularly in the summer, as well as vitality and energy especially amongst the elderly. The fish has amazing nutritional values from which these claims come from.

What is the nutritional value of eels?

They have zero sugar, low in sodium and high in potassium and phosphorus. They contain no carbohydrates, but have 18 amino acids. It is especially rich in vitamins A and B12, but also in B1, B2, D and E. Studies show that eels decrease cholesterol, lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of developing arthritis. Its high content of omega 3 fatty acids delays or reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Eel also reduces cardiovascular risk factors, one of them high triglyceride levels.

They also promote good eyesight and help against some skin conditions like eczema. Lastly, eels are also proving beneficial in normal brain development and nervous system function.
If you are watching your calories, this fatty fish can be good for you. Though eels have loads of vitamin and mineral content, its cholesterol component, of just 254 mg per 200 gram serving, may be a concern.

Dining at FLO in Bellevue

Enjoy our broiled fresh water eel served with rice and special unagi sauce, our popular Dragon Roll with unagi, and if available in season, you can have freshwater eel in our Omakase Sashimi. And for your pleasure, we also have anago at FLO!

Delicate Scallops in Bellevue

Studies Proving Scallops are Good for Health

Scallops, snails, sea slugs, clams, mussels, octopuses and squid are bivalve mollusks belonging to the same family, Pectinidae. These marine animals are unlike other bivalves as they are free-swimming, opening and closing their shells as they go, using their powerful adductor muscle. That muscle is the round, fleshy thing you are eating when you order scallops in a restaurant.

Delicious, tender and juicy, scallops can be grilled, baked, deep fried, broiled, or pan seared. Many studies have been published attesting to their being one of the world’s superfoods beneficial to health.

Benefits of Eating Scallop

A scallop diet, studies say, at thrice a month, works against ischemic stroke caused by lack of blood supply to the brain. The diet’s rich omega-3 fatty acids, with potassium and magnesium, lower triglyceride levels and reduce the risk of blood clots, which can cause heart attacks or strokes. They can help you lose weight, by stimulating the rates of metabolism. It is best not consume scallops in the fried form or covered with a rich sauce to make the most of this benefit.

Apart from being a powerhouse of these fatty acids, studies claim scallops are a good source of magnesium and potassium, two nutrients that provide significant benefits for cardiovascular health. Magnesium helps blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure while improving blood flow. Potassium helps to maintain normal blood pressure levels. The vitamin B12 in scallops converts a harmful chemical (homocysteine) from directly damaging blood vessel walls, associated with an increased risk for atherosclerosis, diabetic heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. This small delicacy also eases the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, prevents arthritis, and combats skin disorders.

Another study says that eating broiled or baked, but not fried, scallops may reduce risk of atrial fibrillation, the most common type of an irregular heartbeat that can be life-threatening, leading to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, or sudden death. Still another study says that a scallop diet (or a fish diet) offers protection against three types of cancer: leukemia, multiple myeloma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma due to its vitamin B12. In a brain cell research, it was found that the DHA in scallops boosts production of a protein which destroys the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. No wonder this is called a superfood!

A Delicate Power Food in Bellevue

One of the world’s healthiest foods we serve here at Flo Sushi and Sake Bar in Bellevue. Dine on scallops and reap the benefits of long life.

The Real Wasabi: The True Story

How You Can Tell Real from Not

Wasabi is the perfect accompaniment to many Japanese dishes. Do you know what real wasabi taste like? Outside of Japan, most of the wasabi served is just a mix of horseradish, mustard and food coloring. Even in Japan where the plant is not so easy to grow and the demand for it so high, you will still find horseradish mix instead, sometimes with some real wasabi.

Real wasabi tastes more plant-like or herbal than the horseradish mix. Real wasabi is very hot but doesn’t have a lingering, burning aftertaste. It’s smoother and cleaner in taste than the one that passes for wasabi in many restaurants, at the grocers or even in Japanese specialty stores.

Wasabi belongs to the family of plants that also includes horseradish and mustard. It is one of the world’s most expensive crops, and a highly priced spice commodity growing in cold mountain streams in northern Japan. It takes over a year to grow before it can be fully harvested. Wasabi’s growing conditions are very restrictive, preventing its wider cultivation.

Freshly grated wasabi is actually not hugely hot: it reaches its hottest about five minutes after grating. Twenty minutes later the heat has died down again. For the freshest wasabi, you must grate the root right before serving, as the wasabi will only hold its strong flavor for about 15 minutes after preparation.

Some high-end restaurants prepare the wasabi paste when the customer orders, and is made using a grater to grate the root. The dish has to be served immediately or at least covered. Sushi chefs usually put the wasabi between the fish and the rice covering the paste to preserve its punch. Wasabi’s uniqueness is the perfect supplement to the Japanese diet. Now you know some of its secrets.

Real Wasabi at FLO

At Flo Japanese Restaurant and Sake Bar, we only serve 100% pure wasabi. Enjoy our authentic classics with the perfect accompaniment of real spice.