The History of Chopsticks in Japan

The classic Japanese chopsticks came a long way from their humble origins in China to our Japanese restaurant in Bellevue. It is thought that the first chopsticks came about five thousand years ago. When fuel was scarce, the ancient Chinese would cut up their meat into smaller pieces so that it would cook faster. Cooks and diners found that they were able to make effective use of a simple pair of sticks to handle their meals, and the practice slowly caught on.

Confucius embraced the chopsticks, promoting their use as an eating utensil among all of his followers. The knife and the fork, he reasoned, were crude and vulgar instruments associated with the slaughterhouse, and a civilized diner should aspire to separate himself from this as much as possible. The utensils therefore spread across the Asian continent along with Confucian teachings to Vietnam, Korea, and Japan.

When chopsticks first made their start in Japan around 500 ad, they were only used for religious ceremonies. These first sticks were crafted from bamboo and connected at the top ends, like a set of tongs. Gradually, the sticks made their way into the common dinner table; the nobility would have sticks made from jade or precious metals to show off their stature. Silver chopsticks were popular, as it was believed that the metal would always stain when touched by poison.

How Healthy is Soy Sauce?

One of the most iconic condiments at our Bellevue sushi restaurant is, naturally, soy sauce.  It’s an important part of Japanese cuisine, as well as popular across the world for its potent flavor.  Due to its high sodium content, and its general similarities to table salt, many make the mistake of thinking that this murky brown concoctions is an indulgence that the health-conscious individual would be wise to stay away from.  However, the humble soy sauce actually offers some surprisingly valuable nutrients:

  • Niacin: Also known as vitamin B-3, this nutrient is essential for the maintaining a healthy heart.  It lowers fats in the bloodstream while simultaneously raising the levels of healthy cholesterol.  As an added bonus, it is also an important part of healthy skin, a healthy nervous system, and a healthy digestive system.

  • Manganese: This mineral is used in building connective tissue, blood clots, and a powerful antioxidant agent that battles free radicals that can damage your cells.

  • Tryptophan:  Soy sauce is particularly rich in this essential amino acid.  Your body uses tryptophan to create serotonin, which promotes restful sleep and stabilizes your mood.

Meanwhile, though it is true that soy sauce is high in sodium, it has been found that you can actually save yourself a lot of sodium by substituting table salt for a modest splash of soy sauce.  So don’t be afraid of Asia’s favorite condiment!

The Amazing Power of Miso

You’ve probably encountered miso soup before. It’s that sweet and salty appetizer that accompanies many Japanese meals. Those who have developed a taste for it find it to be an engaging and versatile dish, often without even realizing how healthy it is. So when you find yourself with a bowl of miso at our Bellevue Japanese restaurant, keep the following in mind:

Miso is made out of fermented soy, which is far healthier than unfermented soy products. It delivers a good dose of protein, zinc, iron, vitamin B12, and vitamin K, all of which are hard to obtain in a meatless diet. It also contains isoflavones that have been shown to fight or prevent certain types of cancer, breast cancer being chief among these. And to top it all off, it gives you all of these benefits in a low fat, low calorie, high deliciousness package. So try one of our miso soups at Flo Restaurant and discover one of Japan’s best health secrets!

Why Wasabi?

There are a lot of wasabi imitators on the market, but you can order 100% true wasabi at Flo’s Japanese restaurant in Bellevue. This is rarer than you might think, as real wasabi is a bit of a luxury item. Most places will serve you a mix of conventional horseradish and mustard seed colored green to resemble wasabi. Such concoctions can serve as a passable simulacrum for the wasabi experience, but if you haven’t tried real wasabi, or hon-wasabi, you are missing out.

Wasabi performs two important roles in the sushi world. Firstly, of course, it lends a powerful and distinctive taste that many sushi fans find irreplaceable. Secondly, it contains powerful agents known as isothiocyanates. These chemicals are not only what give the spice its flavor, but they have also been shown to inhibit the growth of microbes. Before the days of the strict health standards that sushi restaurants are held to, wasabi was able to help keep the raw fish clean and prevent the spread of foodborne illness.

Chirashizushi: Sushi the Size of a Bowl

Most of the sushi at our Bellevue Japanese restaurant is easy enough to identify as such. The rolls, the classic nigiri, these are the dishes that we all tend to imagine when we hear the word “sushi”. However, sushi can come in some surprising forms, and it may be hiding on our menu in places that you wouldn’t think to look.

This first thing to understand is that the word “sushi” refers to the special vinegared rice that is employed in sushi dishes, and not the fish that generally goes with it. The term is therefore applied to pretty much anything that makes use of this rice, be it as small as a bite-sized roll or as large as a full bowl. Bowl-sized sushi exists in the form of chirashizushi, often called “chirashi sushi” in English speaking countries. These generally take the form of a sushi-style donburi, with a scattering of sashimi sitting on a bed of sushi rice. You can try this traditional dish today at Flo’s Japanese Restaurant and Sake Bar!