Kaiseki Ryori : Food for Thought
The most surprising quality about Japanese culture is how the people’s character, architecture and garden are expressed through food, specifically, kaiseki ryori. Kaiseki ryori is a multi-course meal with dainty, colourful servings of sashimi, tofu, and various pickled side-dishes, followed by rice and miso soup. A nice complement to this meal would be a delectable cup of Japanese sake, also known as nihonshu, to tingle your taste buds and senses.
So how does this traditional meal translate into the Japanese character? At first glance, it appeared to be a delicate, subtle and modest meal with a hint of spice, which means a green dab of wasabi on the side of a dish filled with a spoonful of soy sauce. However, there is more to this meal than meets the eye. The consideration and thought put into the presentation of the courses is sheer elegance, from the seasonal dishes to the matching tableware, all carefully prepared to detail. Thoughtful, delicate, an eye for detail, elegant and modest with a subtle hint of spicy passion appears to be distinctive characteristics of this meal’s countryman/woman in general.
The balance and harmony of flavours and colours from the meal reminded me of the Japanese garden and nature. These earthy and natural colours could be found in traditional Japanese architecture as well, which was built with materials, such as the untreated brown wood and bamboo to blend in and harmonise with the natural environment. In particular to this comparison, the table setting of the seasonal tableware often consisted of matching wooden, lacquered chopsticks, a flask filled with nihonshu made of bamboo or other utensils created from natural materials.
In essence, the surprise factor of Japanese culture for me was the discovery that this extraordinary, culinary, cultural experience proved not to be just about food, but the kaiseki ryori itself showed modest clues of the Japanese people’s character, garden and building design all merged together fluidly into this eye-pleasing and mouth-watering cuisine.
Photo: Kisoji Restaurant,
Tokyo Denny Lam
July 14, 2012