Five Rules of Japanese Cuisine

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5 (go) is considered a lucky number in Japanese culture. The prevalence of this can be seen in art, in architecture, in literary and especially in its food tradition. Maybe there're not many people can tell where these rules derived from, nor can recite them exactly but the habit is ingrained in the culture that it just naturally comes. Japanese cuisine (washoku) follows five principles:

  1. Five colors (Go Shiki): Five elemental colors are black, white, green, red and yellow. The Japanese believe that a meal including all five colors boosts the nutritional value. A meticulously decorated bento with white rice, black sesame seeds, red tomatoes, some yellow rolled omelette, and green beans.
  2. Five senses: Good taste and smell are obviously appreciated but artful presentation is predominantly important in the cuisine. The ultensils and dishes should be comfortable to hold and touch. The restaurant should have soothing and pleasing ambiance as well.
  3. Five taste (Go Mi): salty, sweet, bitter, sour and umami, which might be translated to 'savory' in english. Umami is imparted by amino acids called glutamates, found in meat, fish, dairy and vegetables (in forms such as olive oil). The ingredients to make umami vary by country and region. In Japan, these are kelp, miso and soy sauce (soybean). It is smoked meat (pork) or cheese in Europe. As for the traditional broth of Vietnamese, umami is obtained mainly in bones and meat. Delicate and subtle spices will be preffered to enhance the natural flavor of the food.
  4. Five methods (Go Hoo): fried, simmered, steamed, roasted/grilled, and raw. They are all familiar but for Kaiseki cuisine (会席料理 is traditional Japanese multi-course haute cuisine), there are some demanding and rigorous requirements. Depending on the characteristics of the ingredients, Japanese will flexibly choose a reasonable processing method to meet the 5 - taste principle, lock in aromatics and retain umami. These techniques are applied on the freshest seasonal food to ensure the best taste for the dish, and to respect the natural cycle.
  5. Five attitudes: It is a little but asoteric but it emphasise and reflect the attitude towards food. The big point is the spirit of gratitude for being feed. You should feel thankful and treasure the food you get.

There is no need of rhetotic, the profound philosophy of Japanese expresses in their daily diets, ways of cooking and eating. That's one of the reasons why their washoku became famous all over the world.

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