Suimono @ Japan

Many food lovers are not aware that on December 4th 2013, traditional Japanese cuisine “washoku” became part of Unesco’s heritage. Washoku is an intangible cultural heritage passed on from generation to generation and encompasses a variety of know-how and techniques which are used to prepare and present different dishes. For each dish various domestic ingredients are used such as white rice, fish and edible herbs, with a focus on both harmony and balance of flavor.

Japanese foods are classified by type and if you are familiar with traditional cuisine in Japan you find fish only at a sushi restaurant and chicken only at a yakitori restaurant,etc. Only those individual foods are selectively served, but more and more other small foods are finding their way into the fold. They are often a by-product of the principal food being served. For example in sushi you can find shirako seen below is served with truffles from Alba:  https://mesubim.com/2016/01/14/milt-roe-shirako/ and that’s fusion at its best:

It is also common to have some miso soup, a standard in Japan although nowadays in some sushi restaurants in Tokyo, miso soup could be considered old-fashioned. I consider miso soup, or any soup important for digestion, and in kaiseki and other traditional foods, miso soup is used at the end of a meal to help aid the digestive process.

In the recent past, if you would visit a sushi restaurant you could find the experience expanding from fish and rice to include other foods typically found in washoku. Recently when I asked the chef how do you describe these foods, he said suimono and I knew what he meant. He was referring to those foods that you experience in washoku or kaiseki cuisine.

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These foods we refer to in the west as an “intermezzo” – the in-between foods served to surprise us and are usually one bite foods. In Japanese cuisine we have “suimono” which are small foods things to sip or eat and are often served in small dishes.

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Basic suimono recipes are often one principal ingredient dishes so the flavors are often delicate and subtle. That doesn’t mean that each suimono is always perfect, and more and more sushi chefs are trending towards expanding the experience to include chimni which are considered rarities in Japan: https://mesubim.com/2013/05/06/chimni/

Making good suimono depends on the availability of fragrant ingredients such as mitsuba, rind of yuzu , or the squeeze of kabosu and in the case below alba white truffles.

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The presentation of suimono ingredients are meant to be appetizing and beautiful to look at, and in Japan they are often served in covered lacquer bowls. One of the pleasures of suimono is the release of the fragrant aromas that are released when lifting the lid and savouring the essence of Japan.