It is important to start the day right. That means eating the proper breakfast before starting the day, may it be going to school or heading to the workplace. Because of how busy some people might get, they tend to neglect the most important meal of the day – the breakfast. They skip eating breakfast and just head on to do their tasks, not thinking how this might affect not just their energy for the day, but also their health and the way their minds work. Having a proper breakfast in the morning provides a person the energy that he or she would need to spend throughout the morning. As most people are usually most active during the day, it is vital that one has the proper nutrients and energy needed by the body.
There are many food choices as to what kind of breakfast to get in the morning. For those who move fast, they prefer foods easy to eat, such as sandwiches and bagels. This is why the customary breakfast in New York City is a bagel. People rushing along the streets with a bagel in their hand can be seen in photos and magazines. However, this does not necessarily provide the right amount of nutrients that the body needs for the day. It is suggested that one ingests a more filling breakfast that would provide sufficient energy to the body. Probably one of the most filling breakfasts out there is the Japanese breakfast.
Preparing A Japanese Breakfast the Traditional Way
A traditional Japanese breakfast is a filling breakfast, but not too filling. It is generally composed of steamed rice, miso soup, a dish high in protein, and other several side dishes. Typical Japanese side dishes include Japanese pickles or tsukemono in Japanese, dried seasoned seaweed or nori, fermented soy beans or natto, small side dishes that are composed of vegetables or kobachi in Japanese, and a green salad. All of these dishes are served in proper proportions so as not to fill the stomach to the brim.
Foods which include high protein are fish and egg. It is important to note that a traditional Japanese breakfast usually does not incorporate fried foods as these are not healthy. Hence, the fish may be grilled while the egg may be soft-boiled. The meal is then to be accompanied by a cup of hot green tea to detoxify the body. Not only green tea is good for the body, but it also has certain benefits to the skin.
Some people might think that preparing a traditional Japanese breakfast consumes so much time, but most Japanese families do not really spend so much time on preparing the meal. Instead of cooking new rice, some people usually have leftover steamed rice that is still warm or can be heated in a rice cooker. Furthermore, a rice cooker can also speed up the process of cooking; hence, one can also cook porridge in a rice cooker. As for the miso soup, it does not have to be prepared in the morning when it is eaten. Some people just re-heat the miso soup that was left over the night prior.
For those who really have limited time to prepare for a Japanese breakfast, there are also shortcuts that can be done. Pre-made tsukemono and preserved kelp or tsukudani in Japanese can be bought from grocery stores and can serve as great side dishes. Pre-packaged fermented soy beans and other rice seasons like dried seaweed can also be bought from grocery stores. Since they no longer need to be cooked, then preparing a traditional Japanese breakfast would be much easier by using these items.
Foods Involved in A Customary Japanese Breakfast
Also known as gohan in Japanese, steamed rice is one of the most important parts of a traditional Japanese breakfast. One can opt for white rice or hakumai in Japanese, which provides that clean palate for the other dishes. For a healthier option, one can opt for brown rice or genmai in Japanese. They serve as carbohydrates and accompany the proteins and other nutrients provided by the other side dishes.
Called miso shiru in Japanese, miso soup is also among the integral parts of a customary Japanese breakfast. Made from fermented soybean paste or miso in Japanese and a dashi broth, miso soup provides the warmth that the body craves for especially during the colder months. Other ingredients included in preparing miso soup are tofu, wakame seaweed, chopped green onions, Japanese mushrooms, deep-fried tofu or aburaage in Japanese, and other seasonal ingredients. While most households in Japan make miso soup from scratch, there are also instant dry and wet miso soup packets and pre-seasoned miso paste infused with dashi (wherein one would only need to add water) that can be used for faster preparation.
Another staple in a traditional Japanese breakfast is natto or fermented soy beans. Typically served over a steaming bowl of rice, natto is rich in protein and is great for breakfast. While the texture can be a bit slimy, natto has a strong and rich aroma that can calm the senses. It can be seasoned with several ingredients such as soy sauce, chopped green onions, dried bonito shavings or katsuobushi, sliced dried and seasoned seaweed or kizaminori, and spicy mustard or karashi in Japanese to name a few. For those who are in a hurry, packaged natto can be bought from grocery stores in Japan or just Asian grocery stores elsewhere.
As for protein, fish is the main option in a Japanese breakfast. Grilled fish, also called yakizakana in Japanese, can also be considered a staple for a traditional Japanese breakfast, though preparation for this may take some time. Fish can also be broiled in the oven or just cooked simply in a pan and seasoned with just salt. The top two popular choices for fish in a traditional Japanese breakfast are salmon and dried horse mackerel or aji in Japanese.
On the other hand, there are three main options for side dishes. The first option is tsukemono or pickled vegetables. This is also usually a staple dish in a traditional Japanese breakfast and it serves as a great accompaniment to almost any rice dish. The most popular type of tsukemono is umeboshi or pickled plum, as it is a good accompaniment not just to the regular steamed plain white or brown rice but also to rice porridge. For those in a hurry, there is a wide variety of pickles that are easy to prepare available in regular Japanese or Asian grocery stores.
Also known as ajitsuke nori in Japanese, dried and seasoned seaweed is also another staple dish in a traditional Japanese breakfast. Just like tsukemono, ajitsuke nori also goes really well with steamed rice as it gives that right amount of flavor that plain rice usually lacks. It can already be eaten on its own as it is already seasoned but some people opt to dip it in soy sauce and wrap with rice to get that additional saltiness.
The last side dish that is usually a staple in a traditional Japanese breakfast is kobachi or vegetable side dishes. Kobachi itself is not exactly just limited to vegetables but generally still consist of just that. They come in small dishes and are proportioned so as not to be too filling. Fresh salad may also be served along with these side dishes in a typical Japanese breakfast. Having to eat all of them may seem too much for some people, but they usually come in small portions so one would still have a balanced and nutritious meal early in the morning.
Recipe for A Good Japanese Breakfast
When preparing for a good Japanese breakfast, the recipes are usually individual depending on the dish as the meal itself consists of 3 dishes or more. For a healthy Japanese breakfast, the following recipe may work for you. The first step is to prepare Japanese rice. Taking a 125 ml of rice, wash them thoroughly and rinse then place them in a saucepan along with a new 125 ml of water. Place the saucepan on the stove, cover the pan, and let it cook at maximum heat. When the water begins to boil, gradually turn down the heat. Let it simmer for a good 15 to 20 minutes before finally turning the heat off. Without uncovering the pan, let it steam for another 15 to 20 minutes. After which, uncover the pan and stir through the rice, then it is good to be served.
For the miso soup, get a small saucepan and add just a little bit of water in there. Then, add 1 to 2 teaspoons of miso paste and stir until the liquid becomes smooth. In another saucepan, heat up 250 ml prepared liquid dashi. When it starts to give off steam, add the miso paste mixture in and stir. Adding wakame seaweed and tofu to the miso soup would definitely make this dish extra delicious.
Because protein intake is important for the first meal of the day, the next step would be cooking salmon fillet. However, this needs a few days preparation. Get a tablespoon of shio koji paste and spread it evenly on the salmon fillet. Let it marinade for about 1 to 2 days to let the flavor really sink into the fillet. After marinade, just wipe off the excess shio koji on the fillet then it is ready to be cooked. On a pan, fry the salmon fillet only with minimal oil, as too much oil would not be good for the health and one’s palate. When the meat flakes away easily with the use of a fork, then the salmon fillet is good to be served.
Lastly, for the vegetable side dish, this recipe would be going to gome-ae green beans. Start by mixing 1 tablespoon of ground sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and a pinch of salt to season together. The seasoning should result in a thick paste texture. On the other hand, let 60 grams of fresh green beans steam until tender. After which, strain them and just let them run quickly under cold water. Then, while the green beans are still warm, combine them together with the sesame dressing and stir through. It is then ready to be served along with other dishes that were prepared for a Japanese breakfast.
The Modern Japanese Breakfast of Today
Because of the growing fast-paced society, it is no longer seen as ideal to prepare a traditional Japanese breakfast in the morning. Even with tips, some people think that it still takes too much of their time to prepare just a single meal. Hence, they usually make do with what they have. For the typical modern Japanese breakfast, some people just opt to have tamago kake gohan. It still has the staple rice dish and protein of a traditional Japanese breakfast minus the other side dishes. It is just a hot bowl of rice with a raw egg on top seasoned with salt and soy sauce. It takes only about 2 to 3 minutes to prepare and is the typical Japanese breakfast of today. Not only is it easy to prepare, but the dish also tastes delicious.
Another option for a modern Japanese breakfast is ochazuke. It consists of just a bowl of rice with toppings, such as umeboshi, tankasu, and flaked salmon, placed on top and served with hot tea or broth that is supposed to be poured over the rice. The usual tea accompanied in this meal is green tea while others prefer dashi broth. It is easy to prepare and to consume while still maintaining its delicious taste and also aroma brought about by the tea or broth.
Other food choices that are now considered typical Japanese breakfast are shokupan toast, combini onigiri, and combini sando. Not only are they easy to prepare but they are also convenient for the Japanese on the go. Easy to eat and delicious, these food options still provide a good amount of nutrients that one would need to start the day. Starting the day with a Japanese breakfast would surely supply one with enough energy to go through the morning while still maintaining a healthy mind and a healthy body.