Japanese food & drink
This summer Tokyo hosts one of the world's greatest sporting competitions. To celebrate the coming together of international athletes and virtual audiences we’ve put together our own little opening ceremony of what’s going on in Nippon – or Nihon, the Japanese name for Japan – with drink suggestions, and recipes by Aya Nishimura.
Tabemono – the food
Recipe writer, prop stylist and regular contributor to Waitrose Food magazine Aya Nishimura developed her passion for cooking while growing up in Kyoto, Japan’s old capital. Here she shares four uncomplicated dishes, adapted to use British ingredients that can be prepared in advance – so you won’t miss the 100m final.
Discover more Japanese recipes
Easy dishes from Aya Nishimura
How about miso maple pork ramen for lunch?
Ideas from Waitrose
Ways to cook ramen, chicken katsu curry and okonomiyaki
Did you know?
Each host country can introduce, or reintroduce, events to the competition. In honour of Tokyo 2020’s newbies – sport climbing, baseball/softball, surfing, skateboarding, and karate – here are five interesting sushi facts to drop into the conversation during the commentary...
1. Shari is the name for sushi rice that can take a chef years to master.
2. If the only food on the plate is sliced fish and a garnish, it’s sashimi, but if the fish is laid on top of rice, this is nigiri.
3. Fillings of fish, meat, tofu and vegetables that are wrapped in nori (sheets of seaweed) on the outside are called maki, but if rice is on the outside it’s uramaki.
4. The 'garnish' of pickled ginger slices are meant to be eaten as palate cleansers.
5. Traditionally, sushi was eaten with the fingers – good to know if your chopstick technique is a bit rusty.
Nomimono – the drinks
Whether it’s the historical, formal tea ceremony while kneeling on tatami mats, or the modern, relaxed post-work drinks in an izakaya pub, the Japanese love to pour each other drinks. The country makes brilliant beers, spirits, sake and cocktails – and the only way to begin is with a heartfelt cheers, “kampai!”
One reason why Masataka Taketsuru opened his distillery on the island of Hokkaido in 1934 was because its climate resembles the Scottish Highlands, where he apprenticed. Today, that distillery is called Nikka and is one of many across the archipelago which has helped make Japan the world’s largest whisky producer.
Try this twist on an Old Fashioned: pour 60ml Japanese whisky, 5ml honey, a dash of Angostura Bitters and 5 drops soy sauce over ice in a rocks glass, then garnish with orange peel.
Sawanotsuru Deluxe Sake is made from fermented rice, Haku Vodka is filtered through bamboo charcoal and Roku Gin combines six botanicals, including sakura blossom. All of these can add a distinctly Japanese edge to cocktails.
Try a Haku Umami Mary: stir 30ml vodka, 120ml tomato juice, 5ml lemon juice, ½ tsp each wasabi and soy sauce and 3-5 dashes Tabasco over ice in a salt-rimmed highball glass, then garnish with mint, black pepper and a lemon wedge.
Asahi means 'morning sun' and captures its bright, refreshing flavour and modern style, in fact Japan is as keen on innovative brewing as the UK is – try the herbal, zesty Hitachino Nest White Ale with your sushi, sashimi or wagyu beef. ‘Nest’ comes from the name of Kounosu village where the Kiuchi family of sake makers brewed their first beer in 1996 and within a year had won its first gold medal.
Big in Japan
Waitrose Cellar is our online shop dedicated to 1,600 beers, wines and spirits, including mixed cases. It’s here you’ll find our full range of Japanese drinks, plus international wines that make a great match for East Asian cuisine, such as Riesling and Grüner Veltliner.