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Kinds of Traditional Japanese Multicourse Meal

The traditional Japanese multicourse meal can broadly be categorized into the following forms: kaisekiryori, served before a tea ceremony (tea kaiseki); honzen-ryori, served according to rules created by the samurai class; and kaiseki-ryori (written with different characters from the aforementioned tea kaiseki), originating in the banquet cuisine served to entertain guests after a haiku gathering (banquet kaiseki).

Among these dining traditions, banquet kaiseki is the perfect way to produce omotenashi in an informal festive atmosphere.

Tea kaiseki follows the rules of the tea ceremony, in which courses are served individually in a particular order as in a Western-style multi-course meal. In honzen-ryori, dishes are arranged in certain positions on legged trays to be served. Banquet kaiseki incorporates both the honzen cuisine and tea kaiseki without the formality. Courses are enjoyed with alcohol so they can be served individually or all at once. Today, most banquet menus offered by traditional Japanese restaurants and hotels are the banquet kaiseki type.

What is Kaiseki Course

Creating a menu

The basic banquet kaiseki course consists of Shukou (dishes accompanying sake), such as sakizuke (appetizers), wanmono (soup), otsukuri (traditional sashimi), yakimono (grilled dishes), and sunomono (vinegar salads); shokuji (rice dishes) featuring rice, miso soup, and kounomono (Japanese pickles); and mizugashi (desserts, or fruits.

However, banquet kaiseki isn’t restricted to a specific style. Sometimes the menu may include agemono (fried dishes), mushimono (steamed dishes), or nabemono (hot pots). The menu may omit some dishes or may include Western-style dishes or noodles. This freedom is another attractive feature of banquet kaiseki.

To consider the ages and taste preferences of participants and ensure that they will have a good time, the menu can be customized. For example, you can add sushi and noodles for children, and meat dishes or deep-fried foods for people unfamiliar with Japanese cuisine.

Planning how to serve the courses

If you were to make every dish from scratch and serve them individually in order, you would be busy going back and forth between the kitchen and table, which would keep you from enjoying the party. You can minimize the need to go to the kitchen by using store-bought dishes, serving everything at once on a large table, arranging multiple dishes on a large plate, and so on, and instead pay more attention to garnishing and food presentation.

Here are some examples of the courses that may be included in a banquet kaiseki menu. Choose the dishes and presentation ideas that you like and create your own kaiseki menu.

Black ships; Perry and Honzen-Ryori

In 1854, when U.S. Navy Commodore Matthew Perry sailed into Japan for the second time to demand the opening of the country, he served French-style red snapper on board to officials of the Edo bakufu government.

The government, in return, prepared traditional honzen-ryori with the most luxurious, ingredients of the time by spending a whopping 500,000 yen per person in today’s value, and served it to 300 people. Unfortunately, Perry, being an American, did not like the Japanese dishes comprised mostly of seafood, which also required a different way of serving than Western-style meals. It is said that he barely touched his food.

Omotenashi with Kaiseki-Ryori

1. Sakizuke – starters, appetizers

Appetizer assortment
appetizer-assortmentFrom left to right: Scallops with sea urchin, nagaimo (Chinese yam) with salt lemon dressing, gomadofu (sesame tofu) topped with wasabi and salmon roe.

Dashimaki Tamago (Japanese rolled omelet) with Onagi (eel) Recipe

dashimaki-tamago-recipe

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 1/4 unagi kabayaki (grilled eel fillet basted with a savory sauce)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. mirin (Japanese sweet cooking rice wine)
  • 2/5 cup dashi stock
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil

Cooking Directions

  1. Cut the unagi into strips that fit the pan of your choice.
  2. In a bowl, beat the eggs and add salt, mirin, and dashi stock. Mix well.
  3. Heat a Japanese omelet pan or a frying pan over medium heat. Use a paper towel to spread vegetable oil over the surface.
  4. Pour about 1/4 of the egg mixture into the pan. Place the unagi strips slightly to the front from the center and roll the egg from the edge to cover the unagi.
  5. Pour the remaining egg mixture into the pan. While the omelet is still hot, turn it onto sushi rolling mat to shape it into a roll.

2. Wanmono – Osumashi (clear soup) with many kinds of ingredients

Kani Shinjo (crab cake) Soup Recipe

wanmono-osumashi-recipe

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 2 oz. crabmeat
  • 3-3/4 oz. nagaimo (Japanese yam)
  • 1 tsp. katakuri-ko (potato starch)
  • 1 pinch salt

Gin-an (think starchy sauce):

  • 2-2/5 cups dashi stock
  • 1 Tbsp. cooking sake (Japanese rice wine)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. shoyu (soy sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp. kudzu (arrowroot starch)
  • 1 Tbsp. water

Garnish:

  • 1/2 bunch shungiku (edible chrysanthemum)
  • A small amount of yuzu (citron) peel

Cooking Directions

  1. Leave some of the crabmeat for garnish and crumble the rest into pieces. Peel the nagaimo and grate or mince in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Add salt, katakuri-ko, and the crumbled crabmeat to the nagaimo and mix.
  3. Line a small bowl with plastic wrap. Place the crab meat garnish, and pour in the mixture (2) on top. Lift the edges of the wrap and twist to form a pouch.
  4. Microwave for 2 minutes at 1000 watts.
  5. Boil the shungiku in salted water. Drain and squeeze out the moisture, and cut into bite-sized pieces. Slice the yuzu peel into fine strips.
  6. In a small saucepan, heat the dashi stock combined with the salt, soy sauce, and sake over medium heat. Once it has come to a boil, add the kudzu starch dissolved in the Tbsp. of water to thicken.
  7. After the shinjo (4) has cooled down, place in a serving bowl. Add the shungiku, pour on the ginan sauce (6), and pile yuzu strips on top.

Amadai (tilefish) Soup Recipe

amadai-soup-recipe

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 2 amadai (tilefish) fillets
  • 3-1/5 cups dashi stock
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. syoyu (soy sauce)
  • 2 Tbsp. cooking sake (Japanese rice wine)
  • 2 Tbsp. mirin (Japanese sweet cooking rice wine)
  • 1 small piece fresh ginger root
  • 1/2 bunch mizuna (potherb mustard)
  • 1 small matsutake mushroom (or 4 small shiitake mushrooms)

Cooking Directions

  1. Cut the mizuna into bite-sized lengths.
  2. Cut the matsutake mushroom into 4 pieces.
  3. Slice the ginger root into needle-thin strips.
  4. Cut each amadai fillet in half to make 4 pieces. In a saucepan, bring the dashi stock, salt, soy sauce, sake, and mirin to a boil. Add the matsutake and amadai. Bring it to a boil again, and remove from heat.
  5. Arrange the amadai, matsutake, and mizuna in a serving bowl. Pour on the hot soup and top with a pile of ginger strips.

3. Mukouzune – Sashimi, Otsukuri

Assortment of 3 kinds of sashimi
assortment-of-3-kinds-of-sashimiSashimi from Nijiya with tsuma (garnish), and ken (julienned vegetables)

Vegetable wrapped in tai kobujime (red snapper cured in kombu seaweed) Recipe

egetables-wrapped-in-tai-kobujime-recipe

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 7-1 /2 oz. red-snapper sashimi block
  • 2 dashi kombu (dried kelp) sheets, the size of the sashimi block
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 pack kaiware daikon (daikon radish sprouts)
  • 1 cucumber
  • Yuzu kosho (citron pepper) to taste
  • Ponzu (citrus-flavored soy sauce) to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Wipe the surface of the kombu with a damp paper towel.
  2. Place the red-snapper sashimi block between the two kombu sheets and wrap entirely in plastic wrap. Cure for 1 to 2 days in the refrigerator. (When you have less time, slice the sashimi at an angle and place it between the kombu sheets. Cure for 1 to 1-1/2 hours in the refrigerator.)
  3. Julienne the carrot, kaiware, and cucumber.
  4. Remove the sashimi (daikon radish sprouts) from the kombu sheets and slice at an angle. Wrap the vegetable sticks with a piece of sashimi and arrange on a plate. Serve with yuzu kosho and ponzu.

4. Hachizakana – Yakimono (grilled dishes)

Kanburi saikyo-yaki (grilled yellowtail marinated in saikyo miso) Recipe

kanburi-saikyo-yaki-recipe

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 4 buri (yellowtail) fillets
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 8 shishito peppers
  • 2 Tbsp. miso (soybean paste)
  • 2 Tbsp. mirin (Japanese sweet cooking rice wine)
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. cooking sake (Japanese rice wine)

Cooking Directions

  1. Sprinkle the buri with salt and set aside for about 15 minutes. Remove the moisture with a paper towel.
  2. Lay a large sheet of plastic wrap over a dish with a rim and spread half the mixture of the miso, mirin, sugar, and sake. Place the buri on top, and spread the remaining mixture over. Cover with the plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
  3. Wipe off the miso mixture. Cook the buri on a skillet lined with parchment paper or under the broiler. Watch closely so as not to burn. Cook the shishito peppers also.

Kamo kuwa-yaki (grilled duck) Recipe

kamo-kuwa-yaki-recipe

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 7-1/2 oz. duck meat
  • 4 Tokyo negi (green onion)
  • 1 pack shimeji mushrooms
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. sansho pepper powder (Japanese pepper)

Sauce:

  • 2/5 cup cooking sake (Japanese rice wine)
  • 1 Tbsp. syoyu (soy sauce)
  • 1 tsp. mirin (Japanese sweet cooking rice wine)
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar

Cooking Directions

  1. Slice the duck thinly at an angle with the skin side down, and dust with flour.
  2. Separate the shimeji mushrooms into small chunks. Cut the Tokyo negi into 2-inch lengths.
  3. Place the duck meat in a skillet warmed to medium heat. Lower the heat and grill.
  4. When the duck meat is browned at the bottom, flip it over and add the negi and shimeji mushrooms. Once heated through, remove the duck meat from the skillet. Cook the negi and shimeji mushrooms until browned on all sides. Remove from heat. Wash the skillet.
  5. Using the same skillet, place the ingredients for the sauce and simmer. Return the duck meat, negi, and shimeji mushrooms into the skillet and coat with the sauce. Sprinkle with the sansho pepper and serve.

5. Shiizakana – mainly for Sakana (side dishes for sake), may be replaced with Azukebachi (nimono, or simmered dishes)

Furofuki daikon ( daikon radish with miso sauce) Recipe

furofuki-daikon-recipe

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 1/2 large daikon radish
  • 4-inch dashi kombu (dried kelp)
  • 1 tsp. soy sauce

Miso sauce:

  • 2 Tbsp. miso (soybean paste)
  • 1 Tbsp. mirin (Japanese sweet cooking rice wine)
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cooking sake (Japanese rice wine)
  • 1 green onion
  • A small amount of white roasted sesame seeds

Cooking Directions

  1. Cut the daikon radish into 4 equal parts. Then peel the skin with a sharp knife. The daikon pieces should be curved or round, so remove any sharp edges. Pour just enough water into a pot to immerse the daikon pieces. Add the dashi kombu and a tsp. of soy sauce, and turn the heat to high.
  2. Once the water has come to a boil, turn the heat low. Cover the pot and simmer for about 1 hour.
  3. Put the miso sauce ingredients in a separate saucepan. Add 1 ladleful of the broth (2), and continue to stir over low heat until thickened.
  4. Remove the dashi kombu and cut into 4 pieces. Place each piece on a plate and place the daikon radish on top.
  5. Pour on the miso sauce and garnish with the sliced green onions and white sesame seeds.

6. Agemono (deep-fried dishes)

Kobashira kakiage (baby scallop tempura fritters):
kobashira-kakiagePrepare with Nijiya Tempura Batter Mix.

Grilled beef and mushrooms Recipe

grilled-beef-mushrooms-recipe

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 11-1/4 oz. thinly sliced beef for yakiniku (Japanese BBQ)
  • 1 Tbsp. butter
  • 4 shiitake mushrooms
  • A handful of green beans

Sauce:

  • 4 Tbsp. Nijiya BBQ Sauce

Cooking Directions

  1. Cook the green beans in salted boiling water. Remove the stems from the shiitake mushrooms and cut into decorative shapes.
  2. Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat and cook the beef Remove the beef and cook the shiitake mushrooms with BBQ sauce. Arrange beef and other ingredients on a plate and serve.

Ganmodoki (deep-fried tofu with thinly sliced vegetables) Recipe

ganmodoki-recipe

Ingredients (Serves 4)

  • 1 pkg. tofu (regular)
  • 1/3 medium-size carrot
  • 3 oba leaves (perilla leaves)
  • 2 shiitake mushrooms
  • 2-inch Tokyo negi (green onion)
  • 1/2 egg
  • 1 Tbsp. katakuri-ko (potato starch)
  • 1 Tbsp. cooking sake (Japanese rice wine)
  • 1 tsp. syoyu (soy sauce)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Oil for deep-frying, as needed

Condments:

  • Grated daikon radishsoy sauce, as needed

Cooking Directions

  1. Wrap the tofu with a paper towel and place a cutting board on top. Apply even pressure on the board to expel water.
  2. Julienne the carrot and oba leaves. Remove the stems of the shiitake mushrooms and slice thinly. Mince the Tokyo negi.
  3. Mash the tofu with a whisk or a similar tool. Mix in the egg, katakuri-ko, sake, soy sauce, and salt, and add the ingredients in (2).
  4. Grease your hands with vegetable oil and shape (3) into 4 balls. Deep-fry slowly over medium heat.
  5. Continue to deep-fry until the balls float and turn golden brown.
  6. Serve with the soy sauce combined with the grated daikon radish.

7. Tomezakana (a small dish before rice course) – Suzakana (sunomono – vinegar salads) or Aemono (dressed foods), Chinmi (delicacies)

Tomatoes topped with sarashinegi:
tomatoes-topped-with-sarashinegiPeeled and scored tomato with finely sliced and rinsed onions dressed with Shio-Koji Ginger Dressing.

Turnips and smoked salmon dressed with Shio-Koji Ginger Dressing
turnips-and-smoked-salmon-dressed-with-shio-koji-ginger-dressing

8. Shokuji – Gohan (rice dishes)

shokujiKounomono (pickled vegetables):
Lightly pickled Chinese cabbage, celery, and carrot

Takikomi gohan (seasoned steamed rice)
Chicken, burdock root, and carrot

Tomewan (miso soup):
Turnip greens, and aburaage (fried bean curd)

Sushi from Nijiya
sushi-from-nijiya

9. Mizugashi – fruits

Orange and apple platter
mizugashi-fruits

Gochiso Magazine, Nijiya Market

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