Delicacies from Japan

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Japanese hot-spots are popping up all over Vietnam

Japanese cuisine has become a global delicacy. These days, people all over Vietnam are clamoring for classics like sushi, sashimi and tempura. The country simply can't get enough of Japan's simple presentation, healthy ingredients and subtle flavors.

Beautiful and tasty

Historians argue that Japan's most popular export may have originated here in Southeast Asia.

Modern sushi consists of a host of ingredients combined wrapped in vinegared, short-grain rice, and rolled up in nori or dried seaweed.

Some Japanese historians have indicated that early residents of Myanmar and northern Thailand were the first to come up with the idea of fermenting fish in balls of vinegared rice to preserve it for later.

Today, choice cuts of fish are combined with egg, root vegetables, and caviar and presented in sleek rolls. Sushi is typically served with soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger.

For many Asian diners, the prospect of eating meat or fish wrapped in rice is not a shocking concept. But sashimi is a distinctly Japanese undertaking.

Sashimi consists solely of raw fresh fish of the utmost quality. The cuts are typically derived from large ocean fish such as Yellow Fin Tuna.

The meat is sliced into thin pieces and garnished with green globs of horseradish and thin shreds of white daikon root. For the sushi chef, the presentation of a few thin slices of raw fish has been elevated to an art form that takes a lifetime to master.

Customers can enjoy these delicacies (and more) at the following addresses in HCMC:

2A-4A Ton Duc Thang St., Dist. 1 Tel: (08) 3 823 3333

2 Le Thanh Ton St., Dist. 1 Tel: (08) 3 823 8042

5th floor, Zen Plaza
54-56 Nguyen Trai St., Dist. 1
Tel: (08) 3 925 0377

240 Le Thanh Ton St., Dist. 1 Tel: (08) 5 404 2244

Their stunning aesthetic acumen has converted diners all over the world.

Tempura is a popular Japanese method of battering and frying seafood and vegetables.

The batter consists of light, fluffy panko flakes which offset any risk of heaviness. Tempura chefs meticulously dry the items to remove any remaining trace of oil before serving them with a light soy dipping sauce, daikon strips, and finely chopped ginger.

Japanese noodle-lovers are divided into two camps: soba and udon eaters.

Soba is a type of thin Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour, served with quail eggs, seaweed, scallion, and ginger.

It can be served either chilled with a soy dipping sauce, or in a hot broth.

Udon is a type of thick wheat-flour noodle popular in Japanese cuisine. Udon can be served chilled, though you'll typically find it served hot in corner noodle shops where it remains an everyday favorite. The large floppy noodles can be served with condiments such as grated ginger, dried seaweed, and scallions.

Japanese dishes are often small and cute, but their flavor is delicate and refined. Serious sushi is often presented like precious stones. Fish fans should consider a cup of sake Japanese wine made from fermented rice. The sweet, clean flavor of the drink compliments the complex flavors of the fish in a wonderful way.

"It is great that Japanese restaurants are popping up around town these days," said Chef Fumio Kono of the Yoshino restaurant at the Legend Hotel Saigon.

"Japanese food is no longer considered a "˜mystery'," he said. "More and more people are recognizing it as a healthy cuisine and even an art form." Kono said that all of the meat and seafood served at the Yoshino is imported thrice weekly from Japan. "The food here is very fresh," he said.

When asked about which Japanese dishes the Vietnamese diners go for most, he answered: "Forty percent of our guests order the Kobe beef and raw fish. Another popular dish is shabu shabu, a hot pot made with fresh vegetables and Kobe beef."

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