What is not washoku or Japanese cuisine | SUSHIYA sansaro

What is not washoku or Japanese cuisine

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Washoku Japanese cuisine is considered one of the most varied and healthiest cuisines in the world. But not everything that comes under the label of Japanese cuisine really has anything to do with washoku...

Japanese cuisine, sushi, sashimi, kaiseki, bentō - all exciting buzzwords that have already found their way into normal German usage and quickly get the hearts of chefs and culinary enthusiasts beating faster. But by no means everything lives up to this - many restaurants advertise Japanese cuisine even though they don't offer Japanese flavors and there are even styles of cuisine that want to borrow the glamour of Japanese cuisine but have nothing to do with it. Here are a few words on what we consider to be "nanchatte", nicely meant but not skillfully or legitimately associated with Japanese cuisine.

Sushi without a proper base

The fact that rice is the most important part of sushi is due to the etymology of this well-known cuisine: the characters for sushi mean something like "mildly leavened rice".

We are repeatedly asked where we get the fish from, with the undertone that this is the most important thing about sushi. But the most important thing about sushi is "everything", as Master Yagawa would say - and that starts with the rice. The right rice has to be tasted and seasoned correctly in order to achieve the right taste. There is also a lot of knowledge about fish handling and cutting techniques and so on and so forth. It's no wonder that a city like Munich is flooded with "fake sushi restaurants" that tend to spoil the taste of good sushi. They like to flambé and cover up with sauces what has not been achieved underneath, in the base, namely the fine balancing of rice, rice vinegar, manual processing of each individual sushi and finally all the other ingredients such as fish, vegetables, nori, wasabi. More on this elsewhere, but with sushi in particular, every single plate separates the wheat from the chaff.

Nikkei is not Japanese cuisine

Nikkei cuisine has been the talk of the town in recent years, including here in Munich. It looks like a modern, more colorful mix of Peruvian and Japanese cuisine. Raw fish, sashimi, high quality, sushi but with a modern twist, perhaps with a little more spiciness is the image that emerges. In advertising texts, one often reads that Nikkei has the high quality and perfection of Japanese cuisine, but adds the rich flavors of Peruvian cuisine.


In our experience, we find this assessment somewhat difficult. After all, Japanese cuisine makes use of a variety of elaborate preparation techniques to elicit the subtle and deep flavors of the products. It seems absurd to put a lot of effort into a dish to create deep and subtle flavors and then put a spicy sauce on top. The reality, in our experience, is that most of the time Nikkei only uses a reflection of Japanese cuisine, for example by using a raw material such as raw fish or the catchphrase sashimi or sushi, but then only adds an intense sauce or "ceviche" instead of the elaborate Japanese process.

Nikkei cuisine largely unknown in Japan

In fact, there is no Nikkei cuisine in Japan, and it is safe to say that hardly any Japanese in Japan know of its existence.

For chefs who follow the Japanese cooking method and use their skills to create modern Japanese cuisine, Nikkei is a cuisine from a completely different country to Japan.

Where the name Nikkei comes from

Nikkei is a kind of term for Japanese immigrants in South America and other countries. Their children and grandchildren, who knew nothing about life in Japan, had tried to serve Japanese-style dishes that they had learned from their parents or grandparents as a kind of Japanese cuisine. 

The history of Nikkei begins with the arrival of Japanese immigrants in Peru, particularly since 1899. These immigrants were looking for new opportunities and began to engage in agriculture and later in fishing. Over time, they introduced Japanese cooking techniques, but adapted them to the ingredients that were available in their new homeland. 

Japanese expat cuisine in Peru

However, it was very difficult to prepare a dish similar to Japanese cuisine with the ingredients available in South America when logistics were not as developed as they are today. And not every emigrant from Japan was a highly trained Japanese chef: Japanese emigration to South America and Hawaii did not have a good image for many Japanese. This is because many of the immigrants came from very poor backgrounds in Japan, and many of them emigrated because they were economically bankrupt and looking for a way out. And indeed In the view of some Japanese, the descendants of such emigrants, when they return to Japan, are often regarded as difficult people who do not really find their way in Japanese society. Japanese society is known to be extremely rigid, so we are not surprised that some people fall through the cracks in Japan.



Conclusion: Nikkei actually has nothing to do with Washoku


A Japanese origin does not automatically mean that a person can also cook Japanese food - and Nikkei cuisine usually means that the food has nothing to do with Japanese cuisine at all.

Precisely what characterizes Nikkei - the spicy South American flavors, the arrangement of the dishes with "flowers" in different colors (the opposite of the minimalist Japanese Moritsuke), the bright colors and intense, often spicy flavors - stands in clear contrast to Japanese cuisine.


In Japan itself, Nikkei cuisine is not as widespread as in countries such as Peru or on the global gastronomic scene. This is partly because Japanese cuisine, known as washoku, has a deep cultural and historical significance in Japan and is prized for its purity and tradition. Japanese society holds its culinary traditions in high esteem and preserves them with great care. Although the Japanese often view things from abroad with great curiosity and embrace them with enthusiasm, Nikkei cuisine is more akin to an emigrant who has not made it in Japanese society and is now returning without the proper "manners".

Of course, Nikkei as a gastronomic experience can still be very tasty, exciting and of high quality, such as at Nikkei-Kitchen in Munich. As long as you are aware that Nikkei has nothing to do with Japanese-style washoku, sushi or sashimi, this is all legitimate. However, you should be careful when modern, very expensive restaurants describe themselves as "Japanese with a Nikkei touch", as this usually means that no actual Japanese work is done, sushi does not taste like sushi and sashimi is not real sashimi, but simply nanchatte.

Sharing pleasure in Japanese

SUSHIYA is passionate about Japanese cuisine and culture. In our restaurant sansaro you can encounter the fascinating Japanese cuisine or have it delivered to your home. On our homepage, Facebook and Instragram we always give insights into news and interesting topics.