3 rules of Japanese food presentation

In professional kitchens, there are 3 fundamental rules Japanese chefs follow when they plate their food. These simple principles can easily be introduced into our everyday home cooking, so let’s transform the way your dish looks and surprise your guests.

1. Colour

Japanese primal colours in food is White, Black, Yellow, Red and Green (or Blue). White signifies cleanness, yellow and red stimulate your brain and help the appetite, while green and blue bring you the comfort and black gives the firmness to the dish.

The use of colours is not confined in food alone, it extends to tableware and table decoration. For example, have a look at the above photo of Turnip with Miso and Spring Onion.
Although the colour of food is simple, the presentation in a bowl with multiple colours gives a gorgeous look. A piece of sugar snap also gives an accent that matches the colour of the flower petals in the bowl. You don’t need to use all the colours but if your dish is rather monotone, you could always add colourful vegetable or garnish to make it more interesting. By extending the colour palate to the tableware, it will give you much wider options.

2. Height

Food should not look flat on a plate, it must have a certain degree of height. The turnip in a shallow bowl is also the example. By placing the food in the center, keeping away from the edge, it gives plenty of space around the food. When you look at the dish from the side, the peak should be in the centre. Don’t put too much food, less is more!

3. Balance

Balance is important in plating the food. ‘Less is more’ principle applies throughout the Japanese food presentation. Focus is in the balance of size, volume, height and colour. In this photo, a typical Japanese meal, a combination of fish, rice and green vegetable are presented in a plate together. Food is well away from the edge of the plate, flower shaped rice (stained pink with beetroot) on one side while the green broccoli and black cod are placed in a slight angle close together. A moderate height is present with a pickled cherry on the rice.

We enjoy food with eyes as well as its taste. You can add a little touch of playfulness even with a chopsticks rest.

The tableware used in this article are available to buy for a limited period only, and there is a workshop by Akemi Yokoyama at Megumi’s Lonon this week. Please join us!

Turnip with miso and spring onion

Ingredients : Serves 2

  • 2 medium turnip
  • 2 tablespoons miso paste
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 2 spring onion
  • 2 sugar snap
  • 3cm kombu (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon rapeseed oil

Steps:

  1. Peel the skin off the turnip, trim a bottom a little to make it stand straight.
  2. Boil plenty of water in a saucepan with kombu, cook turnips submerged under water for 25-30 minutes or until soft. Skewer with a piece of bamboo stick or chopstick to see if they are soft inside, and extend the cooking time as necessary. Kombu produces umami to make turnip deliciously cooked. Add sugar snap at the last 1 minute to cook briefly.
  3. Finely chop spring onions.
  4. In a small frying pan, heat the rapeseed oil over medium heat, add spring onions and stir fry until they wilt and are cooked completely. Spring onions should be full of aroma when cooked.
  5. Add sake, mirin and miso and continue cooking until the liquid evaporates. The texture of the paste should be semi-soft. When scooped up in a spoon, the paste should drop slowly.
  6. For the turnip, make a well of 3-4 cm diameter at the top of the turnip by scooping up a part of the turnip with a tea spoon. The well should be no more than 3 cm deep. The best way to make a well is to insert the spoon vertically to a depth along the circumference several times, then scoop up.
  7. Add miso paste to the well of the turnip, serve in a bowl immediately with sugar snap.

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