An attractive bowl with cubes of tofu swimming on a bed of soya sauce, topped with finely-chopped lady’s finger testified to a well-known culinary claim that the Japanese ‘eat with their eyes and not their mouths’. “Appearance and presentation of food is very important to us,” said Masanori Nakano, Consul General of Japan, Chennai. “And we want to introduce the splendor of Japanese cuisine to South Indians,” he added, speaking to City Express on the sidelines of the seminar ‘Exploring Japanese food potential in South India’, organised by the Japanese External Trade Organisation (JETRO) in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), here on Wednesday. The event was part of the celebrations that commemorated the 60th anniversary of Indo-Japanese diplomatic relations. “There may be Indians who have never tasted Japanese food and this is an opportunity to introduce our food to them,” Nakano said.
After claiming that he was a fan of Indian cuisine, the diplomat explained that Japanese food was a healthy and alternative option for Indians to try.
While Japanese non-vegetarian dishes like sushi, tempura and sashimi are already popular with the hotel-going crowd here, he said there was Kaiseki, an entire course made of vegetables, for vegetarians. “Kaiseki is eaten by Buddhist monks and is also popular among the health-conscious in Japan,” he said.
He pointed out that Japanese cuisine was healthy because it comprised mainly fish, vegetables and soya bean paste, which are mostly fermented or steamed, and prepared with very little oil and salt.
Kavitha Chesetty, who runs Malli, a food magazine, said Japanese cuisine was similar to the Indian, with rice as the staple, accompanied by five or six vegetables and fish. “The food is mostly steamed,” she said, adding that the high life expectancy rate of the Japanese people was enough proof to believe that the Japanese mostly ate a healthy diet. While there are three to four restaurants that serve exclusive Japanese cuisine in Chennai, more than a dozen hotels have Japanese dishes on their menu.
Former CII chairman PSS Raja Sankaralingam said the seminar was the first-of-its-kind to be held in the city. Sankaralingam, who exports herbal ingredients to Japanese companies that manufacture medicines and other health products, believes that Japanese cuisine will find patronage among South Indians because of the popular perception that Japanese products are of high quality. “Healthy cooking style, detailing and display of food are some features of the cuisine,” he said.