Olympic nuggets: Japan dishes out a delicious spread

Japanese food
Japanese dish washoku, tempura, sashimi, fish curry, miso soup, soya sauce, oyatsu, coconut milk, green tea, and warabi mochi. File photo

Each Olympic Games is an opportunity to understand the host nation's culture and food habits that are different from your own. However, since the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be held in an unprecedented 'bubble' due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a ban on overseas fans and strict restrictions on the movement of all the participants. The athletes are not allowed to step out of the Olympic Village, practice/training areas, and competition venues. The Games Village is the only place where the participants from all across the world get a chance to try out traditional Japanese dishes.

The Harumi Olympic Village, a complex of apartments and dining areas, can accommodate up to 18,000 athletes and their support staff. The cafeterias at the Village will serve up to 48,000 meals a day, with 700 kinds of menus to meet various dietary needs and eating habits. Menus are largely divided into three categories: Western, Japanese and Asian, which covers Chinese, Indian and Vietnamese options. 

Safety rules mean sushi, the traditional Japanese rolls which are very often prepared with seafood, will not be available. It will be one big disappointment for Japanese food fans. Grilled wagyu beef and tempura - battered, fried vegetables - and a wide range of seafood are expected to make up for the absence of sushi. The other top items on the menu will be the Japanese homemade lunch as well as two dishes from the Osaka region: okonomiyaki - which mainly contains cabbage and pork - and takoyaki - a ball-shaped snack filled with minced or diced octopus. 

The United Nations cultural organisation has added traditional Japanese food to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list. Japanese dishes are simple, but careful preparation and meticulous presentation are crucial elements of their cuisine. The high life expectancy enjoyed by the Japanese is often credited to their healthy diet. Also, the prevalence of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases is very low in the country. 

Japanese have welcomed the best healthy eating habits and diet practices from around the world and made them a part of their daily menu. Chopsticks, soy sauces and soy milk tofu are borrowed from China, while Japanese Kare looks very similar to Indian curry, but is a lot less spicy than the latter. 

Some of the traditional Japanese dishes that will certainly tickle the taste buds of any food lover are: Miso soup made from fermented soybeans; wheat flour-based udon noodles; Yakitori (grilled chicken); ramen noodle soup; donburi rice bowls; natto - a popular breakfast item consisting of fermented soybeans; shabu-shabu which is made from thinly sliced meat and vegetables; Onigiri or rice balls which is a staple of Japanese lunch boxes; steamed green soybeans; and Chawanmushi - an egg custard dish.

Tea is the most popular beverage in Japan and an important part of Japanese food culture. Green tea is the most common type of tea and is widely available. Sake, the Japanese alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice, is also very popular. 

From a historic postponement to unprecedented restrictions, this year’s Olympics will be much different from the past editions. However, the local organisers are trying their best to feed the athletes well and make them ready to perform at their best. 

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