As a Japanese person, one of the common questions that I am asked while in a foreign country is: Are you Chinese or Japanese?
Well, it’s a regular incident that happens with all north Asian people. Foreigners always mix us up by looking at our resembling faces!!
Even when it comes to food, most people think China and Japan have similar cuisine.
But is it true?
NO, Not at all.
There is a wide difference between Chinese and Japanese cuisine, from flavors to cooking techniques.
So, my today’s job is to discuss the variance of both foods so that you don’t mix them up just like the faces of us!!
Chinese Vs. Japanese Food: Don’t Mix Them Up!
The main difference between Chinese and Japanese foods lies in their ingredients and the way of cooking.
Japanese meals consist of fresh ingredients, and the cooking procedure is light and healthy. And most of the food is raw.
On the other hand, Chinese cuisine has a lot to do with heavy seasoning, sauces, and deep-frying with oil, which is relatively unhealthy.
It’s always better to see comparisons side by side.
So, for your better understanding, I am including a table showing the difference between them.
Comparison Between Chinese And Japanese Food at A Glance
The below table consists of a quick review of our upcoming discussion.
Well, it’s just a summary from which you won’t be able to differentiate them.
So, let’s start our comprehensive discussion from here.
About Japanese Food
Most of the food in Japan is made with seafood, rice, and other sides like fresh vegetables. They are cooked following the Japanese traditional method.
Besides, Japanese food is not spicy because they like to keep it subtle and light to preserve the natural flavor.
In addition, instead of deep-frying, foods are grilled and kept raw. For example, seafood, meat, eggs are often consumed uncooked to get the most nutrition, and many people visit Japan to taste them.
This is the reason behind sushi’s immense popularity, which has become famous in different countries far away from Japan.
In this cuisine, rice is considered the main course, and to complement it, at least two side dishes are served.
Unlike western culture, meals here are served separately. Each dish has its own small bowl or plate. This is because we Japanese don’t like the taste of various foods mixed up together.
If you went to Japan previously, you might already have seen that foods are packed into a bento box, where a divider splits each item.
Apart from rice, wheat and soybeans are also widely used in Japanese cuisine.
Also, people here love to drink tea, especially green tea. The most popular flavor is matcha, a key element in traditional tea ceremonies.
As matcha is a versatile ingredient, it is widely used in making Japanese desserts as well as snacks.
When it comes to talking about cooking style, the Japanese tend to lean a lot into knife skills. And, of course, a good example is sushi. The raw fish has to be sliced finely to maintain the texture.
Knife skills are also required for hibachi, a grilling technique mastered by the Japanese.
Hibachi style involves cooking food on a flat top grill. Generally, the grill is cast iron, but some have stainless steel flat tops too.
Alright, it’s time to get introduced to some popular Japanese food.
Examples of Renowned Japanese Food
One of the common ways that you can easily say where the dish is from is by its name. Some food items can be instantly recognized that are from Japan, such as sushi.
But apart from that, there are loads of items that represent Japanese cuisine.
To name a few,
- Miso Soup
- Japanese curry
- Shabu Shabu
Each of these items can make you fall in love instantly after tasting. Also, you will never forget the yumminess that is offered by our dishes.
And it’s possible that the next time a Japanese food will be served, and you will be able to tell its origin right away.
Yes, our meals have the power to win hearts without making you gain weight!
Okay, let’s move on to Chinese food now.
About Chinese Food
Chinese dish refers to the cooking style in China and its surrounding regions. Their cuisine roots back over 1000 years ago, under various empires.
But, their cuisine has changed over the period. And the reason behind this is to accommodate the different preferences of locals.
China has 8 recognized regional culinary cuisines: Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Sichuan, Hunan, Shandong, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang.
One of the noteworthy things about Chinese dishes is that they hardly use dairy products.
The main carbohydrate used in their food is noodles, rice, and vegetables. They also use different types of sauce in their rice and seasonings.
These sauces are meant to increase the flavors of their food to meet the Chinese people’s taste buds.
Example of Popular Chinese Food
Here is a list of renowned Chinese dishes that people are familiar with.
- Rice dishes, especially fried rice
- Sichuan pork
- Braised pork balls with gravy
- Shrimp with vermicelli noodles
- Chow mein
- Steamed rolls
- Sweet and sour pork
- Roasted duck
- Kung pao chicken
- Spring rolls
Okay, you have learned about both cuisines, but how will you know which dish is Japanese and which is Chinese?
Don’t worry, I can make you an expert in distinguishing food now..
What Differentiates Japanese Food From Chinese Food?
Asian cuisine is unique compared to the different parts of the world. But, both Chinese and Japanese cuisines have some ingredients that make them somehow look similar.
However, you can easily differentiate them by several facts.
Now, I will highlight those.
1. Japanese Foods Have Less Oil And Are Much Lighter to Stomach
Japanese people are highly health-conscious, and that reflects in their cuisine. Most of the meals have less presence of oil.
For example, miso soup, one of the most famed soups, is a simple and healthy stock made with miso paste and seaweed. And there is no trace of oil in it at all.
In Chinese food preparation, a lot of grease is used, which increases the calories in their meal.
That’s why Japanese food is better than Chinese for your health.
So, one of the main differences lies in their recipe.
Additionally, the main staples in China include noodles and rice, which contribute to the higher consumption of carbohydrates.
Even though Japanese dishes also consists of rice, they are served in smaller portions compared to Chinese ones.
As you already know, Japanese food is mostly grilled and doesn’t require much oil to prepare. Also, they use flat pans for frying that keep the nutritional value of the food.
And this is the reason that you will find Japanese food more crispy and light.
Moreover, vegetables are often steamed to keep them healthy.
2. Chinese Food Is Heavier Because of The Cooking Style
For preparing Chinese dishes, a wok is often used.
You will find that Chinese chefs use woks to fry different types of ingredients, and it involves constantly mixing and turning the food.
The main reason behind using a wok is to make sure the food is cooked evenly from inside and outside. And, wok requires lots of oil if you deep fry.
Besides meat, Chinese people also love to stir fry their vegetables.
Another noteworthy thing is that people in China love spices and herbs in their dishes, adding more flavors, which makes them heavier for the stomach.
In short, even though both cultures use some common ingredients, the cooking method plays a significant role by which you can easily distinguish them.
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3. Spices, Herbs, And Seasoning Variance
Chinese food is comparatively spicier than Japanese ones.
The common spices, herbs, and seasonings that are used in Chinese are garlic, spicy peppercorns, five-spice powder, hot mustard, soy sauce, spring onion, cumin, fennel, star anise, bay leaves, oyster sauce, and spicy bean paste.
So, it seems like most of these can make you look for milk instantly if you are weak in handling spiciness!!
In contrast, Japanese cuisines consist of bonito flakes, soy sauce, miso, seaweed, dashi, shichimi, sesame, black pepper, ginger, wasabi, turmeric, cloves, and cinnamon.
You may notice that the Japanese prefer seafood flavors while Chinese people like spicy tastes more.
4. The Difference in Ingredients
The ingredients used in both cuisines differ significantly. Chinese food involves more meat compared to Japanese.
According to research, the requirement for meat in China has almost quadrupled in the past 30 years.
As Japan is enriched with seafood, they rely on it for protein rather than meat. However, meat has also become popular after the modernization of Japan.
Another notable thing is that Chinese dishes often have exotic meat, but Japanese doesn’t. Also, dry forms of vegetables like dried mushrooms and vegetables are important ingredients in the Chinese kitchen.
Suppose you are served a meal with raw fish, rice, silken tofu, clear broth, and vegetables; it is definitely a traditional Japanese meal.
And if you eat a meal with meat, mushroom, and vegetable: it is most likely of Chinese origin.
5. Variance in Companion Tea
The Chinese people love to drink black tea, while the Japanese prefer green tea.
Both cultures have tea rooted as a staple in their cuisine. Also, tea is consumed alongside the meal or after the meal to help digestion in both countries.
Alright, I have explained all the major variances between Japanese and Chinese cuisine.
After learning all the differences, don’t you want to know about their similarities?
If so, then my next segment is all you need to go through.
Chinese And Japanese Food Similarities
The most remarkable similarity between these two cuisines is the use of fresh ingredients.
Whether it comes to seafood, meat, or vegetables, the dishes always require fresh items.
And of course, there are many common ingredients that are used widely in both cultures, like soy sauce and tofu. Similarly, they consume rice and noodles dishes often.
Alright, as I have completed discussing this topic, it’s time to say goodbye.
In summary, the key difference between Chinese and Japanese cuisine lies in cooking methods, ingredients, and spices. Both of them have distinguished tastes and specialties.
If you are searching for a healthy and nutritious option and can’t handle spice very well, go for Japanese food.
And in case your taste buds prefer loads of flavor, the Chinese one can satisfy you easily.