2016 is almost over – and what a year it has been! No matter what you think of 2016, there’s good news in the gourmet world because the Gurunavi Research Institute just chose Japan’s “Dish of the Year.” Based on various surveys and research, 2016’s favorite food is coriander cuisine!
The Dish of the Year reflects the contemporary eating and drinking habits of Japanese people. Representing coriander cuisine are the Director of the Tokyo Office of Okayama Prefecture, Yasuhiro Fujimoto (center left), the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Thailand, Bansarn Bunnag (center right). Special guests of the event were the weightlifting talent Hiromi Miyake (left) and Tokoro Asao (right), the designer of Tokyo 2020’s Olympics and Paralympics.
What is the Dish of the Year ® ?
Based on user surveys and Gurunavi’s big data, 15 dishes are nominated by media committees from newspapers and TV. From all of those submissions, one Dish of the Year is then decided. Celebrating its third anniversary, the Dish of the Year event was held for the first time in 2014.
These were the 15 nominees:
Ise-Udon, Caffeine-free Drinks, Functional Chocolate, Beef Cutlet, High-Carbonated Drinks, Kumamoto Ramen, Sweet Malted Amazake, Coffee, Churrasco, Shirasu Bowl, Innovative Gyoza, Chopped Salad, Japanese Wine, Coriander Cuisine, and Roast Beef Bowl.
As already said, coriander cuisine has been crowned as 2016’s Dish of the Year. Coriander, also known as cilantro, is an herb of the parsley family. Characterized by its distinctive aroma and taste, it is widely used in a variety of countries’ cuisines, such as in Thailand, Vietnam, China, Portugal, Mexico, or India.
For a long time, coriander was confined to an existence as an “ethnic” condiment but in recent years it has broken free of this label and taken a lead role in a vast variety of dishes – which is why the herb has been named the Dish of the Year 2016. A lot of restaurants have put coriander to very creative use, creating dishes such as salads, hot pots, cocktails, and even sweets. The variety of coriander dishes is astounding. In Japan, coriander has become so popular, there’s even a word to describe die-hard fans of the herb: “pakchist”, stemming from the Thai word for coriander, pronounced pak chi.
Now that coriander has even been awarded the title of Dish of the Year, we can expect even more amazing coriander cuisine dishes as the herb will become an even more inherent part of day to day eating habits.
2016’s Other Nominees
Japanese wine was given the second place. The world’s leaders were served Japanese wine at the G7 Ise-Shima Summit held in Mie Prefecture in March 2016, Japanese wine has also won awards at the world’s largest international wine competition, and is highly appreciated both in Japan and internationally. The popularity and reputation of Japanese wine will continue to rise from this year on as well.
Churrasco earned the Special International Award. This South American dish, particularly popular in Brazil, is made by skewering meat such as beef which is then seasoned with rock salt and thoroughly cooked. Up until now, only certain specialty shops served the delicacy but partially due to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, it can now be found on more restaurant menus throughout the country.
Looking Back on Three Years of Dish of the Year ®
The concept of Dish of the Year is to choose the one dish that represents the last year the most, in regards to contemporary food culture. The event was born in 2014 and thus, two dishes have been chosen as Japan’s most representative contemporary dishes in the last two years. Let’s take a look at them.
The Dish of the Year 2014: Wild Game Cuisine
Part of the promotion of the “sixth sector” industry classification, Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries also promoted the culinary use of domestic wild game, such as venison, boar, fowl, and so on. With the creation of “Guidelines for Hygiene Control Concerning Wild Game and Fowl,” wild game rapidly became an inherent part of all sorts of dishes throughout the entire country.
Found in both convenience stores and restaurants of all budgets, wild game conquered the Japanese taste and it can be said that 2014 was the “first year” of Japanese wild game, the dominating reason why it was chosen as the Dish of the Year in 2014.
Nominees of 2014 were “Gourmet Shaved Ice,” with the classic dessert being represented by creations worth over 1,000 yen per serving, as well as Japanese eel. Once consumed as street food, Japanese eel has become an endangered species due to overfishing and the value of “sustainable growth” has turned into the first thought when it comes to eel consumption.
The Dish of the Year 2015: Onigirazu
In a time in which Japan experiences a lot of gourmet trends that distance themselves from rice, the Onigirazu was an ingenuous and creative new interpretation of this classic Japanese staple food.
While the classic Onigiri is a rice ball, the Onigirazu is more like a rice sandwich and shows that Japanese food traditions are by no means untouchable – this amazing reinterpretation does represent Japan’s unique harmony between old traditions and modern ingenuity, which earned the dish the title as Dish of the Year 2015.
A runner-up to the title was grilled catfish, in part due to its similar taste to the now elusive and endangered Japanese eel. Japanese eel is especially popular in summer as it is believed to help against fatigue and in 2015, grilled catfish became a very popular substitute.
Dish of the Year ®: Representing Japan’s Contemporary Food Culture
Looking back on the Dishes of the Year ®, it is rather evident that Japanese food culture is made up of a colorful variety of dishes and keeps on surprising both Japanese and international gourmets with creative new creations that respect a whole variety of social aspects. Japanese cuisine is ever-evolving, making use of international influences while staying true to its traditional core.
We’re looking forward what amazing dishes will be the runner-ups for the Dish of the Year in the coming years as well!