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Kaiseki
Kaiseki (懐石, かいせき, Kaiseki) or kaiseki ryōri (懐石料理, kaiseki ryōri) - A traditional multi-course Japanese dinner analogous to Western haute cuisine.

Kaiseki literally means "stone in the bosom", and refers to a practice where Zen monks would ward off hunger by putting warm stones into the folds of their obi. The term came to mean a light vegetarian meal served after a tea ceremony, possibly referring to the simple meals that monks ate which staved off hunger as much as a warm stone did.

Dishes

In the present day, kaiseki is a type of art form that balances the taste, texture, appearance, and colors of food.. To this end, only fresh seasonal ingredients are used and are prepared in ways that aim to enhance their flavor. Local ingredients are often included as well. Finished dishes are carefully presented on colorful plates that are chosen to enhance both the appearance and the seasonal theme of the meal. Dishes are beautifully arranged and garnished, often with real leaves and flowers, as well as edible garnishes designed to resemble natural plants and animals.

Order

Originally, kaiseki was comprised of a bowl of miso soup and three side dishes. It has since evolved to include an appetizer, sashimi, a simmered dish, a grilled dish, and a steamed course, in addition to other dishes at the discretion of the chef.

Sakizuke: an appetizer similar to the French amuse-gueule.
Hassun: the second course, which sets the seasonal theme. Typically one kind of sushi and several smaller side dishes.
Mukozuke: a sliced dish of seasonal sashimi.
Takiawase: vegetables served with meat, fish or tofu; the ingredients are simmered separately.
Futamono: a "lidded dish"; typically a soup.
Yakimono: Broiled seasonal fish.
Su-zakana: a small dish used to clean the palate, such as vegetables in vinegar.
Hiyashi-bachi: served only in summer; chilled, lightly-cooked vegetables.
Naka-choko: another palate-cleanser; may be a light, acidic soup.
Shiizakana: a substantial dish, such as a hot pot.
Gohan: a rice dish made with seasonal ingredients.
Ko no mono: seasonal pickled vegetables.
Tome-wan: a miso-based or vegetable soup served with rice.
Mizumono: a seasonal dessert; may be fruit, confection, ice cream, or cake.

In the present day, there is less emphasis on the meaning of Kaiseki as a meal to welcome the guest and more emphasis on a meal to make a tea ceremony an enjoyable one. It may also be used for a course meal and the former might be called Cha Kaiseki (茶懐石), literally tea kaiseki. Kaiseki may also be used to describe a light meal in general and thus a European style kaiseki exists where there are only a few, if any, differences between that and a course dinner.

The order of dishes served may differ when kaiseki is served at a tea ceremony and other occasions. A bowl of rice and miso soup often served at the start of a kaiseki course meal may be skipped in other occasions. Dishes may be served individually to offer a more relaxed atmosphere instead of taking a portion according to explicit practices associated with a tea ceremony.

Kaiseki is often served in ryokan in Japan, but it is also served in small restaurants. Kyoto is well known for its kaiseki.

Information source: “Kaiseki.” wikipedia.org. Article date: 29 Jan. 2008. Retrieved: Wikipedia. 8 Feb. 2008 <Kaiseki>.
 

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