Washoku, the second principle

“Five ways, or go ho, urges cooks to prepare food by a variety of methods, simmering, broiling, and steaming being some of the most basic. By combining various methods at every meal, it is easy to limit the total amounts of sugar, salt, and oil consumed, thereby avoiding excessive calories.” — Elizabeth Andoh, Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen

I began my exploration of washoku, the Japanese “harmony of food,” by paying attention to having the five colors (red, yellow, black, green, and white) represented at each meal. Another aspect of bringing a meal into harmony involves attending to how my food is prepared.

“Avoiding excess calories” is something I don’t worry about in my home cooking (and it’s not like I have to hold myself back from eating meals that are entirely deep-fried), but within a cultural cuisine (and particularly within Japanese cuisine which seems to adore fried things as special treats) it makes sense to have a kind of checks-and-balances system to ensure meals will be healthful overall. And what I’ve found a lot of joy in for myself is the fact that bringing a variety of cooking methods to the plate means a greater range of textures; soft, chewy, crisp, crunchy – my mouth perks up when it literally has so much variety to chew on.


This meal may have been stretching it a little on the “five colors” front (red from quinoa, yellow from carrot, black from raisin, green from scallions, white from cauliflower – a more muted palate for sure) but it was brought to completion by attention to “five ways.” The meal originally contained quinoa, steamed, cauliflower, simmered, and tofu, broiled. I wanted to bring washoku to the meal in terms of cooking methods, so I added the scallions, which are raw, and made a quick carrot-raisin pickle.  These additions naturally brought so much more color to the plate as well, which is something I’ve found in my pursuit of harmonious meals – bringing one facet into harmonious alighnment usually pulls in other facets simultaneously. Not to mention simply making the meal more interesting, more tasty, and more healthful!

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