“1 soup-1 dish”(一汁一菜Ichi-jyu issai) is a basic way of organizing a Japanese meal. A 1 soup-1 dish meal includes:
“Huh? But that’s four dishes!”, you say.
That’s right because, in Japan, white rice is just a given: like bread in western cooking. And you can think of Japanese pickles – which you eat with rice – almost the way you think of butter: just something to flavor the bread.
“1 soup-1 dish” used to be seen as a humble menu: just one main dish. Today, however, people value simplicity, making 1 soup-1 dish a trendy, very healthy and well balanced option for an everyday meal.
At home, we do “1 soup-1 dish” quite often. It’s not only healthy but also it’s easy to cook daily, even if you’re busy. If you took 2 hours for cooking everyday, you’d feel discouraged. It’s very important to eat well all the time, but at the same time I think daily cooking needs to be easy and quick.
“1 soup-3 dish” is another common way to organize a menu in Japanese cooking. It goes:
1 main dish
2 small side dishes
1 soup-3 dish is for special occasions, or for guests. It’s what you do when you want a little something extra for your family. The two small side dishes don’t need to be complicated – just the opposite – and often you choose them to add color to the table.