Bowls are essential utensils for the presentation of Japanese dishes. Presentation:
Bowls in Japanese cuisine
In Japan, the bowl is omnipresent and is used a lot during meals from breakfast to dinner. There are many kinds and each bowl has its own purpose. Some are intended for tea, sauces, rice, pasta or soups.
Mixing them is out of the question. It would be for a French person like pouring soup in a flat plate for example.
Japanese Chawan bowls
There are hundreds of varieties, shapes and styles of Japanese chawan bowls “茶碗” and each has its own specificity. Here are the 2 main kinds:
– The rice chawan bowl or Gohan chawan “ご飯茶碗” is a bowl for receiving Japanese rice. There are many types and styles of rice chawan bowls, but the size is perfect for holding the bowl in your hands.
Indeed, to eat the rice you have to bring it to your lips and push the food with Japanese chopsticks into your mouth without it touching the edge of the bowl.
– Indispensable, the chawan “茶碗” is a tea bowl used to taste and prepare tea in the traditional way during the tea ceremony. Japanese people use green tea, matcha, in powder form which is mixed with hot water before beating it with a bamboo whisk called chasen “茶筅”. So you need a bowl that is large enough to allow for proper preparation of the tea.
Chawan tea bowls have been around for centuries. As you can notice, the beauty of these bowls lies in their imperfection. Indeed, Japanese people have a different vision of perfection than westerners. Chawan tea bowls are organic, unique, with a random aspect that gives them their charm, they are true works of art. True chawan bowls are handmade and quite expensive, they are frequently named by their creators or owners, or by a tea master.
There are different sizes of chawan tea bowls, shallow bowls are used in summer to cool the tea more quickly and deep bowls in winter to keep the heat in.
Japanese bowls for dishes and soups
The shiru wan bowl “汁椀” is a bowl dedicated to suimono “吸い物”. Suimono refers to a collection of small Japanese soups, including miso soup. Miso soup accompanies almost every Japanese dish, from breakfast to dinner. This is why the shiru wan bowl is essential. There are lacquered ones, with or without a lid. See pictures below.
The donburi bowl “丼ぶり” is a rather wide and high bowl which is used to hold noodle dishes like udon, the soba, rice dishes, or large soup dishes. In Japan, the dishes are not necessarily separated, rice on one side, meat and vegetables on the other and so on. Sometimes everything is put together without being mixed in a donburi bowl, more simple and convenient. At the bottom you will find the noodles or rice and on top the meat and vegetables. The donburi bowl allows you to mix the food well together and to keep the food warm thanks to its large lid. Sometimes these bowls don’t have a lid, so you use another bowl that you flip over and place on top.
Moreover the names of Japanese dishes for these donburi bowls end with “don” in reference to its name, for example the katsudon or the gyudon are good examples.
Nimonowan bowls “煮物椀”:
These are bowls that are wide and flat enough to hold stewed vegetables and meats. They are either made of porcelain or lacquered with or without a lid. They are very often decorated with beautiful patterns that enhance the dish.
Kobachi bowls, “小鉢” “small bowl” in French, are used to serve small Japanese appetizer dishes like edamame for example, sunomono (vinegar salads), nimono (Japanese stews) and chinmi (delicacies).