Sakana is a common term in Japanese cuisine, used to indicate all those dishes that are consumed accompanied by alcoholic beverages. Most often, they are served in smaller than normal dishes and can frequently be quite salty. They are thought to be foods that can absorb alcohol and prevent greater inebriation. Some mistakenly associate the word sakana with fish due to its meaning in Japanese, which can refer to dried fish.
A common feature of sakana dishes is that they usually do not include rice, as many other Japanese dishes do, such as sushi. Experts explain this due to the fact that traditional Japanese liquor, or sake, is made from rice and consuming rice with it would be redundant. Aside from the absence of sushi rice, however, many different varieties of food represent this type of traditional Japanese cuisine.
As already mentioned, these foods are often part of a bite-sized plate serving style. In this way, they are similar to other cuisines around the world. Perhaps the most important of the small plates in the restaurants of the world is the Spanish “tapas”, where many different dishes are served in small portions, on small plates. Some culinary experts contrasting sakana and tapas point out that, in general, the Japanese variant is usually much richer than the Spanish tapas.
Some forms of this type of Japanese cuisine consist of fish or other types of meat. A dish involving grilled chicken skewers can be a form of this cuisine and some of these dishes also include sausage. Some other more exotic fish dishes may also be on the menu where this type of food is served. These include different types of roe or roe of fish, sea urchins and other sea creatures. Squid, a staple in Japanese cuisine, can also be used for sakana dishes. Other types of sakana dishes are vegetarian. For example, the Korean dish called kimchi. Other types of pickles may also be included.
Another common form of sakana is edamame, which is basically salted and steamed soybeans. Edamame is a very common snack wherever Japanese food is enjoyed. All of these could be part of a sakana-style presentation at a Japanese restaurant or other place where sakana is served. In their original areas, these foods are often served in a particular type of small bar known for the aforementioned combination of food and drink. Among the most typical sakana, there are:
- Sashimi – sliced raw fish
- Kimchi – spicy pickles
- Shiokara – fermented seafood
- Ikura – salmon roe, i.e. caviar
- Tarako – pollock
- Mentaiko – pollock roe
- Tsukemono – pickles
- Kushiyaki – grilled skewers of meat or vegetables
- Yakitori – grilled chicken skewers and chicken pieces
- Tatami Iwashi – obtained by drying sardines
- Arare – a kind of cracker made from glutinous rice
- Uni – sea urchin
- Edamame – salted soybeans