Difference between Chinese and Japanese Food

The importance of a country’s cuisine as a reflection of its culture and values is undeniable. Food, after all, is a universal language that people understand and need in order to survive. However, we all have different interpretations of what our preferred cuisine would be and this mostly depends on our regional differences. European cuisine, for example, is extremely different from Asian cuisine. And in Asia, Chinese cuisine is different from Japanese cuisine as well.


Chinese vs Japanese Food
Manchurian food

Chinese food or Chinese cuisine refers to the style of cooking meals in China and its regions. It has a rich historical background, dating back thousands of years under different dynasties. Over time with each period, the food in this country has changed to accommodate the local preferences of the people. One of the notable qualities of Chinese cuisine is that dairy is rarely used. There are eight recognized cuisines in China, namely: Cantonese, Anhui, Fujian, Sichuan, Zhejiang, Shandong, Jiangsu, and Hunan.

Rice and noodles serve as the main source of carbohydrates for the country, and along with vegetables, are staples in every meal. Chinese cuisine also uses varieties of seasonings and sauces in their food.

Japanese breakfast
A typical Japanese breakfast

Japanese food and its cuisine are influenced heavily by its traditional culture. Rice serves as the main centrepiece, with two or more side dishes served to complement it. The cuisine is identifiable by its reliance on fresh ingredients and a general “light” and “healthy” appearance. For example, Miso soup, the most well-known soup in the country, is an extremely healthy basic stock made from seaweed and miso paste. Raw food is also common in Japan and even foreigners have come to love it, as evident in the popularity of sushi.

In contrast with Western culture, different foods are served separately, each in its own small plate or bowl. This is due to the Japanese dislike of the taste produced when different flavors mix with each other. Therefore there should always be a divider, even when packing the dishes in a bento box. The love for tea, specifically green or black tea is also prevalent in Japan. Matcha leaves are often used in traditional tea ceremonies.

Chinese vs Japanese food

The difference between Chinese and Japanese food can be broken down into three points:

The first involves the health factor; Japanese meals are often lighter and more nutritious. They don’t involve heavy seasoning and often use fresh ingredients. When you go to an authentic Chinese restaurant, you might notice that the food is often oilier due to their frying methods. The Japanese are fonder of grilling or simply serving their food in its more natural state, thus making the food fresher for consumption.

Another difference is how the Chinese prefer meat more than the Japanese. Historically, Japan has shunned meat and instead relies on fish and other seafood for protein. It is only through the modernization of the country that meat has become more popular there. Meanwhile, China uses meat in a wide range of its cuisines such as that of Chinese sausages. According to research, in the past 30 years alone, the demand for meat in China has nearly quadrupled.

Lastly, we go to their actual cooking methods. As mentioned before, Chinese use plenty of seasonings in order to bring out the complicated flavors that their culture demands. It is not unusual as well to find a blend of different ingredients you would not normally see mixed together. So if you see a dish made of fish, meat, mushroom and various vegetables in it with plenty of seasoning – that is most likely of Chinese origin. Use of exotic meat is also common in the country.

The Japanese differ in that they want their food as fresh as possible – even going as far as eating it raw. Sushi has now become as familiar to the world as Italy’s pasta. Most Japanese meals are cooked for a very short time, and seasonings – such as soy sauce – are used sparingly and only to bring out the flavor. When serving food, they also don’t put different types of food on the same plate. You can often see them served in different smaller plates in order to avoid mixing the flavors. So if you see a meal consisting of raw fish, plenty of rice, some tofu, clear broth and vegetables, all served separately, you are definitely eating a traditional Japanese meal.

Comparison Chart

Chinese Japanese
Pan-fries most food Grills most food
Raw meals are not common Raw food is a delicacy
Meat is used often Fish and seafood are used often