Frozen food selected as “Dish of the Year” in Japan

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(CNN) — Smoke started to rise from the boxes as the winners of Japan’s “Cook of the Year” were announced.

But it wasn’t the beautifully presented mackerel or stark white dessert that won top honors.

Gurunavi Research Institute, which operates a popular website that allows you to search for popular restaurants nationwide, wins the “Dish of the Year” award every year.

The award aims to shed light on evolving food trends in Japan.

Previous winners have included ‘Plant-Based Foods’ and ‘Chinese Cuisine’. But this year’s winners highlight just how much the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the Japanese people and their diets.

The pandemic has led more restaurants to freeze food, mostly for takeout, according to the Institute. The quick-freezing method allowed the chef to preserve the integrity of the dish, and even experimented with frozen sushi.

According to data from Japan’s Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the average amount of money spent on frozen food per household increased by 20% from 2019 to 2021.

Aeon, one of the country’s largest grocery chains, opened a food specialty store called @Frozen in August. In his 420-square-meter space in Chiba Prefecture, he sells over 1,500 frozen foods.

Major convenience store chain Lawson has expanded its frozen food section, including desserts and sashimi, at 5,000 retail stores, according to Japan’s public broadcaster NHK.

Two Gurunavi Research Institute employees announced their “Dish of the Year” at a press conference in Tokyo.

Gurunavi Research Institute

Traditionally, it was common for Japanese households to purchase fresh vegetables and other ingredients from grocery stores every day.

But the pandemic and shifting gender roles have changed this way of life.

“More and more Japanese women are working outside the home these days,” says Yoshiko Miura, a consumer consultant for the Japan Frozen Food Association.

“They also tend to prepare meals for their families… [but] Their time is very limited,” Miura said in an interview with NHK. It takes time and effort to gather ingredients, prepare and cook. Frozen foods can help address that issue. ”

Above: Various frozen foods.Photo courtesy of Gurunavi Research Institute

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