Smoke began to drift out of a box as the winner of Japan's "dish of the year" was revealed. But it wasn't a beautifully plated mackerel or an immaculate dessert that took top honors. Instead, the hosts unveiled a variety of meats and pizzas -- still in their air-tight bags. Every year, the Gurunavi Research Institute, which runs a popular that allows users to search for the top restaurants across Japan, crowns a "dish of the year". The prize is intended to highlight evolving food in Japan. Previous winners included "plant-based foods" and "Chinese cooking". But this year's winner highlights how much the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted Japanese people and their eating habits. The institute says the pandemic has led more restaurants to freeze their dishes, mainly for takeout. Flash-freezing methods have allowed chefs to the integrity of the dish, with some even giving frozen sushi a go. The amount of money spent on frozen foods per family went up 20% from 2019 to 2021, according to data from Japan's Ministry of Internal Affairs.
(Excerpt from 'Frozen food named "dish of the year" in Japan', cnn.com, 2022)