One of the most popular washoku dishes — among Japanese and foreigners alike — is tempura. Diners seem to enjoy delicately batter-fried shrimp or fish and the dozens of vegetable combinations.

This is not surprising. In many cuisines fried foods stand out as some of the most loved restaurant fare and home-cooked comfort foods. When I was a young culinary student, one of my chef-instructors let us in on the secret.

"Got a leftover you need to sell," he stated plainly, "then you gotta deep fry it, or throw cheese on it. Everybody likes fried things, and everybody likes cheese — if you really want to get their attention: fried mozzarella sticks."