The most formal kind of tea cuisine is called 'kaiseki'. The word is written '', the first character meaning 'breast pocket' and the second meaning 'stone', and refers to Zen monks' custom of putting a heated stone against their stomachs inside their robes to stave off hunger while engaged in meditation. Thus kaiseki is a very simple meal. Usually it is ichiju-sansai ('one soup and three dishes'), consisting of soup, mukozuke ('opposite side dish'), nimono (boiled or simmered food) and yakimono (grilled food). A side dish for sake (shiizakana) is served after this, then suimono, a light broth and hassun (small amounts of mountain and sea delicacies).
I will explain a little about ichiju-sansai. One kind of broth is miso-shiru (fermented soy bean paste, in a stock made from seaweed and dried bonito shavings. A mixture of red and white soy bean paste is usually used). This has vegetables and wheat bran, and so on, in it. Mukozuke is usually raw fish. Nimono is the most important dish, and consists of a clear soup with morsels of all kinds of vegetables, fish and fowl in it. Yakimono is usually fish. For each kind of dish, whether vegetables, fish or fowl, the food that tastes best at the time of the tea event, in other words, the food of the season is used. For a morning tea event in summer, the food is ichiju-nisai (one soup and two dishes, mukozuke and nimono). It is thought best not to eat raw fish at this time.
As for the procedure of kaiseki, first the host hands the guests a low tray without legs called 'oshiki' on which there are rice, soup and mukozuke. The rice is a mouthful that has just been cooked and is not yet completely steamed (which shows that the host could hardly bear to wait for the guests to arrive), then the nimono and the yakimono are brought in. Great care is taken with the serving of the food so that when one course is finished the next one is immediately brought in.
Shiizakana and suimono, as well as hassun with its delicacies from mountain and sea are to be eaten with sake, so that reserve breaks down between the host and guests and between the guests themselves, producing lively conversation.
Lastly the host brings out a drink of hot water that has been poured onto the browned rice in the bottom of the cooking pot and some incense. The guests clean their empty dishes, and as if thanking the host for the meal, put down their chopsticks on their trays in unison,making a deliberately loud noise. This signals to the host who is in the mizuya (preparation room) that they have finished eating.