If you intend to travel to Japan, it’s essential to explore the country’s cuisine, which is deeply embedded in centuries-old history and culture. Japan boasts a rich array of culinary practices, and it’s a must-do experience. This article presents a list of 15 must-try Japanese foods that you should try during your trip.
Sushi is a popular Japanese dish made with vinegared rice and raw seafood like tuna, salmon, and shrimp. It can also have vegetarian or cooked ingredients. It is usually served in restaurants ranging from affordable conveyor belt sushi shops to high-end sushi bars. To eat sushi, use chopsticks or fingers and dip lightly in soy sauce. Freshness and quality ingredients are crucial in making the best sushi. Japan has many sushi dishes, such as hand-rolled sushi cones, rice topped with various ingredients, and conveyor belt sushi. Remember to eat each piece in one bite, use soy sauce sparingly, and thank the chef after finishing your meal.
Inside the World’s Largest Conveyor belt Sushi restaurant
Tempura was introduced by Portuguese traders in the 16th century. The batter is made of wheat flour, water, and sometimes egg or baking powder, creating a crispy texture when deep-fried. The main ingredients used are seafood and vegetables, served with a dipping sauce made from soy sauce and mirin. Skilled chefs in specialty restaurants use special oil and frying techniques to perfect the dish. Tempura is often served as part of a larger meal or as a standalone appetizer or main course.
Yakitori is Japanese for “grilled chicken,” where small chicken pieces are skewered and grilled over charcoal. It’s commonly seasoned with soy sauce-based marinade or other seasonings like salt, pepper, and sake. Beef, pork, lamb, onions, peppers, and mushrooms can also be grilled on skewers. Yakitori is usually served with different dipping sauces like tare, ponzu, or shio. Specialty Yakitori restaurants in Japan offer various chicken parts and cuts, and chefs are skilled at grilling and seasoning to create the perfect texture and flavor.
Okonomiyaki is a popular Japanese street food and restaurant dish. It’s a savory pancake made with a batter of flour, water, eggs, and shredded cabbage, and cooked with various toppings like pork belly, seafood, and vegetables. The dish can be customized with different ingredients and is often topped with a sweet and savory sauce, mayonnaise, and dried bonito flakes. There are two main styles of Okonomiyaki – Osaka-style, which includes diced octopus or shrimp mixed into the batter, and Hiroshima-style, which is made with layers of batter, cabbage, noodles, meat, and vegetables, and topped with a fried egg. Many specialty Okonomiyaki restaurants in Japan let diners cook the dish themselves on a hot plate at their table.
Takoyaki is a ball-shaped snack from Osaka, Japan made with a batter of wheat flour, eggs, and dashi broth. It’s filled with small pieces of octopus, pickled ginger, and green onion, and cooked in a special Takoyaki pan until crispy on the outside but soft on the inside. Takoyaki is commonly served hot, topped with Takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise, seaweed powder, and bonito flakes. It’s a popular snack or appetizer found at street vendors, festivals, and specialized restaurants in Japan, and is also served at Japanese restaurants around the world.
Ramen is popular with many regional styles. Each style has its own unique broth, noodles, and toppings. The broth is made with various ingredients and simmered for hours or days. The noodles are made from wheat flour, water, and kansui for a chewy texture and yellow color. Specialty ramen shops in Japan compete to create the perfect bowl of ramen with unique and delicious broth. Toppings can include pork, bamboo shoots, green onions, nori, eggs, and condiments like garlic paste and chili oil. Slurping noodles and broth is a sign of enjoyment in Japan, and it’s common to drink the broth directly from the bowl.
Udon is a thick and chewy type of Japanese noodle made from wheat flour. It’s often served hot in soup or cold with dipping sauce and can be topped with tempura, meat, and veggies. Udon has been a popular dish in Japan since the 9th century and originated in the Kagawa Prefecture. Today, it’s a staple dish in Japan and can be found in many specialty Udon restaurants. It’s also popular worldwide and can be found in many Japanese restaurants.
Soba noodles are made by grinding buckwheat seeds into flour, mixing it with water, and then rolling and cutting it into thin noodles. The noodles are then either served cold with a dipping sauce or in a hot broth, often with toppings such as green onions, tempura, or seaweed. In addition to being delicious, soba is also known for its health benefits. Buckwheat is high in fiber and protein and is a good source of essential vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, iron, and B vitamins. Soba is a popular dish in Japan and can be found in many restaurants and food stands throughout the country. In fact, even dedicated soba restaurants specialize in making the dish in various styles and preparations.
Tonkatsu is a popular Japanese dish made of breaded and deep-fried pork cutlets, often served with rice, shredded cabbage, miso soup, and tonkatsu sauce. It originated from Western cuisine and became a staple in Japan. There are two types: hire (pork fillet) and rosu (pork loin), both pounded, coated in flour, egg, panko, and deep-fried. It can be found in various Japanese restaurants, and some specialty ones let customers grind their sesame seeds to make their sauce.
Katsu curry is a popular Japanese dish that consists of breaded and fried meat, usually chicken or pork, served with a spicy curry sauce and rice. The dish originated in Japan in the 1940s and has since become a staple in Japanese cuisine. Katsu curry is made by first preparing the meat, which is usually pounded thin, breaded in panko breadcrumbs, and then fried until crispy. The curry sauce is made by sauteed onions and garlic with a blend of Japanese curry powder, soy sauce, and other seasonings. The fried meat is then served with curry sauce and rice. It can be found in many Japanese restaurants and even in some fast-food chains. Some variations of the dish include different types of meat, such as beef or fish, and the level of spiciness can also vary according to personal taste.
Mochi is made by steaming glutinous rice and then pounding it into a paste using a wooden mallet and mortar. It comes in various shapes and flavors and is often filled with sweet fillings like red bean paste or ice cream. Mochi is an important part of Japanese culture and is eaten during festivals and celebrations. However, it’s important to cut mochi into small pieces before eating due to the risk of choking.
Shabu-shabu is a popular Japanese hot pot dish that typically consists of thinly sliced beef or pork, vegetables, and noodles cooked in a pot of boiling water or broth. The name “shabu-shabu” comes from the sound the ingredients make when they are stirred in the hot pot. To prepare shabu-shabu, the thinly sliced meat, and vegetables are briefly swished around in the hot water or broth until they are cooked to the desired level of doneness. The ingredients are then dipped in various sauces, such as ponzu or sesame sauce, before being eaten. Shabu-shabu is often enjoyed in a group setting, where everyone gathers around the hot pot and cooks their own food at the table. It’s a popular dish in Japan, especially during winter when a hot, comforting meal is especially appealing.
Matcha is a finely ground green tea powder that is a staple in Japanese culture and cuisine. It is made from shade-grown tea leaves that are hand-picked, steamed, and then dried and ground into a powder. Matcha has a rich and complex flavor profile that is both bitter and sweet. It is known for its vibrant green color. It is often used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, where it is prepared and served with a special set of utensils and bowls. In addition to being used in tea ceremonies, matcha is also a popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine. It is used to flavor various dishes such as ice cream, cakes, and mochi. It’s rich in antioxidants and has health benefits like improving brain function and boosting metabolism.
Wagyu beef is a type from Japan known for its tender and juicy texture, high level of marbling, and rich flavor. The term “wagyu” literally means “Japanese cow,”. And the meat is produced from several different breeds of cattle that are raised and cared for according to strict regulations. Wagyu beef is graded according to a scale that considers the amount of marbling, color, and texture. The highest grade of wagyu beef is A5, which has the highest level of marbling and is the most expensive.
It is typically served in small portions, cooked on a hot plate or grill, and used in various dishes like sukiyaki and shabu-shabu. Because of its high cost, it is considered a luxury item and is found mostly in high-end restaurants.
Unagi is a Japanese freshwater eel that is a popular ingredient in Japanese cuisine. It is known for its rich, savory flavor and tender texture. The eel is first filleted, then skewered and grilled over charcoal, and finally coated in a sweet and savory sauce made from soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and sake. Unagi is typically served over rice in a dish called unagi-don or used as a sushi filling. Unagi has been a part of Japanese cuisine for centuries and is considered a delicacy. However, due to overfishing and environmental concerns, the availability and sustainability of unagi have become an issue in recent years.