If you’re ready to embark on a culinary adventure and explore the vibrant flavors of Japanese cuisine, you may find yourself wondering, “What Japanese dishes should I try?” From delicate sushi rolls to sizzling teppanyaki, Japan is a gastronomic wonderland waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re a seafood lover or a fan of comforting ramen, this article will guide you through some must-try Japanese dishes that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you craving for more. Get ready to embark on a culinary journey like no other!
If you’re new to Japanese cuisine, sushi is a must-try. This popular dish consists of bite-sized pieces of fresh raw fish or seafood, delicately placed on a small ball of vinegared rice. There are various types of sushi, but two of the most common ones are nigiri and maki.
Nigiri sushi is perhaps the most well-known type of sushi. It typically consists of a small piece of raw fish or seafood, such as salmon or tuna, placed on top of a small rice ball. The fish is often gently brushed with a bit of soy sauce or wasabi to enhance its flavor. Nigiri sushi is simple yet delicious, allowing you to savor the freshness of the fish.
Maki sushi, also known as rolled sushi, is made by wrapping a layer of nori (seaweed) around a filling of rice and other ingredients. The roll is then sliced into bite-sized pieces. Maki sushi offers a wide variety of options, from classic rolls like California rolls with avocado and crab meat, to more adventurous choices like spicy tuna or eel rolls. With its combination of flavors and textures, maki sushi is a great choice for those looking for a more diverse sushi experience.
If you’re a fan of raw fish and seafood, sashimi is a must-try. Unlike sushi, which includes rice, sashimi consists solely of thinly sliced raw fish or seafood. It is often served with a side of soy sauce and wasabi for dipping. Sashimi allows you to fully appreciate the taste and texture of the fish, making it a great choice for seafood lovers looking for a pure and unadulterated experience.
When it comes to comforting and satisfying Japanese dishes, ramen is at the top of the list. This noodle soup dish has gained worldwide popularity and has countless variations. Some of the most common types of ramen include tonkotsu, shoyu, and miso ramen.
Tonkotsu ramen originated in Fukuoka, Japan, and is known for its rich and creamy pork-based broth. The broth is made by simmering pork bones for several hours, resulting in a flavorful and savory base. The noodles are usually thin and straight, and the dish is often topped with tender slices of pork, green onions, and bamboo shoots. Tonkotsu ramen is a hearty and satisfying bowl of noodles that will warm you up on a chilly day.
Shoyu ramen is made with a soy sauce-based broth, giving it a slightly salty and tangy flavor. This style of ramen originated in Tokyo and is typically served with curly noodles, thinly sliced pork, bamboo shoots, and green onions. The soy sauce-based broth adds depth and complexity to the dish, making it a popular choice among ramen enthusiasts.
Miso ramen has a broth made from fermented soybean paste called miso. Originating in Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, this style of ramen is known for its hearty and earthy flavor. The miso-based broth is often paired with curly noodles and topped with ingredients like corn, butter, green onions, and slices of pork. Miso ramen offers a unique and comforting taste that is sure to satisfy your cravings.
Tempura is a popular Japanese dish that consists of deep-fried seafood, vegetables, or both. The batter used for tempura is light and crispy, creating a perfect contrast to the tender ingredients. Some of the most common types of tempura include vegetable tempura, shrimp tempura, and tempura donburi.
Vegetable tempura is a great option for vegetarians or those looking for a lighter dish. Various vegetables, such as bell peppers, sweet potatoes, and green beans, are coated in the tempura batter and quickly fried until they turn golden brown. The result is a delightful combination of crispy and flavorful vegetables that are perfect on their own or served alongside rice.
Shrimp tempura is a classic and beloved dish. Large, juicy shrimp are coated in the tempura batter and fried until they become golden and crispy. The shrimp retain their natural sweetness and are incredibly flavorful. Shrimp tempura can be enjoyed on its own or added to other dishes like udon or rice bowls.
Tempura donburi is a popular way to enjoy tempura. Donburi refers to a large bowl of steamed rice topped with various ingredients, and in this case, it is topped with a selection of tempura. The crispy tempura pieces are placed on the rice, and a flavorful sauce is poured over the top. Tempura donburi is a filling and satisfying meal that gives you a taste of both the crispy tempura and the comforting rice.
Yakitori is a type of Japanese skewered chicken that is grilled over charcoal. The skewers are typically made with bite-sized pieces of chicken and a variety of sauces or seasonings. Some popular varieties of yakitori include tsukune, negima, and torikawa.
Tsukune is a type of yakitori made from seasoned ground chicken shaped into small meatballs and skewered. The meatballs are then brushed with a sweet soy-based glaze before being grilled. Tsukune is juicy and flavorful, with a slightly caramelized exterior that adds a delicious smokiness. It is often served with a side of tare sauce for dipping, which enhances the overall flavor.
Negima is a popular yakitori skewer made by alternating pieces of chicken and negi, a type of Japanese green onion, on a skewer. The combination of tender chicken and the slightly charred and aromatic negi creates a delightful harmony of flavors. The negi imparts a slightly sweet and savory taste to the chicken, making negima a crowd-pleasing choice.
Torikawa, also known as chicken skin, is a unique and indulgent type of yakitori. Small pieces of chicken skin are skewered and grilled until crispy and golden. The result is a bite-sized piece of goodness that is both crunchy and melt-in-your-mouth tender. Torikawa is often seasoned with a sprinkle of salt or brushed with a savory sauce, elevating the flavor of the chicken skin.
Gyoza is a popular Japanese dumpling that is usually filled with a mixture of ground meat and vegetables. These dumplings have a thin and delicate wrapper that is either pan-fried, boiled, or deep-fried. Some common types of gyoza include pan-fried gyoza, boiled gyoza, and deep-fried gyoza.
Pan-fried gyoza, also known as yaki-gyoza, is a favorite among many. The dumplings are first pan-fried until the bottom becomes golden and crispy. Then, a bit of water is added to the pan, and it is covered to allow the dumplings to steam and become tender. Pan-fried gyoza have a delightful texture combination of crispy and chewy, and the filling inside is savory and flavorful.
Boiled gyoza, also referred to as sui-gyoza, is a lighter and healthier option. The dumplings are simply boiled until they are cooked through and tender. Boiled gyoza have a softer and milder taste compared to their pan-fried counterparts, allowing the flavors of the filling to shine through. They are often served with a dipping sauce or in a flavorful broth.
Deep-fried gyoza, also known as age-gyoza, offers a crispy and indulgent twist on this classic dumpling. The gyoza are carefully submerged in hot oil until the wrapper becomes golden brown and crunchy. The frying process creates a wonderfully crispy exterior while keeping the filling inside moist and flavorful. Deep-fried gyoza are delicious on their own or paired with a dipping sauce.
Soba is a type of Japanese noodle made from buckwheat flour. These thin and slightly chewy noodles are often served cold or in a hot broth. Soba can be enjoyed in various forms, including kake soba, zaru soba, and tempura soba.
Kake soba is the simplest and most traditional way to enjoy soba noodles. The noodles are cooked and then served in a hot broth made from soy sauce, mirin, and dashi (a type of seafood stock). Kake soba is often garnished with green onions, grated radish, or tempura scraps. This dish showcases the delicate flavor of the soba noodles and the umami-rich broth.
Zaru soba is a refreshing and popular way to enjoy soba noodles during the warmer months. The noodles are cooked, chilled, and served on a bamboo mat called a zaru. The chilled soba is accompanied by a dipping sauce made from soy sauce, mirin, and dashi, which is served on the side. Zaru soba is typically garnished with green onions, grated daikon radish, and a sprinkle of nori seaweed. It is a light and refreshing dish that is perfect for summer.
Tempura soba combines the best of both worlds – the delicious soba noodles and crispy tempura. The soba noodles are served in a hot broth, similar to kake soba, and are topped with pieces of tempura, such as shrimp or vegetables. The combination of the savory broth, the chewy soba noodles, and the crispy tempura creates a satisfying and flavorful dish that is loved by many.
Okonomiyaki is a savory Japanese pancake that is made with a batter consisting of flour, eggs, and shredded cabbage. The word “okonomi” means “what you like” or “what you want,” and “yaki” refers to the cooking method, which is grilling. There are different regional variations of okonomiyaki, with Osaka-style and Hiroshima-style being the most well-known.
Osaka-style okonomiyaki is the classic and most widely known version of this dish. The batter is mixed with various ingredients, such as shredded cabbage, sliced green onions, and bits of tempura scraps. These ingredients are then cooked on a flat grill, forming a thick pancake. Once cooked, the okonomiyaki is topped with a variety of condiments, including okonomi sauce (a savory and tangy sauce similar to Worcestershire sauce), mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and seaweed powder. Osaka-style okonomiyaki is a delightful combination of textures and flavors, showcasing the versatility and creativity of this dish.
Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is a unique variation that includes layers of ingredients. It starts with a thin layer of batter that is cooked on a hot grill. Next, a layer of cabbage is added, followed by additional ingredients like noodles, sliced pork, and green onions. Another layer of batter is poured on top, and the entire stack is cooked until crispy and golden. Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is then topped with the same condiments as Osaka-style, resulting in a satisfying and flavorsome dish that captures the essence of Hiroshima’s culinary tradition.
Yakisoba okonomiyaki puts a twist on the classic dish by incorporating yakisoba noodles. The batter is mixed with cabbage and other ingredients, similar to Osaka-style okonomiyaki. However, instead of being cooked directly on the grill, the okonomiyaki is cooked on a separate pan or griddle. Once the first side is cooked, yakisoba noodles are added to the top, along with additional toppings like sliced pork, green onions, and condiments. The dish is then flipped to cook the other side until everything is perfectly cooked and the noodles are crispy. Yakisoba okonomiyaki is a delightful combination of two beloved Japanese dishes, resulting in a hearty and satisfying meal.
Katsu refers to a breaded and deep-fried cutlet, typically made from pork, chicken, or shrimp. The cutlet is coated in flour, egg, and breadcrumbs before being fried to a golden brown. Katsu is often served with a thick and tangy sauce called tonkatsu sauce and is delicious when paired with rice or served in sandwiches. Some popular types of katsu include tonkatsu, chicken katsu, and ebi katsu.
Tonkatsu is a classic Japanese dish that features a breaded and deep-fried pork cutlet. The pork is usually from the loin or fillet, resulting in a tender and juicy piece of meat. Tonkatsu is commonly served with shredded cabbage, rice, and tonkatsu sauce, which is similar to Worcestershire sauce but with a sweeter and fruitier flavor. The combination of the crispy exterior, succulent pork, and tangy sauce make tonkatsu a delightful and satisfying meal.
Chicken katsu is a variation of katsu that uses chicken instead of pork. The chicken is breaded and fried in the same way as tonkatsu, resulting in a crispy and flavorful cutlet. Chicken katsu is often served with shredded cabbage, rice, and tonkatsu sauce, just like its pork counterpart. The chicken offers a lighter and milder flavor, making it a popular choice for those who prefer poultry or are looking for a slightly healthier option.
Ebi katsu features a similar breading and frying technique but uses breaded and deep-fried shrimp instead of meat. The shrimp are coated in a light and crispy batter, resulting in a tasty and satisfying dish. Ebi katsu is often served with shredded cabbage, rice, and tonkatsu sauce, just like other types of katsu. The combination of the succulent shrimp and the crunchy exterior creates a harmonious balance of flavors and textures.
Donburi refers to a bowl of steamed rice topped with various ingredients and served with a savory sauce. These rice bowls are comforting and satisfying, often enjoyed as a quick and filling meal. Some popular types of donburi include gyudon, katsudon, and tekkadon.
Gyudon is a popular type of donburi that features thinly sliced beef simmered in a flavorful sauce and served over steamed rice. The sauce is made with a combination of soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and dashi, infusing the beef with a rich and savory taste. Gyudon is often topped with thinly sliced onions, and some variations may also include other ingredients like mushrooms or a soft-cooked egg. This dish is a favorite among those looking for a hearty and delicious rice bowl.
Katsudon is a satisfying and flavorful dish that combines deep-fried pork cutlets with a sauce and eggs, served over a steaming bowl of rice. The crispy pork cutlets, known as tonkatsu, are simmered in a sweet and savory sauce made from soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and dashi. The cutlets are then topped with beaten eggs and cooked until the eggs are soft and custard-like. The combination of the crispy tonkatsu, the flavorful sauce, and the creamy eggs makes katsudon a popular choice for a comforting and fulfilling meal.
Tekkadon is a rice bowl topped with slices of raw tuna sashimi. The fresh and vibrant tuna is marinated in a soy sauce-based mixture to enhance its natural flavors. The marinated tuna is then placed on a bed of steamed rice, and additional ingredients like seaweed, green onions, or grated ginger may be added for extra flavor. Tekkadon is a refreshing and light option for those who enjoy the taste of raw fish and are looking for a simple yet satisfying meal.
Udon is a thick and chewy type of Japanese noodle made from wheat flour. This versatile noodle can be served in different ways, including in a hot broth or chilled with dipping sauce. Some popular types of udon include kake udon, tempura udon, and niku udon.
Kake udon is a simple yet comforting dish that features udon noodles served in a hot broth made from soy sauce, mirin, and dashi. The warm and savory broth pairs perfectly with the thick and chewy udon noodles, creating a soothing and satisfying combination. Kake udon is often topped with ingredients like green onions, tempura, or kamaboko (fish cake) for added flavor and texture.
Tempura udon combines the deliciousness of udon noodles with the crispy and flavorful experience of tempura. The udon noodles are served in a hot broth, similar to kake udon, and are topped with pieces of tempura, such as shrimp or vegetables. The combination of the warm and savory broth, the chewy udon noodles, and the crispy tempura creates a delightful contrast of textures and flavors. Tempura udon is a popular choice for those who enjoy both the heartiness of the noodle soup and the crispy goodness of tempura.
Niku udon, also known as beef udon, showcases the delicious combination of tender beef and thick udon noodles. Thinly sliced beef is simmered in a flavorful broth along with other ingredients like green onions and mushrooms. The udon noodles are then added to the broth and cooked until they are heated through. Niku udon is a satisfying and hearty dish that is perfect for meat lovers or those looking for a substantial and fulfilling meal.