Posted on 28/09/2020
Anywhere you go in Japan, there are plenty of culinary specialities that will delight, and sometimes surprise your tastebuds. Most of us know, of course, about sushi and ramen, but Japanese cuisine is in fact a lot more varied and complex than that. In many restaurants, there is one speciality that they have been perfecting for a long time, but there are plenty of variations and original dishes depending on the regions.
An iconic Japanese dish, sushi and sashimi are dishes most of us have tried and often have in our own countries. Sushis are made with a piece of rice, various fishes, vegetables and nori (seaweed). Depending on the shape and ingredients, you can find either Nigiri sushi, Maki sushi, Oshi sushi, or Temaki sushi. Also emblematic of the country, sashimis are sliced raw fish usually consumed with soy sauce and wasabi.
Ramen is another very famous Japanese dish, consisting of wheat noodles in a soup, and usually topped with green onions, slices of pork, eggs and seaweed. But of course the most important part of ramens is the soup, as it is so flavourful and unique, and that really depends on the restaurant you get it from. The broth can be made from pork, chicken bones or even dried seafood, and can either be thick and fatty or thin and light. There are particular places to get the best ramens, so if you want tonkotsu (pork bone ramen), head to Fukuoka, as it is easily its most famous food.
Miso soup is an essential part of Japanese cuisine and is a side dish for pretty much every meal. It is composed of miso paste (fermented soybeans) and dashi (fish stock), as well as tofu, onions, wakame seaweed, and even sometimes vegetables such as sweet potatoes, carrots or radishes.
A traditional Japanese brochette or skewer, Yakitori were originally just chicken skewers, but have now evolved and can also be made with pork, beef and fish. They are usually made from meat cooked on a grill and dipped in teriyaki sauce, and are a delicious dish if you want to try out some more unusual Japanese food!
Onigiri are rice balls snacks that are extremely popular in Japan, and can be filled with chicken, vegetables, fish, pork, egg, and topped with seaweed. It means there is a lot of variety in terms of flavours, but also that they're very easy to eat and healthy, which makes it a popular choice for lunchboxes (or bento). Onigiri have supposedly been invented because chopsticks didn't exist yet, so the triangular or cylindrical rice balls were an easy way to eat food.
Popular at lunchtime because it is very quick to make, Gyudon is a bowl of rice with beef and onion on top, and spread with a sweet sauce, soy sauce and sweet sake. Usually, it is also served with tanned ginger, raw eggs and peppers. It is the perfect comfort food thanks to all its nutritious ingredients, but besides being delicious, it is also an easy meal to make - which also makes it a perfect choice for a relaxed night in!
Katsudon is very popular in Japan, and is a bowl of rice topped with breaded pork chop, eggs and spring onions. This dish is considered the soul food of Japan since it is warm and hearty. The mixture of juicy meat, creamy eggs, and steamed rice makes it a real comfort food, and one you shouldn't miss on when trying Japanese food.
Tempura is more often a snack or a starter rather than a main dish. It is deep fried seafood or vegetables with Tentsuyu sauce (a mix of consomme, sweet sake, soy sauce, ginger, radish and spices). For a tempura to be good, it is important that it isn't oily - and since it is a snack it can usually be eaten in one bite. The most popular ones are shrimp tempura, but you can also get sweet potato, eggplant, pumpkin, mushrooms, or green beans tempura.
Noodles are a very important part of Japanese gastronomy, and you can get different types of noodles - there are soba noodles or udon noodles. Soba noodles are made with buckwheat flour and are thin, whereas udon noodles are thick and made from wheat flour. They are usually served in mentsuyu sauce - a stock of sake, mirin, soy sauce, kombu, and katsuobushi, and can be eaten either hot or cold. They are particularly popular with office workers and students, as they make for a quick and cheap lunch.
Gyozas are delicious Japanese dumplings that can be either fried, boiled or deep fried. They can be either vegetarian (with fillings such as chives, cabbage, and mushrooms), or filled with minced pork or chicken meat. You usually dip them in sauces, such as soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, chili oil, or ponzu sauce.