50 Japanese recipes
Posted by John Spacey
What is Japan’s favorite food?
Japan has been cooking for thousands of years. As an island nation it tends to go its own way. As a result, Japanese food evolved into a unique culinary tradition. Beyond tradition, Japanese food is a living part of the culture. It’s always growing and as a result there are countless Japanese dishes.
The following are a few foods that all Japanese know well.
Makizushi is sushi that’s rolled into long cylinders. It may be cut into shorter pieces before being served. The word makizushi can be translated “sushi roll.” It’s often simply called maki. It usually has nori on the outside but can also be wrapped with leaves such as shiso. Maki is filled with sushi rice and ingredients such as raw fish, cooked fish and vegetables.
2. Miso Soup
In Japan, miso soup is as important to breakfast as coffee. It’s a hearty soup ofdashi, miso and tofu. It often includes a variety of vegetables, seafood and meat. A good miso soup balances ingredients that float with ingredients that sink.
Yakitori can be literally translated “grilled chicken.” It’s a category of Japanese cuisine that includes dozens of items that are grilled on thin bamboo skewers including every imaginable part of the chicken as well as other meats, tofu and vegetables. Yakitori restaurants are typically lively drinking spots.
Tempura is deep fried fish and vegetables in a light batter. Care is taken to cook tempura at a low temperature for a short time to preserve the taste of ingredients. It’s served with a light tentsuyu dip.
Hot Chinese-style wheat noodles in a meat, fish, miso or soy sauce broth. It’s an inexpensive, filling, easy to find snack. Despite the fact that ramen is cheap, there’s a big difference in quality from one shop to the next. A shop that earns a reputation amongst ramen aficionados will regularly have long lines while a shop just next door may be empty. It’s the type of dish that isn’t easy to perfect.
A type of savory Japanese pancake that was traditionally prepared to use up leftovers. Okonomiyaki restaurants let you customize your order. In many cases, you can cook your own at a grill in your table. There’s an intense okonomiyaki rivalry between Osaka, Tokyo and Hiroshima. Each town has its own version of the dish.
Raw sliced fish or meat. Freshness and aesthetics are important to sashimi dishes. Otherwise, it’s just hunks of fish.
Thin Japanese buckwheat noodles served chilled with a dipping sauce or in a hot broth. Whichever you choose, it’s perfectly polite to loudly slurp your noodles.
A type of fermented soybean. It’s stinky and slimy with a challenging taste butJapan likes it anyway.
Onigiri is any rice that’s designed to be eaten by hand. It’s the Japaneseequivalent of the sandwich.
A Japanese curry that’s based on British Navy Curry. The Imperial Japanese Navy adopted a similar curry in the 19th century. Japan’s navy still serves it every Friday. The curry spread from the navy to Japan’s civilian population in the Meiji-era. Over the years, it has adapted to local tastes. It’s incredibly bland for a curry. Nevertheless, it has become one of Japan’s most popular dishes.
Thick wheat flour noodles served hot in a soup or chilled with a dipping sauce of dashi, mirin, and shoyu. Udon is a staple of the Japanese diet and is easy to find in Japan. It’s a somewhat thick noodle that’s served with dozens of different toppings including tempura, meat, tofu, seafood or vegetables. It’s perfectly acceptable to slurp noodles in Japan but udon should be slurped with care as they tend to spray broth if slurped quickly.
Kaiseki is a type of multicourse Japanese meal. It’s fine cuisine that can include 5-16 courses. Each course is small and aesthetically pleasing with seasonal ingredients. Kaiseki is the creation of a chef. There are no standard kaiseki dishes. Instead there are categories of dishes are are traditionally served.
Yakiniku, literally: grilled meat, is Japanese style barbecue. Yakiniku restaurants typically feature a coal grill built into the table. You order from a selection of bite-sized raw meats and vegetable plates and you cook the food yourself. If you’re not skilled at grilling, you may incidentally cause a great deal of smoke and flame. The staff may rush over to help you put out your fires. Yakiniku restaurants are the smokiest places in Japan.
Ball-shaped savory Japanese pancakes with a piece of octopus in the middle. Optionally topped with beni shoga, katsuobushi, nori flakes, mayonnaise and takoyaki sauce, a sweet soy sauce based condiment.
Yuba is Japanese tofu skin. It can be enjoyed raw with a light dipping sauce. Fresh yuba has a texture that’s similar to mozzarella cheese.
Sukiyaki is a Japanese stew that’s typically cooked in a hotpot on your table as you dine. It consists of thin-sliced beef, vegetables and tofu in a fairly thick broth of soy sauce, sugar and mirin. Sukiyaki is often served with raw eggs as a dipping sauce. It’s a winter food that’s thought to warm you up. As with any Japanese food cooked at your table, sukiyaki is also considered a party food.
A hotpot of thinly sliced beef or pork prepared at your table by submerging a single piece of meat in a hot broth and swishing it around until it’s cooked. The term shabu-shabu is a Japanese onomatopoeia, or sound-effect word, that imitates a swishing sound. It could be literally translated as “swish-swish.”
Fried noodles in a thick sweet sauce resembling tonkatsu sauce. Despite the name, Yakisoba isn’t made from soba noodles but a wheat noodle similar to ramen. Yakisoba is commonly sold at convenience stores and by street vendorsat festivals. It’s also an easy dish to prepare at home.
Himono is the Japanese word for sun dried fish. It’s grilled and served for breakfast at home or at hotel breakfasts. It’s also served at izakaya as a nighttime treat. It’s salty and chewy.
Dango are a type of Japanese dumpling that are usually served on a stick. They have a chewy texture similar to mochi. Dango are made from mochiko: a rice flour that’s used to make chewy stuff. They are normally served with a sweet topping such as anko or kinako. Another variation known as Mitarashi Dango has a thick savory-sweet glaze with a soy sauce base. These are amongst the stickiest of all Japanese snacks and are a little tricky to eat.
25. Agedashi Dofu
Lightly breaded deep fried cubes of tofu in a hot broth of dashi, mirin and soy sauce. Typically topped with negi, daikon and katsuobushi. Agedashi Dofu is one of Japan’s oldest and best known tofu dishes that’s widely available atizakaya, convenience stores and supermarkets.
A hearty stew that evolved as a way to fatten up Sumo wrestlers. Chankonabe has no fixed recipe but always contains large quantities of protein sources such as quarter chickens, fish balls, tofu and beef. Everything is chunky and sumo sized. The broth is dashi or chicken broth and starchy vegetables are added for balance. Chankonabe is a novelty food in Japan. It’s fun to eat but isn’t a regular part of the Japanese diet.
Chirashizushi (literally: scattered sushi) is a bowl of sushi rice with ingredients such as raw fish, shredded egg, nori and shiso on top.
Chikuzenni is a mix of vegetables such as takenoko, shiitake, gobo, renkon and carrots. Traditionally, a small amount of turtle was added to the mix but in modern times chicken is used. Chikuzenni is best cooked slowly. Ingredients are simmered at low temperature in a small amount of dashi and mirin.
Fried rice wrapped in a thin omelette topped with ketchup or demi-glace sauce. Omurice is a popular favorite that’s found at places such as ski resort food courts or company cafeterias. It’s also commonly served at maid cafesdue to the artistic potential of its ketchup topping.
Yudofu consists of cubes of tofu and vegetables in hot water. Kombu is normally added to the water for a slight umami taste. It’s vegetarian and is considered a Japanese Buddhist food. As such, it’s widely available at temple restaurants and is a winter favorite amongst monks.
Motsunabe is a winter hot pot from Fukuoka that is essentially a stew of offal such as beef and pork guts. It’s served in a soup of soy sauce, garlic, chili pepper and miso. The dish is normally topped with large quantities of cabbage and garlic chives on top.
A Japanese delicacy of raw or cooked Pufferfish. The Pufferfish is normally too poisonous to eat. However, if the chef is specially trained everything usually works out.
A hand formed oval of sushi rice with an ingredient such as raw or cooked fish on top.
Tonkatsu is a type of panko breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet served with shredded cabbage that everyone’s wild about in Japan. Tonkatsu also comes in a popular sandwich known as Katsusando. The best thing about tonkatsu istonkatsu sauce. It’s similar to Worcestershire sauce but thicker and sweeter. The Japanese put tonkatsu sauce on a great number of dishes. It’s so ubiquitous in Japan that it’s known simply as “sauce” (sosu). Tonkatsu restaurants commonly offer different cuts and grades of pork. As a general rule, pork gets a lot of respect in Japan much as beef does.
36. Hiyashi Chuka
Hiyashi Chuka is a Japanese dish of cold ramen noodles served with colorful ingredients such as cucumber and egg. It’s considered a summer dish for cooling down.
A type of Japanese steakhouse that borders on performance art. Teppanyaki evolved after WWII as a type of restaurant that initially targeted the influx of American soldiers and tourists.
Japanese rice crackers that come in a wide variety of shapes and flavors both savory and sweet. Often available fresh grilled from street vendors in Japan.
An entire grilled squid typically cut into rings with mayonnaise on the side. A common izakaya food.
Kushiage, also known as Kushikatsu, are skewered deep fried meats, seafoods and vegetables in a panko batter served with tonkatsu sauce. Kushiage isn’t a particularly common food in Japan and Kushiage restaurants tend to be found in bunches. Yurakucho in Tokyo and Shinsekai in Osaka are known for kushiage.
Sekihan, literally “red rice”, is Japanese rice cooked with azuki beans. It’s associated with a wide range of special occasions in Japan. This is primarily because red is considered an auspicious color according to Japanese traditions. Sekihan is slightly sweet and is popular amongst children.
42. Wakame Salad
Wakame is a seaweed that has been cultivated in Japan for at least 1300 years. Wakame salad may include tofu, sesame seeds and other varieties of seaweed. It is typically dressed with soy sauce, vinegar and oil.
Small pieces of fish in a salty sauce of fermented fish guts. It’s considered a “chinmi”, or rare taste, meaning that not everyone likes it but those who do like it tend to be crazy about it.
44. Melon Pan
A sweet bun shaped like a melon with a thin cookie dough crust. Despite the name, melon pan aren’t traditionally melon flavored.
Donburi is a bowl of rice with meat, fish or vegetables on top. The word can be simply translated “bowl.” It’s the type of food you make at home or grab as a quick but filling meal. As such, donburi restaurants are usually packed withsalarymen.
46. Goya Chanpuru
A stir fry of tofu, goya, egg, vegetables and spam or other meats such as ham. Its signature ingredient, Goya, also known as bitter melon, has medicinal properties and is incredibly bitter. Goya Chanpuru is the iconic dish of the Okinawan islands.
A Chinese style noodle dish that was invented in Nagasaki, a city that has long been influenced by interactions and trade with China. Champon is designed to be economical and filling with a hearty pork bone or chicken bone soup andingredients piled high. The noodles are similar to ramen and ingredients vary by restaurant and season.
A samurai soup that was eaten on the battlefield that combined dried and portable foods such as mochi with whatever vegetables and meats could be found locally. In modern times, it’s eaten at New Years and is still a flexible dish with a great number of regional varieties. The single constant ingredient is toasted mochi.
Uncommonly thin, chilled Japanese wheat flour noodles served with a light dipping sauce. A seasonal dish that’s considered a way to keep cool on a hot day. Somen is occasionally served on top of ice. Another way to serve it, known as Nagashi-somen, floats the noodles down a long flume of bamboo in cold water while people fish for the noodles with their chopsticks. This is a popular tradition for family parties in the summer.
A breaded, deep fried dish with a center of minced meat, seafood or vegetables in mashed potato or white sauce. The Japanese version of the Croquette. Served with tonkatsu sauce or hot mustard.