It’s time for a food trip! And guess where we’re going? The Land of the Rising Sun (and the land of maybe the best food ever) — JAPAN! Who’s excited? Join us as we take a trip around Japan’s three major regions and indulge in their most well-loved specialty dishes.
We have the capital of Japan, Tokyo City, to thanks for most of the dishes we love from Japanese cuisine. What are some of these?
Need we say more? Nigiri sushi, originally called ‘edomae sushi’ (Edo was the former name of Tokyo), was born from the convenience of the nearby Tokyo Bay and its fresh fish finds. Who can say no to a slice of the freshest catch of the day nestled on top of soft, vinegared Japanese rice, paired with just the right amount of soy sauce and spicy wasabi? Definitely not us!
Crunchy, tasty, and crisp, Tempura is a Japanese delight many people can’t help take multiple bites out of. From seasoned veggies to fresh seafood, each quality piece is cut, battered, and deep-fried in oil until it’s perfectly crunchy and tender on the inside. Put mixed tempura over rice and you’ve got a wonderful tendon bowl to satisfy!
If you’re a fan of teppanyaki – which is the form of cooking food on an iron plate – Monjayaki is the twin you need to get to know ASAP.
Think of it as a savory pancake or omelet, made with flour and water, mixed in with almost anything you can imagine – meats, veggies, seafood – and some dashi or water. This makes it different from the famed okonomiyaki, because this big guy is runnier and more moist than that. Some even say it has the consistency of melted cheese! Yum.
It’s another sibling of the okonomiyaki fam! The street food staple takoyaki, those cute lil’ famous doughy balls we all know and love, is made of the same batter as okonomiyaki, but cooked in ball-shaped molds, usually with a piece of octopus (tako) inside, among other yummy ingredients like ginger, green onion, and tenkasu. It’s sometimes topped with a sweet-savory syrup and bonito flakes, and makes for a great appetizer or snack.
Get your mood on for some udon! Kitsune Udon is classic comfort food for the Japanese – I mean, who can pass up on a hearty, warm bowl of dashi broth (dashi is a common base stock for most Japanese dishes used for umami), served with thick udon noodles, scallions, fish cakes, and fried tofu, especially during winter season?
Noodles and fried rice? Carb lovers, it’s time to rejoice! This local dish combines the yumminess of yakisoba (steamed noodles with meats and veggies, all stir-fried and excellently seasoned) with the art of sautéed fried rice, usually flavored with soy sauce, making for a salty-sweet carbo-loading treat. Dig in!
The home of THE comforting miso ramen is at Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, where the popular Hokkaido ramen is made in perfect authenticity. Every spoonful of this rich pork soup base is sinful, flavored with umami miso and topped with corn, sprouts, and tender pork belly, among many other ingredients. Now, who’s craving some?
Comfort food seems to be the staple of chilly Hokkaido, and who’s complaining? The Hokkaido specialty Ishikari Nabe is a hotpot of salmon and miso made into a flavorful light broth, best enjoyed in chilly weather. It is cooked up in the traditional Japanese clay pot and is packed with salmon fillet and the season’s freshest vegetables. Healthy AND good!
It might not sound as appetizing, but soup curry is actually a hugely popular local specialty that marries the two beautiful beings that are Japanese curry and hot soup.
This spicy dish usually comes with meat, vegetables, rice, eggs, potatoes, and other hearty toppings. It’s incredibly customizable – diners can choose which meats they prefer, their spice level, and toppings. The great thing about it is its light, soupy consistency, which makes it a less heavy rice dish.
Can’t get enough of Japanese cuisine? Check out our other articles featuring tasty eats in Japan and how to (properly) eat them!