Undoubtedly sushi is the Japanese food that immediately comes to our mind when we think of Japanese cuisine. There’s more to Japanese cuisine than sushi; Japan offers an abundance of gastronomical delights with a boundless variety of regional and seasonal dishes. Japanese food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world and for good reason. Based on “rules of five,” traditional Japanese cooking, washoku, emphasizes variety and balance. This is achieved through the use of five colors (black, white, red, yellow, and green), five cooking techniques (raw food, grilled, steamed, boiled and fried), and five flavors (sweet, spicy, salty, sour, and bitter). This cooking method can be seen in ichi-ju san-sai, a single meal consisting of one soup and three sides paired with rice.
Sushi originated from the process of preserving fish in fermented rice. Today, every single piece of sushi is seasoned with a vinegar mix and served along with ingredients such vegetables or seaweed. It’s also presented in a number of ways and shapes. Sushi is usually served with wasabi included already. Depending on the shape and ingredients, sushi is labeled by different names: Nigiri sushi, Maki sushi, Temaki sushi, etc. Sashimi refers to raw fish or seafood that is served without rice.
Tempura is made with pieces of meat, fish, or vegetable that are covered in a special tempura batter and deep-fried until they become crunchy and pale gold in color. Even though it is fried, tempura is usually light and can be eaten on its own or served on top of rice bowls or noodle soups. Usually it is served with tentsuyu sauce, a mix of sweet sake, soy sauce, ginger, radish, and spices.
Okonomiyaki is a kind of pancake or a cabbage omelette packed with various ingredients. If you go to a restaurant where you self-cook on a grill in the middle of the table, you can add bacon, shrimp, or many others ingredients. Once grilled and cooked thoroughly, complete your okonomiyaki with the appropriate sauce and katsuobushi, soft flakes of fermented and smoked tuna. Okonomiyaki is originally from the Kansai area. The Hiroshima version includes soba and the Tokyo version, called Monjayaki, is more liquidy.
Ramen is one of the most popular foods in Japan and is a bowl of wheat noodles served in different types of soup. The most typical ingredients are slices of pork, green onions, seaweed and egg, but the most important part of this dish is the soup taste – to “find the perfect ramen” is the mission of many ramen-addicts. The balance of taste, umami, is the secret of the soup and can range from light to strong depending on the ramen shop. The way the pork is cooked makes it so soft that sometimes it breaks into pieces as soon as you pick it up with your chopsticks. Also, ramen can be cheap and leaves you full after a bowl so it is a great option to fill your belly!
When you enter in a soba restaurant, you can often choose the same dish but with soba or udon according to your preference. Both these noodles can be eaten hot or cold and customized with toppings. Udon is a dense and chewy noodle made from wheat flour. It’s one of the most popular foods in Japan due to its delicious taste, inexpensive price point, and versatility. Soba is made from buckwheat flour with a long thin shape and firm texture. It is very healthy and it is said that eating the cold version can help notice the quality of the flour!
Some local areas are famous for its soba or udon so when you’re traveling around Japan, check the recommended dish of that area to try the local specialty.
If you wish to experience the Japanese equivalent of haute cuisine, then you need to try kaiseki ryori. Also known simply as ‘kaiseki’, it is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. A full kaiseki can involve a dozen or more different dishes made with fresh, seasonal, local produce; each is presented as small servings and in such a way to enhance the produce’s natural flavor. The courses in kaiseki all demonstrate a different cooking technique and the experience is considered in Japan as an art form as much as a sit-down dinner. Kaiseki can normally be enjoyed in specialized restaurants or at ryokan Japanese-style inns.
Enjoy a Traditional Kaiseki-Kappo course with chef explanation at GINZA YAMAJI
Shabu shabu is a Japanese hot pot dish. Many kinds of meats and seafood are used, mostly the softer ones, with vegetables, tofu and noodles. The way it works is you grab a piece of meat (or vegetable) and dip it into the pot of hot water or broth. Once it is cooked, you dip it in a sesame or ponzu sauce and eat it with rice. It is called “shabu shabu” because from that’s as long as you need to dip the meat in the hot broth until it is ready to be eaten – shabu shabu and it’s ready.
Yakiniku is Japanese BBQ. It is tasty and has a big social aspect so it is perfect for a dinner with friends. In the yakiniku restaurant, you will find a grill at each table and you will be served slices of meat and raw vegetables to cook. Mix flavors and textures and don’t forget to enrich the freshly cooked meat with the many sauces that are provided.
The best Japanese food to pair with a glass of alcohol after a long day is yakitori, grilled skewers mainly of different parts of chicken, including the heart. Yakitori can also be made using pork, beef and fish. These skewers are basically a mix of vegetables and meat cooked on a grill and dipped in teriyaki sauce or salt.
Enjoy the night how a typical Japanese person does in our Night Tour: