Japanese cuisine is world-renowned, but there is so much more to taste in Japan than sushi! Of course, many of us are familiar with sushi, tempura, and ramen. However, Japanese cuisine culture is far more diverse.
So, what food in Japan should be on your bucket list if you visit the country? To help you decide, we’ve produced a list of 32 delectable Japanese cuisine that everyone should taste.
1. Buta-No-Shogayaki (Ginger Pork)
This is a popular (and delicious) Japanese meal. It’s available in a variety of restaurants, Izakaya (traditional Japanese restaurant/bar), fast food chains, and even as a bento box (a pre-prepared Japanese-style lunch) at many grocery stores and convenience stores.
The word yaki literally means “grilled.” Grilled tiny slices of pork are coated with a delicate sauce of mirin, soy sauce, sake (Japanese rice wine), vegetable oil, sliced onions, and ginger.
The recipe is ideal for any season and provides for a quick and delightful supper.
This meal may appear to be ramen at first glance (and it does belong in the same category), but it is distinct and one-of-a-kind. Don’t miss out on this meal if you want to try something classic.
Champon originated in Nagasaki, where it first appeared in a Chinese restaurant during the Meiji era (1868-1912). However, unlike many other types of ramen, its noodles (created particularly for this meal) are cooked in the soup itself rather than being added afterwards.
Champon’s components change slightly depending on the season, making it a fantastic seasonal meal (pork, seafood, vegetables, or any combination of these).
The ingredients are cooked in lard before being added to a broth of chicken and pig bones. The end product is a rich and delicious flavor that is rarely repeated. In reality, distinct versions of this meal may be found not only in many Asian nations, but even inside Japan. This results in a range of distinct tastes and flavors that will leave you wanting more!
Okay, so they’re not technically a dish, but they’re a very popular meal in Japan. These are not ripe soybeans; they are still in their pods. They can be eaten hot or cold (sometimes grilled rather than boiled) and are often seasoned merely with salt. Edamame make an excellent appetizer.
Try a couple, and before you know it, you’ll be reaching for more and more. Edamame is normally served as an accompaniment to a meal in every izakaya, although it is virtually always on the menu in the vast majority of Japanese restaurants in Japan.
Fugu is the meal to try if you want to not only eat delicious food in Japan, but also have an exciting experience!
The fugu is a tasty pufferfish, but it may also be dangerous due to a toxin in particular sections of its body. Fugu is typically eaten as sashimi or in Japanese nabe hot pots.
The Japanese government strictly controls the cooking of this fish owing of its peculiarities. Chefs who want to prepare this fish must go through at least three years of intensive training to obtain their license. The hazardous components of the fish are removed before serving, making it safe to eat.
Surprisingly, fugu liver is considered the most delicious component of the fish, but it is also the most dangerous. As a result, the consumption of fugu liver was prohibited in Japan in 1984. If you try this meal, you will definitely be blown away by its flavor, but do your research before eating it in a restaurant (and never try to prepare it by yourself).
Gyoza are moon dumplings. Another dish that can be found in nearly every Japanese restaurant, regardless of style, but that many people overlook. Although Chinese in origin, the versions you’ll see during your Japan visit are sometimes significantly different from the original.
Gyoza comes in a variety of flavors in Japan. One of the most popular is “yaki-gyoza,” which are dumplings filled with minced pig meat, cabbage, garlic, onion, and ginger. They are then lightly cooked until crispy and a lovely dark-gold hue.
Serve with a dip of soy sauce, rice vinegar, and spicy oil.
Gyudon is a tasty one-dish dinner consisting of steak over rice (gyu = beef). Gyudon is a short meal available at some restaurants or Japanese fast-food chains such as Yoshinoya.
Steamed rice is topped with thinly sliced beef and soft onion, which has been cooked in dashi broth (a common Japanese ingredient) and seasoned with mirin and soy sauce. It’s sometimes served with a gently fried egg on top.
If you want to experience a normal Tokyo office worker’s lunch break, eat this simple and excellent dish before returning to your tasks (while you won’t need to go to work, you’ll undoubtedly appreciate having more time to sightsee and explore on a full and satisfied stomach).
7. Gyukatsu (Beef cutlet)
A meal of deep-fried breaded beef, generally served with cabbage, barley rice, miso soup, potato salad, and pickles, is a superb beef version of the popular pork-based tonkatsu (which we highly recommend you try).
The technique results in a delicate and crispy texture as well as a delicious but not strong flavour. You won’t be able to find this meal as easily as the pork version, but if you do, you’ll be ecstatic!
This recipe may look unusual at first appearance, depending on your region of origin, but stay with us and keep reading.
Gyutan literally translates to “cow tongue,” and that is exactly what this cuisine is: grilled cow tongue. This dish is frequently served with salt or other sauces (mainly a lemon one) and scallion at yakiniku restaurants. The meat is thin, delicious, and soft.
Gyutan first appeared in Sendai in 1948, when the proprietor of a yakitori restaurant built a new one that offered gyutan. Since then, the dish has spread like wildfire across the country. When you try it, you’ll understand why.
As soon as you step foot in Japan, you’ll notice the iconic Japanese fried chicken: karaage. Now, karaage mainly refers to chicken, although depending on where you dine out, different meat (like as pig) may be replaced.
The meat is gently coated with wheat flour or potato starch before being deep-fried in oil. Occasionally, the components are marinated ahead of time. It’s typically served with a slice of lemon on the side, but you may eat it either way.
Chicken is extremely popular in restaurants, street food carts, izakaya, and convenience stores (and pretty much anywhere else). Karaage is inexpensive, tasty, and quick. The only drawback? It’s so amazing that it’s addicting!
This is another famous Japanese meal and sometimes overlooked (by Foreigners) dish that is as inexpensive as it is fast and good. It is similar to gyudon but cooked with pork. This lunch is ideal for folks on the run and may be found in specialized restaurants as well as any Japanese-style fast-food companies. A bowl of rice is served with a deep-fried pork cutlet, an egg, vegetables, and sauces on top.
It’s a common dish in Japan, although there are various varieties, including tonkatsu sauce, demi katsudon (a delicacy of Okayama), shio-katsudon (seasoned with salt), and miso-katsu (originally from Nagoya).
You’ll enjoy this dish regardless of the variety!
This cuisine is crispy deep-fried skewered meat, fish, or vegetables, also known as kushiage. The etymology refers to the method of preparation, with Kushi referring to the skewers used and katsu referring to the deep frying of a beef cutlet.
Some of the most fascinating varieties are made using bamboo shoots, lotus root, cartilage (nankotsu), and gizzard (sunagimo). They are all delectably delicious.
Aside from the various ingredients that can be used, there are also geographical varieties, such as Osaka; Tokyo (which also serves pork rib kushikatsu), where the meat is prepared slightly differently and dressed with brown sauce; and Nagoya, which is famous for its doteni (a rich miso-based dish with beef tendons, offal, and daikon radish). With this signature meal, you may get Kushikatsu. Different sauces and batters are also used in the region.
12. Miso Soup
When talking about food in Japan, we cannot avoid mentioning miso soup. This dish, which may be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, is a true mainstay of Japanese cuisine. It’s a great side dish to serve with the rest of your meal because it’s simple and tasty.
Dashi is one of the primary elements once again. This stock is used with miso paste (a condiment made by fermenting soybeans) to make the renowned soup. The remaining components are then combined according to taste.
Miso soup is frequently served with tofu, scallions, and wakame seaweed. Daikon, shrimp, fish, mushrooms, potatoes, onions, or meat can all be added.
You can’t leave Japan without having this evergreen meal, which is especially suggested during cold winter days!
Nabe is a cooking pot. It is also known as nabemono at times (literally, “things in a cooking pot”). The name already tells you all you need to know about preparation, but it doesn’t even begin to give a picture of the vast range of nabe available in Japan. This meal is available all year, but it is especially delicious during the winter months.
The meal, which is popular both in Japanese nabe restaurants and at home, is made by boiling a variety of items in seasoned or unseasoned water, including meat, fish, shellfish, vegetables, and tofu.
Nabe is also well-known as the preferred food of Sumo wrestlers. When we talk about sumo nabe, we specifically mean “chanko nabe.”
Meatballs, chicken, vegetables, and noodles are common ingredients in chanko nabe. It is intended to be supplied with additional components in order for wrestlers to gain weight.
Another notable name in the nabe family is shabu-shabu.
The term “shabu-shabu” refers to the motion of dipping thinly sliced meat into a hot kettle. The meal includes meat (typically beef and pig), veggies, and tofu. The dish is then accompanied by a sesame dipping sauce, ponzu (a lemon-based dressing), or a combination of the two.
Sukiyaki is a shabu-shabu version in which the ingredients are stewed in sweetened water and soy sauce and served with a raw egg dip.
Yose nabe (yose=putting together) is a type of nabe in which everything, i.e. meat, fish, veggies, and tofu, is cooked together in the same pot at the same time. It’s commonly based on a miso or soy sauce soup.
The variety of nabe available in Japan is simply astounding, so go out and get some, experiment, and enjoy!
Natto is a type of dish that is hated by most outsiders yet is enjoyed on a regular and widespread basis by the majority of Japanese people.
Many foreigners appear to be unable to consume natto because the fermented soybeans have an unpleasant smell. Furthermore, its stickiness makes it seem strange to many non-Japanese. It is, nonetheless, well worth a try because it is authentic Japanese cuisine.
Natto is commonly eaten with rice (a rolled variation is also available in convenience stores and sushi restaurants) and dipped in a few drops of soy sauce. It can also be served with karashi, a spicy Japanese mustard.
We’ll confess that this meal may be difficult to get accustomed to, and it’s an acquired taste, but we encourage giving it a try because you could discover you have more of a Japanese palate than you imagined!
Oden is a delightful, light, hot dish that would be ideal on a chilly winter day. Another type of one-pot meal that consists of various items (often eggs, konjac, fish cakes, and daikon) served in a dashi and soy soup.
While certain restaurants specialize on this cuisine, oden may also be found in many Japanese fast-food franchises and convenience stores.
Oden can be made in a variety of ways (and its name changes from time to time). In Nagoya, for example, it may be referred to as Kanto-ni). The manner in which the components are cooked varies according to location.
Oden is a delicious, inexpensive, and unique cuisine that will never boring you, especially if you’re traveling around Japan.
If you visit the country, you should taste one of the many varieties of this traditional meal. Okonomiyaki is a Japanese frittata or pancake that is difficult to compare to other cuisines.
The name’s origin (meaning “what you like or how you like + grilled”) refers to the variety of ingredients used to produce this delicious meal.
The most popular Okonomiyaki variations are those from the Kansai area and those from Hiroshima.
This is most likely the most common version of the dish in Japan. Flour, nagaimo (a kind of yam), dashi (or water), eggs, cabbage, pork belly, octopus, squid, shrimp, mochi or cheese, and konjac are used to make the batter.
In Kansai, Osaka is especially famous for okonomiyaki, which appears to have originated there.
The ingredients in this version (also known as Hiroshima-yaki or Hiroshima-okonomi) are stacked in layers rather than being combined. Japanese a topping, noodles like as yakisoba or udon, as well as eggs and plenty of sauce, are commonly used.
Many additional varieties of this meal may be found in various parts of Japan (Tokushima, Hamamatsu, Okinawa, and more).
The name of this tasty meal is a combination of the phrases omelet and rice. Omuraisu is an omelet filled with fried rice and frequently covered with ketchup, as the name indicates.
The meal appears to have originated around 100 years ago in Tokyo, at a western-style restaurant. This dish may be found at most Japanese cafés that also serve food, as well as in a few restaurants. If you’re staying with Japanese friends, chances are they’ll know how to make it because it’s a popular meal among the Japanese.
Once again, a full, inexpensive, and excellent one-dish lunch that will be popular with both adult and child visitors!
Who hasn’t seen the renowned Japanese rice ball, onigiri, in anime, movies, videos, or documentaries? While not commonly found on restaurant menus, this is the king of the on-the-go meals. It’s available at almost every grocery shop and convenience store.
Onigiri can be a basic rice ball seasoned with seasonings, or it can be filled (as it generally is) with a range of items ranging from vegetables to meat, fish, and seafood. Depending on the location and personal desire, it may be wrapped with a sheet of flavored or unflavored nori (seaweed).
Many visitors to Japan eat mostly onigiri while sightseeing due to its low cost (typically about 100 yen), availability, and simplicity.
Most people are familiar with ramen, particularly the world-famous instant type, but while visiting Japan, you’ll be amazed by its amazing flavor (certainly not similar to its cup equivalent) and the wide range of diverse options.
The broth can be made with chicken, pig, beef, fish, or vegetables, and it can be seasoned with soy sauce, miso, dashi, or a variety of other ingredients. Typically, scallions, seaweed, tofu, and bamboo shoots are added, but there are so many various ways to serve this meal that it’s hard to mention them all.
Not only does each area have its own recipe, but each restaurant has its own as well, resulting in some really unique and wonderful dishes.
The noodles are created particularly for ramen and have a distinct feel, soft but with a bite.
Miso, salt, soy sauce, and curry are the most frequent soup stocks.
Ramen is most likely the most popular shime (the last meal at the end of a day or night out). It’s considered quick food, and while certain kinds can be served cold, it’s normally served hot, which is a blessing on cold days.
Robatayaki (or robata) is a distinct Japanese dish in which food is cooked over charcoal on an irori type fireplace (a broad, flat, open hearth). This meal is normally only found at specialty restaurants, so you may have to look/ask for it especially.
The menu at robata restaurants includes everything you can think of, however it is generally a blend of fish and veggies.
Most tourists to Japan miss out on this great dish. Look for an excellent robata to ensure you get a true experience of Japan (there are many in Tokyo and all over Japan).
Soba is a Japanese buckwheat noodle speciality. It’s quite popular, and it’s provided at both common noodle restaurants and specialty (typically costly) noodle restaurants.
It’s also quite simple to make at home, as long as you obtain the noodles and the broth into which they’re dipped from the grocery store.
Soba can be eaten as a cold dip or as a noodle soup with broth.
This meal comes in a variety of flavors based on the season and place you visit. Don’t forget to order a soba dish the next time you visit a Japanese restaurant!
Somen is the Japanese variant of a popular type of Asian noodle. It is often served cold and is made with wheat flour. These thin noodles are served with either a normal cold dipping sauce or a sauce flavored with onion, ginger, and myoga (a different kind of ginger).
This meal is especially popular in the summer, when a bowl of cold somen with ice cubes is all you need to recharge, fill up, cool down, and take a break from the terrible Japanese summer heat.
23. Sushi and sashimi
Of course, we’re all familiar with these foods, but we can’t leave them out of our guide. Sushi and sashimi are two meals that represent the pinnacle of Japanese cuisine.
While this cuisine is well-known all over the world, many people are unaware of the many cuts and preparation methods that may be used to prepare it. Sushi chefs are considered artists, and the majority of them must work as apprentices for years (and in some cases decades) before they can be termed sushi and sashimi masters.
This is not to say that it is difficult to obtain excellent quality sushi or sashimi at a reasonable price. Japan has something for everyone’s taste and budget.
The rolling sushi restaurants provide a delightful experience. You place your order on a little tablet at your table, and the sushi is delivered to you on a rolling mat. The meal is delicious, and each dish costs only 100 yen (these restaurants are usually called 100 yen-sushi, or sushiro).
The so-called temaki zushi is largely absent outside of Japan (lit. hand-rolled sushi). You can surely find this meal prepared in restaurants, but you’ll enjoy preparing your own at home (if you have Japanese friends, it’s almost likely they’ll know how to cook it). The preparation is simple. Sushi rice, thin slices of your favorite fish, seaweed sheets, and any additional things you choose to add, according to your taste, are all required. Cucumber, crab, avocado, and wasabi are common components.
Spread the rice on a sheet of seaweed, top with the fish and other fillings, then wrap the seaweed into a cylinder or cone. Serve with soy sauce.
If you’re in Japan, offer a “temaki zushi party,” and you’ll almost certainly be met with enthusiastic enthusiasm.
Takowasa is a dish of raw octopus (tako) with wasabi sauce (wasa). This is one of those Japanese foods that may look strange depending on your cultural background. Do give it a go!
Takowasa is a popular appetizer at many places, particularly izakaya. It’s quite popular, and for good reason. It’s delicious, one-of-a-kind, and a real icon of Japanese popular culinary culture.
Tempura is an excellent meal to eat all year, especially if you want to share a few beers with your pals.
Tempura is made out of shellfish, fish, chicken, or vegetables that are coated in a delicious batter and deep-fried until they attain the desired amount of crunchiness.
Tempura can be eaten alone or with a dipping sauce.
While many places serve this meal, a few specialize in it, providing a broader selection for an even more wonderful journey into traditional Japanese cuisine.
Teppanyaki is a lesser-known (but still tasty) type of Japanese cuisine. Teppan is Japanese for iron plate, and yaki is Japanese for grilled.
Teppanyaki is a term that encompasses a large variety of dishes, including okonomiyaki, yakisoba, and monjayaki. Still, it’s frequently used to refer to a certain type of western-influenced cuisine preparation.
Beef, shrimp, vegetables, chicken, and scallops are common teppanyaki ingredients. They are commonly made on a hotplate using soybean oil.
Some of you may be familiar with this style of cooking, as these restaurants are rather famous in the United States (although known as hibachi).
If you visit Japan and want to try fantastic meal that celebrates both Japan and the West, you should try teppanyaki.
Tonkatsu is a popular and widely available dish of breaded pork cutlet deep fried in vegetable oil.
This inexpensive, delectable meal may be found at a variety of chain restaurants as well as in bento boxes at supermarket and convenience stores. It’s even possible to manufacture it yourself!
Season the meat with salt and pepper, then coat it with flour. Then dip it in the beaten egg and top with panko (Japanese flaky bread crumbs). Deep fry, and serve with cabbage, potato salad, and some brown sauce or karashi.
Tonkatsu is also ideal for on-the-go sandwiches, making it a quick and easy supper.
Udon, like ramen, is one of the most popular of the many types of noodles available in Japan. Udon is a thick wheat flour noodle that can be eaten plain (broth composed with dashi, mirin, and soy sauce) or in a variety of combinations.
Try it with tempura for a robust meal, or tofu for a more delicate flavor.
Udon can be served hot or cold, depending on the season (and one’s preference), and it can be cooked in a variety of ways depending on the place you visit.
While the term udon refers to the noodles itself, the tastes, soups, and toppings that can be added are endless. In fact, challenge yourself to taste as many different types of udon as you can during your stay to Japan, and you will not only be happy, but you will also be nowhere near the end of the number of possible meals!
Yakiniku, which translates to “grilled meat,” is also known as Korean barbecue or Japanese barbecue. (The main distinction is that meats in Korean barbecue are often marinated, but meats in Japanese barbecue are not.)
Yakiniku restaurants are quite popular, and there are both high-end and low-cost options (many of which also offer all-you-can-eat menus).
In yakiniku restaurants, you order your preferred meat or veggies (seasoned or unseasoned). The variety is enormous. Then you broil it yourself on a hot plate or grill that is generally built into the table. After that, you may add sauces like lemon, barbeque, and many more, or just salt and pepper.
Yakisoba, as the names suggest, is a type of grilled soba (or noodles in general) that is commonly eaten at festivals. Yakisoba can also be made by stir-frying the noodles. Pork, fish, or vegetables can be added, and garnished with seaweed powder, ginger, and fish flakes. Finish with sauces like oyster sauce and you’ll thank us later!
Although the term yakitori technically means “grilled chicken,” it refers to any type of skewered meat (or vegetables) cooked on a grill. This is a simple and delicious meal with an endless range of combinations that can be obtained in a variety of restaurants and specialized shops. It is strongly advised that when visiting a quality izakaya, you try another one of the real popular Japanese cuisines.
We can’t leave out grilled fish because we’re in Japan.
Outside of Japan, yakizakana may not be as popular as sushi, but it is unquestionably more common than raw fish in this nation.
Typically, a whole fish is grilled and served with a variety of vegetables and rice as side dishes. Try it at specialty restaurants for a completely immersive experience, or in chain restaurants for a good, affordable, and quick dinner that will keep you going for the several hours of touring ahead of you!
You’re now well on your way to becoming a real Japanese culinary master! However, there is much more to Japanese food than meets the eye! Don’t forget to eat when visiting this great nation and soaking in all of the sights, entertainment, and culture!