Japanese culinary is not only special for its delicious dishes but also for the decoration and service. In this Japanese food guide, you’ll find the list of 10+ Japanese food you should try when traveling to Japan.
1. Sushi (寿司)
Sushi is probably the first dish that people will mention about Japanese food. It has become a symbol of Japanese cuisine, and you can find sushi restaurants in many places around the world.
In Japan, you can try sushi from different prices, from Running sushi stores with 100 Yen to expensive sushi dishes in luxury restaurants. If you have a chance to visit Fish Market in Tokyo, you should try the freshest sushi with the ingredients taken directly from the market.
2. Ramen (ラーメン)
Ramen is a familiar dish to the ones who love Japanese culinary. It presents the beauty of Japanese cuisines and culture because it requires the patience in cooking, and also presenting the beauty of each region.
a) Ramen noodles
Ramen noodles are a combination of wheat flour, water, salt and salt water (Kansui). Depending on each region, ramen noodles have different size, color, and taste.
b) Ramen soup
Ramen soup is not only sophisticated but also varied according to the creativity of the region. Salt, water (Shio ramen), tunnel boned pork (tonkatsu ramen), Japanese soy sauce (Shouyu ramen) and miso (miso ramen) are important ingredients to make a delicious ramen broth. The sauces used in ramen vary based on region and type.
A bowl of ramen usually contains vegetables (green onion, bean sprout), Chashu pork, dried bamboo (Menma) and Japanese Marinated Soft Boiled Egg (Ajitsuke Tamago).
c) Ramen in different regions
You can try different Ramen type in each part of Japan: Sapporo Ramen, Hakata Ramen from Fukuoka, Hiroshima Ramen, Kitakata Ramen from Fukushima, and Toyama Ramen.
The most common ramen restaurant have one long row of seats, so customers can eat freely even when they go there alone.
In some restaurants, customers don’t pay after eating but pay at the machine first. Then, they will bring the ticket to the waitress or a cook and get their meals.
Do you know that there is a Ramen theme park in Japan?
This park is Aqua City Odaiba and you can try different ramen in booth stands there.
3. Udon (うどん)
With Udon noodles, Japanese cook can make different types of Udon. The most popular Udon types are Cold Udon, Udon and Yaki Udon.
a) Cold Udon
With Cold Udon, Udon is put in cold water first and then in a bowl, served with sauce and chopped scallions. You can choose the topping to make your dish more delicious.
The simplest form of Udon (Kake Udon) is served hot with Udon noodles and broth (Kake Udon), with thinly chopped scallions. You can choose different toppings to eat with, such as Tempura or meat.
c) Yaki Udon
Yaki Udon, or Fried Udon, is stir-fried with vegetables, sauces, and different ingredients according to your choices (meat, eggs, etc.)
How to make Udon?
If you’re interested in making Udon at home, here is a great video!
4. Soba (そば)
Soba noodles can have yellow colors, or gray or green (if it’s made from broccoli).
You can eat soba with some toppings or try Yakisoba (Fried soba). Ingredients for Yakisoba are usually Soba noodles, cabbage, meat (chicken, pork or beef), and sauce. Although it’s so easy to make Yakisoba, its taste is amazing.
How to make Soba?
5. Sashimi (刺身)
Sashimi is one of the most famous Japanese dishes. Fresh raw meat or fish are sliced into thin pieces and served with delicate decoration.
Even though the most common sashimi are seafood (fish, octopus), there are other types of meat (horse, beef) as well. If you visit Kumamoto, you should try their specialty which is horse sashimi.
How to eat sashimi?
You can eat sashimi by dipping each one into a small dish of soy sauce. Sometimes people also add wasabi and ginger slide to eat with sashimi.
6. Miso Soup (味噌汁)
Miso soup is one of the most common dishes that you can find in Japan. It consists of “dashi” stock, wakame (a type of seaweed), 1/2-inch cube soft tofu, drained and sliced scallion greens.
Miso soup is very healthy as it improves digestion and provides beneficial probiotics.
7. Takoyaki (たこ焼き)
Takoyaki is a Japanese octopus cake. It is normally served with fried fish, Takoyaki sauce and chopped green onion.
You can make your own Takoyaki with Takoyaki machine, by mixing Takoyaki flour, eggs, water, and octopus, and adding green onion and cheese according to your preferences.
Also, you can buy Takoyaki in Japanese restaurants or stands in the festival. It is recommended to try Takoyaki in Osaka.
8. Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)
Another Japanese food that you should try when visiting Japan is Okonomiyaki.
It’s a Japanese style of pancake and made of eggs, water, flour, cabbage, and meat. You can choose the topping as your preferences but the most common toppings are dried fish and okonomiyaki sauce.
9. Tempura (天ぷら)
Tempura is a common name for Japanese fried dishes of seafood or vegetables. Usually, Tempura is served with Udon, miso soup or in rice set.
10. Karaage (からあげ)
Karaaage is a Japanese version of fried chicken. There are various types of Karaage with different ways of cooking, but commonly is marinated and then coated in potato starch.
Biting a piece of Karaage, you can feel the crispiness outside and soft, juicy and yummy chicken inside.
11. Yakitori (焼き鳥)
Another chicken dish in Japanese culinary is Yakitori. Yakitori is the combination of Yaki (Grilled) and Tori (Chicken), so Yakitori is grilled chicken.
Yakitori is a common name for all grilled parts of chicken: skin, leg meat, heart, etc. It’s common to eat Yakitori in Izakaya and drinking.
12. Gyoza (餃子)
Gyoza is a Japanese dumpling which is filled with vegetables and ground meat, then wrapped in a thin dough. People usually eat Gyoza as a side dish.
13. Yakiniku (焼肉)
Yakiniku, which is a combination of 2 words: Yaki (Grilled) and Niku (Meat), is generally used for grilled meat in Japan.
If you visit Japan, you can try Yakiniku buffet where you pay for the buffet according to the amount of time such as 1 hour, 1.5 hours or 2 hours.
In Yakiniku All you can eat, you can choose your favorite meats and vegetables based on your favorite choices. Sometimes in Yakiniku buffet, there are sushi, udon, ramen, soba, and free drinks as well. Eating the grilled meat in cold weather is one of the best experience in the winter in Japan.
14. Sukiyaki (すき焼き)
The best thing to do in Japan in the winter is having Sukiyaki. Sukiyaki is a name for Japanese hotpot (Nabemono style)
In a shallow iron pot, meat is slowly cooked or simmered together with vegetables and other ingredients.
15. Japanese curry
Japanese curry is really tasty!
You can find curry in almost every restaurant in Japan. There are three main forms of curry: curry rice, curry udon, and curry bread. You can try curry ramen as well.
The most common ingredients in Japanese curry are meat, potatoes, carrots, and onions. It’s really easy to buy curry base at the supermarket, so it will be a nice gift to remind you about Japan.
16. Takikomi Gohan (炊き込みご飯)
Takikomi Gohan is made of Japanese rice dish, dashi (Japanese fish stock), soy sauce. You can try with different vegetables, meat or fish.
17. Tonkatsu (豚カツ) & Katsudon (カツ丼)
Tonkatsu (Japanese deep-fried pork cutlet) consists of a breaded and deep-fried pork cutlet. It can be served alone with sliced cabbage or in rice bowl – Katsudon.
Katsudon (Japanese pork cutlet rice bowl) is a bowl of rice topped with Tonkatsu, egg, vegetables, and spices. It’s a very common Japanese food and can be found in several restaurants.
18. Mochi (餅)
Mochi is a Japanese rice cake which is not only delicious but also cute. There are various forms of Mochi such as strawberry mochi, matcha mochi, mochi ice-cream, but the most popular ones are with red bean.
19. Matcha related products (抹茶)
As a healthy and delicious green tea powder, Matcha is used in various products in Japan. There are matcha tea, matcha ice-cream, matcha cake, matcha caramel, matcha mochi, etc.
20. Japanese Cheesecake
You can find cheesecake in every supermarket, restaurant or souvenir shop. Japanese cotton cheesecake is so soft that you can feel it melted in your tongue in your first bite.
I went on a Pablo cheese hunt during my first trip in Tokyo too!
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*This article was updated on May 6th, 2018.