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12 Most Popular Foods You Have To Eat In Japan

Japan has a wonderful and unique cuisine but mostly when we think about Japanese food, what automatically comes to our minds is fish and rice. This write up will help you to have a different view about the food culture in Japan, and will help you to know what to order from the moment you sit at the restaurant.

1. Sushi

Sushi is, without doubt, one of the most famous foods to come from Japan. A dish that was born in ancient times, sushi originated from the process of preserving fish in fermented rice. Today it’s made with vinegared rice and fresh fish, presented in a number of ways and shapes.

2. Sashimi

Centuries before Japanese people were eating sushi, they first enjoyed raw fish without the rice. While the name “sashimi” refers to any thinly sliced raw food, including raw beef (gyuu-sashi), chicken (tori-zashi), and even horse (basashi), fish and seafood are the most popular varieties.

Assorted sashimi

Assorted sashimi | © electricnude / Flickr

3. Tempura

Tempura is a dish of battered and fried fish, seafood, or vegetables. Special care is given to the way the ingredients are cut as well as to the temperature of the batter (ice cold) and oil (very hot) for deep-frying, so that every piece is a bite of crisply fried perfection. In the Kanto region around Tokyo, tempura is eaten with a dipping sauce, while in the Kansai region around Kyoto and Osaka it’s dipped in flavored salt.

Vegetable tempura

Vegetable tempura | © Andrea Schaffer / Flickr

4. Yakitori

Yakitori is a dish of bite-sized cuts of chicken grilled on a skewer. It makes use of every part of the chicken — including heart, liver, and even chicken comb — to avoid wastefulness, an important element of Japanese food culture. Unlike other traditional Japanese foods, yakitori has only been eaten since around the mid-17th century, as eating meat was largely taboo in Japan for several centuries.

Yakitori

Yakitori | © kanonn / Flickr

5. Miso soup

Miso soup may seem deceptively simple, but it’s an essential Japanese food that’s served with any traditional meal. The soup is made from dashi stock – either fish or kelp stock – combined with miso bean paste to bring a savory umami element to any meal. Tofu and sliced green onions, as well as ingredients like fish, clams, and pork, can be added and may vary by the season.

Miso soup with fish

Miso soup with fish | © Hiroshi Ishii / Flickr

6. Tsukemono pickles

Tsukemono are traditional pickles that have been eaten in Japan since prehistoric times. Made with a wide variety of ingredients, including vegetables like daikon radish and eggplant and fruits like ume plum, tsukemono not only add visual appeal to a meal with their bright colors but are also an extremely healthy food.

Japanese pickles

Japanese pickles | © City Foodsters / Flickr

7. Udon

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 — udon can be eaten hot or cold and customized with any number of toppings. There are three famous regional varieties of udon noodle: sanuki udonfrom Kagawa prefecture in southwest Japan, kishimen from Nagoya in central Japan, and inaniwa udon from Akita in northern Japan.

Sanuki udon from Kagawa prefecture

Sanuki udon from Kagawa prefecture | © Ryosuke Sekido / Flickr

8. Soba

Soba is another type of noodle dish that has been eaten in Japan for centuries. Made from buckwheat flour, soba has a long thin shape and firm texture and is very healthy. Like udon noodles, soba can be served in a hot broth or chilled with a dipping sauce, making it a delicious and healthy option any time of year.

Chilled soba noodles for dipping

Chilled soba noodles for dipping | © Takekazu Omi / Flickr 

9. Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki is a one-pot dish of beef, vegetables, and tofu cooked with a sweet soy sauce broth in a shallow cast iron pot. It became highly popular after the centuries-long ban on eating meat was lifted during the Meiji period, and is the perfect way to enjoy Japan’s incredibly rich and tender wagyu beef.Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki | © Atomark / Flickr

10. Kaiseki

The ultimate in Japanese fine dining, kaiseki is a tasting course comprised of small, seasonally themed dishes crafted with the utmost precision and attention to detail. Kaiseki was born from the traditional tea ceremony, where small morsels of food were offered alongside the bitter green tea, and over time these offerings evolved into a multi-course haute cuisine meal.

Summer kaiseki course at a traditional Japanese inn
Summer kaiseki course at a traditional Japanese inn | © Minakami Onsen Minakamikan / Flickr

11. Kare-Raisu (Curry Rice)

Also a very popular, simple and delicious dish that we can find in Japan, Kare-Raisu is just rice with curry but the taste is certainly different from any other curry dishes I’ve had before. To make Japanese curry, you can use a variety of meats and vegetables. The basic vegetables are onions, carrots and sweet potatos, and the meats used are chicken, pork, beef and sometimes duck. There are different levels of spiciness for curry: soft, regular and hot are the most common.

15 Most Popular Foods You Have To Eat In Japan (2019)

12. Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is similar to a pancake with the way it is pressed on a griddle but the ingredients are much more different and is usually considered a savory dish. It is typically made with flour, yam and egg, but you can add also anything you like. The most common additions are green onions, beef, shrimp, squid, vegetables, mochi and cheese. In some restaurants, the experience is more interactive because the chef goes to the table and makes it on a griddle while the customers help the chef by adding other ingredients.

15 Most Popular Foods You Have To Eat In Japan (2019)