Japan is known for its amazing food culture, with a whole host of delicious and varied dishes that have become popular worldwide. If you’re visiting Japan, you’ll want to try as many of the yummy local delicacies as possible. We’ve rounded up some of the best, so that you don’t miss out on any of the delightfully tasty dishes Japan has to offer.
There are various types of noodle soups in Asian cuisine, but ramen is definitely one of Japan’s most popular. The delicious noodle broth originated in China and can be found all over Japan, from small market stalls to fancy restaurants. It can have a variety of different broths at its base, as well as different toppings depending on your tastes. Choose from shoyu (soy sauce), shio (salt, chicken), miso (soybean paste), or tonkotsu (pork bone) soup bases and top with anything from braised pork to soft boiled eggs. Its versatility means everyone can find a yummy ramen to suit their tastes. Slurp away as you eat, it’s not considered impolite and enhances the flavour of the soup.
Ah sushi! It has spread all over the world and can be found everywhere at the moment, from Michelin-starred restaurants to supermarket sandwich sections. You haven’t tried real sushi, though, until you’ve tried it in Japan. It takes three years of training for chefs to even learn to cook the rice properly, and each dainty mouthful is a veritable work of art. Sushi was originally a way of preserving fish in the days before freezers, by wrapping it in rice and vinegar. Contemporary sushi is not fermented as it traditionally was, with the modern incarnation being developed in the Edo Period. Sushi in Japan is very simple, with one ingredient per piece, designed to bring out the flavours of the fish or vegetable.
As a highly mountainous country, Japan does not naturally lend itself well to farming cattle in high numbers. However, the cattle the country does farm is known for the delightful quality of its beef. Wagyu beef refers to the meat from the four breeds of wagyu cows found in Japan, and is notable for the marbled appearance, soft texture and delicious taste.
Although it is exported all around the world (often at incredibly high prices), the best wagyu beef is found on Japanese shores. Best served straight from a stone grill and lightly seasoned with just a little salt and pepper, wagyu beef steak simply melts in the mouth. Legend has it Japanese cattle farmers feed their cattle beer and treat them to massages to improve the taste of their beef.
Directly translating as ‘what you like, grilled’, okonomiyaki is another Japanese dish that can be tailored to suit your tastes. It is essentially a kind of pancake, with a batter base and a cabbage filling. Other toppings are then added depending on what is to hand, with shrimp, octopus and pork belly being popular choices. There are two main types, Hiroshima style which is a plain pancake topped with the chosen ingredients, and Osaka style where the ingredients are mixed into the batter before cooking.
This delicious treat is often served with a glass of beer, which goes perfectly with the flavours of the grilled chicken. Served on the skewers used to grill it, Yakitori includes meat from all parts of the chicken, including thighs, breast, skin, and innards. It is inexpensive and eaten both as a snack and as a meal. The best Yakitori can be found in speciality restaurants, known as yakitori-ya, but you will also find it on the menu at other restaurants and food stalls.
Cooked in a special moulded pan, these ball-shaped snacks can often be found at street stalls. The batter is made with wheat flour, and they are typically filled with diced octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger, and green onions. They are then topped with takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise, green laver, and dried bonito. First made popular in Osaka, it is thought they were created by a street vendor in 1935. Nowadays, they can be found across Japan and are often sold in supermarkets.
Often considered just another type of sushi outside Japan, sashimi is actually a separate dish in its own right. Often served as part of traditional set meals, this thinly-sliced, raw food is often fish, although other types of meat can also be served as sashimi. Most types are seasoned with soy sauce by dipping each slice into a small dish as you eat. Only the finest quality seafood and meat is used for sashimi, and it is a beautiful way to experience the subtle flavours of tuna, squid, beef and more.
Lightly battered seafood or vegetables are deep fried to make tempura, which is usually served with sauces for dipping. They can also be served as part of a meal, either with rice and soup on the side, or as part of a rice or noodle-based dish. ‘Tempura’ comes from the Portuguese word ‘tempero’, which means gravy or sauce, and the dish dates back to the 16th century, when Spanish and Portuguese culture was beginning to have an influence in Japan.
Using either fillet or loin, a pork cutlet is breaded and deep fried to create tonkatsu. The cutlet is then served with cabbage, rice and miso soup as a meal, or even as a sandwich or curry dish. Originating in 19th-century Japan, it is considered a type of yoshoku, which are Japanese versions of European cuisine that were created in the 19th and 20th centuries.
The ultimate in group eating, shabu-shabu comprises of food cooked piece by piece in a bubbling pot whilst sitting around the table. It has its origins in the Chinese hotpot and was popularised in Japan in the 20th century. Traditionally, thinly-sliced beef was used, but pork, crab, chicken, lamb, duck and lobster are also used. Tofu and vegetables are usually also served for cooking in the pot. They are then dipped in sauce and eaten. After the meal, the leftover broth is served with rice.
Mochi is a sweet Japanese rice cake made from pounded rice that is then shaped and flavoured. Its exact origin is unknown, but there are records of people eating it as early as 300AD. It is often served at celebrations, with special types being served at New Year, during cherry blossom season, on Children’s Day, and on Girl’s Day. Mochi is even served as part of a sweet soup, which people eat to warm themselves on cold winter days.
If all these delicious looking dishes have tempted you to take a trip to Japan and try them yourself, why not book one of Cruise1st Australia’s amazing deals on cruises stopping at the Land of the Rising Sun? Browse the full selection online, or call our friendly sales team on 1300 857 345.