Japanese cuisine is one of the oldest and tastiest in the world. Your usual suspects include sushi, ramen, tempura, rice bowls and udon. And, while those are all delicious options, there are many more interesting Japanese foods out there. Here are five unique Japanese dishes to try.
This is a delicious savory pancake made with flour, eggs, shredded cabbage and a protein like pork belly or shrimp. As you can see, this pancake is much more substantial than your American flapjack. On top, you can customize it however you want with condiments such as sweet Japanese mayonnaise, umami oyster sauce and salty dried seaweed and bonito flakes. This may sound like a lot is going on, but the combination of flavors truly works. Go to a restaurant that specializes in okonomiyaki for the full experience of cooking it yourself on a sizzling griddle. You can get so creative with cooking your own style of okonomiyaki based on personal tastes.
© City Foodsters
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Are you a fan of southern fried chicken? If you are, then you are going to love Japan’s version of fried chicken called karaage. Chicken kaarage is made with bite-size boneless chicken, usually chicken thigh. The pieces are marinated in sake (Japanese rice wine), soy sauce, ginger and garlic. Then, they are lightly dusted in corn or potato starch instead of flour, which is the secret to the super crispy coating after frying. Kara-age is usually served with a squirt of lemon juice and creamy Japanese mayonnaise. A fun place to eat chicken karaage is at an izakaya – a casual Japanese bar.
Many Asian countries have their own types of curry, and Japan is no exception. This delicious adaption features a gravy-like sauce made from tasty curry powder, cayenne pepper and flour. Too make it a meal, people add hearty vegetables like potatoes and carrots and pair it with rice, noodles or stuff it in bread. Curry is also really customizable – you can put chicken or beef or top it with an egg or fried pork. The possibilities are endless, but the satisfaction is guaranteed every time. Try famous chains like CoCo Curry and its competitor, GoGo Curry.
© Toyo Hara
4. Japanese barbeque
Within Asian cuisine, you’ve probably heard of Korean barbecue or Mongolian barbecue … but don’t skip out on Japanese barbecue, called yakiniku. Restaurants like Gyu-Kaku in Japan and in the United States have popularized grilling high-quality Japanese meats while in a casual setting. Kobe and wagyu beef are must-try cuts of meat. Be sure to explore unique Japanese flavors with special shoyu or miso marinades. Restaurants also feature delicious sides such as hot rice bowls, buttery corn and stir-fried noodles.
© Kenne Jima
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5. Shabu shabu
Hot pot is gaining attention in the US because it is fun and delicious. Japan’s version is called shabu shabu, which is apparently the sound of food swishing around in broth before you eat it. Shabu shabu consists of thinly sliced meats, vegetables, dumplings, fishcakes and/or noodles cooked in seasoned broth, which is then dipped in all sorts of tasty sauces. It’s really interactive and customizable, which makes it great for big parties. Try all-you-can-eat restaurants like Nabezo that features an array of high-quality ingredients that you can keep eating and eating.
© Japan Kuru
If reading this article hasn’t made you hungry, then that makes one of us. All of these delicious dishes are definitely worth a trip to Japan. Until then, try these dishes at your local Japanese restaurant and wistfully imagine how good they can taste when you’re actually there.