Traditional Japanese Dishes (10 Foodie Favorites)

Many people know Japanese cuisine only as Sushi but there are many amazing traditional Japanese dishes to suit even the pickiest of eaters. Dishes in Japan are not only about ingredients but the way in which they are prepared and presented to the customer.

Over the years sushi has become a popular food worldwide, with many different Japanese-inspired chains and restaurants opening up all over the world. The traditional dish has certainly taken the world by storm but Japan has so much more to offer in the world of food than just sushi.

In this article, we will discuss the 10 best traditional Japanese dishes to hopefully give you a clearer picture of the Japanese cuisine scene and open up your eyes and eventually hopefully your tastebuds to some of the best food that the world has to offer.

Sushi

Obviously, we had to start with a fan favorite – sushi. Sushi is in fact a type of food and no one single dish. Because there are so many different variants of sushi, such as the type of fish, the add-ons such as caviar, and even vegetarian versions there are price points to suit everyone. 

The wide variety of types of sushi available means that no matter how picky an eater you are, or even if you are allergic to fish, there is something for everyone. The way that you experience eating sushi in a restaurant in Japan can also widely vary. 

conveyor belt sushi restaurant in Japan

For example, there are conveyor belt-style restaurants where prepared plates of sushi ride around mechanical belts and are chosen at your discretion or there are sit-down restaurants in Japan where a highly-trained sushi chef will prepare your meal in front of your very eyes with fresh ingredients

Tempura

Tempura is another widely popular type of Japanese food that refers to anything fried in a light batter. This means that just like sushi there are many different options available to suit all palates. You can have tempura vegetables, fish or even meat. 

Tempura is traditionally accompanied by a dipping sauce, which is also known as tentsuyu. This dipping sauce is made with broth, soy sauce, and mirin and can also have ginger or radish added to it according to your liking.

One of the great things about tempura is that you can eat it how you like it. You can have it on its own or you can have it served with an addition such as rice or noodles. 

Noodles

There are many different types of noodles available and each of them has its own unique taste and texture. Some of the most popular types of noodles include udon, ramen, and soba. Ramen is possibly the most common type of noodle eaten in Japan and is often found to be the cheapest.

Tempura and soba meal in Kyoto

A bowl of ramen is made up of broth, meat, soy, and then tempura is added as well as the noodles. Altogether these ingredients make a delicious and filling bowl of ramen which will put a smile on anyone’s face. 

Teppanyaki

Teppanyaki is a style of Japanese food that has become popular in recent years due to the showmanship of the chef and his culinary skills. Not only does teppanyaki provide you with great food but your meal also comes with a show! 

 teppanyaki chef 

Teppanyaki style is where you are sat around the flat grill where the chef will prepare your meal. You will be able to watch the chef perform culinary skills as well as watch how they make each meal. Traditionally, teppanyaki meals are served as courses but there is a wide range of different choices on offer.

Tofu

Tofu is not only a fantastic vegetarian or vegan alternative to meat-based dishes but it provides some great dishes of its own. Tofu is an incredibly versatile food that can be used to bring out a multitude of different flavors. But what is tofu? Tofu is made from soy milk.

Fried Tofu

Tofu can be cooked in a variety of different ways or even eaten raw. It even comes in varying degrees of firmness to offer different texture experiences. You can have tofu any way that you like it: raw, fried, deep-fried, or even simply marinated. The best thing about tofu is that it serves as a fantastic base for any flavor that you like.

Natto

Natto is a Japanese food that is very polarizing. Think of it in much the same way as the English would marmite or the Australian vegemite. You either love it or you hate it. Natto is made by fermenting soybeans and has a very pungent smell that reminds people of moldy cheese.

Natto (fermented soybeans)

However, it is not only the smell that many people find offputting but also the sliminess of the beans. Yet this doesn’t stop many people from simply loving the food. There is only really one way to find out which side you are on in the natto debate and that is to try it for yourself.

Tamagoyaki

Another amazingly versatile food is tamagoyaki. This is an egg-based dish that can be eaten at any time of the day be it for breakfast or as a late-night snack. The name of the dish is translated literally as “cooked egg”.

Tamagoyaki

Tamagoyaki is essentially a Japenese-style omelet that is made by frying beaten egg and layering with soy sauce or sugar before rolling into a log shape and slicing. 

The dish is very light and so it is often served alongside sushi or even as a dessert in some restaurants. 

Miso soup

Another very popular traditional Japanese dish that is known all over the world. In fact, it is one of the most commonly eaten dishes in Japan. It is made from broth and miso paste and forms a salty but warming soup. 

Miso Soup

Miso soup is traditionally served as a side dish in order to accompany the umami flavor of the main dish it can have added toppings to give it a shining moment of its own. Foods such as green onions, tofu, or even seaweed can be added to make the experience and taste of your miso soup even better.

Shabu Shabu

Shabu-shabu is a style of hot pot that is very popular in Japan. The base of the hot pot is a broth that is seasoned with kelp to which ingredients such as vegetables, meat, and tofu are added. However, meat is typically boiled in the hot pot for only a very short amount of time in order not to overcook it. 

Shabu Shabu

The meat is then traditionally dipped in a dipping sauce such as sesame in order to enhance the flavor of the meat. The whole experience of eating shabu-shabu makes for a great evening with friends or family. 

Sashimi

Sashimi is a very similar dish to sushi. However, sashimi is simply just raw fish, no rice. The raw fish is sliced into very thin pieces which can easily be eaten in one bite. Only the highest quality of fish is typically chosen to be used for sashimi as an imbalance in flavor can easily be detected.

Sashimi

There are many different types of sashimi with some of the most popular ones being tuna, mackerel, and even sea bream. Normally soy sauce is used to help flavor the dish and if heat is desired then a small amount of wasabi can also be eaten with the sashimi.

Some types of Japanese restaurants might serve sashimi from other types of meats such as beef, chicken, and even horse.

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MT Lee
My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.