japanese cuisine

How many people do you think visited Japan from January to May this year?

A whopping 13,194,362 visitors, that’s how many!

We can’t blame them, seeing as there are as many reasons the nation attracts such massive numbers of tourists.

There are the millions of cherry blossoms (or sakura), some of the world’s prettiest petals, for starters. It also boasts of the best powders for snow-lovers. It’s also here where you’ll find holy deer roaming around a gigantic temple.

Then, there’s Japanese cuisine. For foodies out there, Japan (Nippon or Nihon to its people) is a haven of gastronomical delights.

But because countless numbers of heavenly food await you in this part of the world, it’s best you equip yourself with some knowledge about them.

Don’t worry! That’s what we’ll share with you today.

So, keep reading to learn about the must-try Japanese food during your visit!

Sushi

Okay, so in Japan, sushi is only one of the many popular dishes with fish (not all of them use fish!). They don’t eat it every day (contrary to popular belief), but 25% of them feast on it two to three times a month.

To the rest of the world, however, it’s likely the most well-known Japanese dish.

The process of making it alone is amazing. Armed with filleting precision and accuracy in molding the fish and vinegar-seasoned rice, a sushi chef’s performance in itself is already a feast for the eyes.

The finished product? As beautiful as the chef’s movements.

Pro Tip: Explore your options outside of tuna. Salmon offers a mild but tasteful flavor making it perfect for a sushi beginner. Go for “Hamachi” or Japanese Amberjack if you want a tangy flavor paired with a butter-like texture.

Sashimi

Many newcomers to the world of Japanese cuisine often confuse sushi with sashimi. Although both are traditional types of Japanese food, there are some differences.

Sushi’s main ingredient is vinegar-seasoned rice. Fish is common, but not used all the time. Sashimi is a simple dish of thin slices of raw fish or other types of seafood.

Like with sushi, tuna (maguro in Japanese) is also the most common fish used in making sashimi. Make sure you try salmon too, which the Japanese call sake. Be careful when ordering salmon sashimi though, as they may serve you alcohol when you say sake!

Not that keen to try raw fish? Watch something like this then! It shows off mesmerizing shots of sashimi that may make you more willing, as well as some of the best things to expect when visiting this country.

Ramen

If you’ve ever watched anime (think Studio Ghibli), then you know the Japanese are geniuses even when it comes to making drawn food look so enticing! But have you ever wondered what those hunger-inducing bowls of noodles and soup are?

You most likely have seen ramen.

They may look fancy, but they’re some of the most inexpensive foods in Japan. They’re tasty, packed with flavors, and filling. Best of all, you’ll find street stalls and restaurants serving them whichever part of the country you’re in.

You have four primary ramen “categories” to choose from. The base ingredient is what differentiates them. There’s soy sauce (shoyu), salt (shio), soybean paste (miso), and pork bone (tonkotsu).

Fun Facts: Ramen didn’t originate from Japan; it came from China! Also, if there’s one thing that makes ramen noodles unique from the rest, it’s the use of alkaline water. Called “kansui,” this ingredient gives the noodles their yellow color.

Soba

The noodle star of all seasons (they’re a favorite no matter the month of the year), soba is another must-try Japanese food. You’ll find them served in both hot and cold versions, so you can enjoy a bowl (or tray) whether it’s sunny or rainy.

Know your soba: These noodles combine wheat and buckwheat flours, and are about as thick your Italian spaghetti noodles.

Udon

Udon is filling, but they’re also easy to digest. Chewier and thicker than soba, you’ll find these noodles served with a hot broth (like kake-udon) or dipping sauce (such as zaru-udon) on the side.

Tempura

In case you find yourself craving for deep-fried goodies while in Japan, worry not. They’re as much lovers for crispy and crunchy foods as most other people, and their traditional tempura dishes are proof of that.

Tempura’s ingredients consist of either seafood or vegetables covered with a light batter. They’re then deep-fried to golden goodness. Ebi (prawn or shrimp) is the most popular, although you’ll also find a fish version (called sakana).

As for vegetables, there’s the eggplant (nasu), mushroom (kinoko), pumpkin (kabocha), and sweet potato (satsumaimo) tempura.

Whether you want a heavy meal or something lighter and more tempura-ry (sorry), this dish will satisfy.

Okonomiyaki

How does a savory pancake filled with all your favorite ingredients sounds?

Sounds like a rumbling stomach… Well, Japan has the answer for that, in the form of okonomiyaki.

The “okonomi” part translates to or means “to one’s liking,” after all. “Yaki,” on the other hand, means to “cook over direct heat” (think grilling). That means you get to choose amongst a wide array of ingredients!

Fancy meat (yes, even bacon) or seafood (shrimp or octopus)? How about vegetables? Whatever you want, you can add to your okonomiyaki.

Yakitori

What goes well with sake (as in the Japanese alcoholic beverage) or beer?

Yakitori, that’s what! You can’t go wrong with grilled chicken skewers, after all.

Best of all, you get to choose your favorite white meat part. Whether it’s the thigh, breast, wing, or liver, a yakitori-ya (specialty restaurants) has you covered. You’ll even find them in grilled fatty, crispy chicken skin variations, known as “torikawa.”

Set Yourself Up for a Memorable Japanese Cuisine Adventure

All these dishes are integral to the Japanese cuisine, so a visit to this country won’t be complete without giving them a try.

Also, if you plan to visit Osaka, make sure you include takoyaki (octopus pancake balls) in your list of must-feast-on foods! You’ll find them anywhere in the country, but it’s this Kansai city that gave birth to it.

Want more insider travel information? Then feel free to check our website out! We’ve got loads of other holidaying trips and tricks waiting for you there.

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