When most of us think about Japanese food, we automatically think about sushi or ramen. However, the truth is that Japan has an amazing, unique and varied cuisine that goes beyond just fish and rice. With this blog we will help you to have a more elaborated view about the Japanese food culture, so you can know what to order at the moment you sit at the restaurant and also where to go to have the best gastronomic experience.
So here we made a list of the 15 best Japanese dishes to feel Japan through its flavors.
1 - Sushi/Sashimi
The first one is the most iconic Japanese dish, which most people associate Japan with:Sushi and Sashimi. Sushi is very famous all around the world and consists of a piece of rice seasoned with a rice vinegar mix (made with sugar and salt) mixed with different ingredients - a variety of fishes, vegetables and nori (seaweed) for example. Depending on the shape and ingredients that are used, sushi can be: Nigiri sushi, Maki sushi , Oshi sushi , Temaki sushi and etc.
You use the chopsticks to grab the pieces of sushi and dip them into soy sauce or wasabi, or both, according to you preference. It is a explosion of flavors in your mouth!
Sashimi, another iconic food of Japan, is basically raw fish or seafood served with wasabi (a spicy japanese condiment) and soy sauce. It usually comes with slices of radish portions on the side. Sashimi is written like this in kanji: 刺身, the first kanji meaning spine and the second kanji one body.I t’s name originates from the fact that the tail of the fish used to come together with the meal to identify what you are eating.
Recommended Sushi Restaurants in Tokyo
Address: 6-3-17 Ginza Chuo Tokyo
Hours: 12:00 P.M. ~ 2:00 P.M. , 5:00 P.M. ~ 10:00 P.M.
Website: http://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1301/A130101/13147846/ (Japanese only)
Address: 2-29-11 Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
Hours:11:00 A.M. – 0:00 P.M.
Another very popular option to enjoy the oriental flavour is Ramen, a wheat noodles bowl served in a soy sauce or miso soup mixed with many kinds of ingredients. The most typical toppings are green onion, slices of pork, egg and seaweed; but the most important part of this dish is the soup, which vary a lot depending on the restaurant. The flavor is very unique, different from anything you ever tasted before and can be very strong according on where you order it. The way the pork is cooked, makes it so soft that sometimes it breaks into pieces as soon as you catch it with your chopsticks. With one bowl of ramen and a side dish, you can be sure that by the time you finish your meal, you will be satisfied.. If you can finish it!
Is important to know that there are correct ways of enjoying each kind of ramen, like the special Tsukemen Ramen. If you want to learn more about it, please watch our video: How to eat ramen in Japan and what not to do! // Tsukemen // Everything you wanted to know!
Recommended Ramen Restaurants in Tokyo
MADAI RAMEN MENGYO
Address: Inoue Bldg 1F, 2-5-3 Kotobashi, Sumida, Tokyo
Hours: 11:00 A.M. – Soup Runs Out
Address: 1-9-5 Asagaya-Minami, Suginami, Tokyo
Hours: 11:00 A.M. – 4:00 P.M.
Tempura is more of a snack than a dish and is made basically from seafood and vegetables that have been battered and deep fried, seasoned with a sauce made with soy sauce, ginger and sugar. Tempura made from fowl and fish can also be found. The size of the piece has to be able to be eaten in one bite and even when it is fried, it is carefully looked after not to be oily. Tempura is served with Tetsuyu sauce that it is a mix of consomme, sweet sake, soy sauce, ginger, radish and spices. What many people don’t know is that tempura is actually a classical Portuguese dish brought to and made famous by Japan.
Recommended Tempura Restaurants in Tokyo
Address: 3-31-8 Shinjuku, Tokyo
Hours: 11:00 A.M. – 10:30 P.M.
Website: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1304/A130401/13000859/ (info)
IPPOH TEMPURA TOKYO
Address: 6-8-7 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo
Hours: 11:30 A.M. – 2:00 P.M., 5:30 P.M. - 9:00 P.M
4 - Kare raisu (rice with curry)
This is a simple but delicious dish that can be found all around Japan. Very popular among Japanese kids, Kare raisu is just rice with curry, but the taste is different from the original indian one. To make the japanese curry, it is used a variety of meats and vegetables. The meats used are usually chicken, pork, beef and sometimes duck. As for the basic vegetables: onions, carrots and potatoes. To fit every taste, here are different levels of spicy: soft, regular and hot are the most common.
Recommended Kare Raisu Restaurants in Tokyo
Address: Kanda Old Books Centre 2F, 2-3 Kanda-Jinbocho, Chiyoda, Tokyo
Hours: 11:00 A.M. – 10:00 P.M.
Website: http://bondy.co.jp/web/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 3-8-2 Amanuma, Suginami, Tokyo
Hours: 11:30A.M. – 2:00 p.m., 5:30 p.m. - 8:00 P.M.
Website: http://yoshidacurry.com (Japanese Only)
Meet one of the best curry shops in Tokyo - Curry Kingdom. They have one of the greatest variety of curry to choose from that we have ever seen, inclusing fish curry, chicken curry, pork curry and even fruit curries such as the Strawberry-flavored one.
5 - Okonomiyaki
Literally meaning ‘grilled as you like it’, this savory Japanese version of pancake is a mixed made with flour, yam and egg. As the name suggests, you can also add anything you like. The most commons ingredients are green onion,shrimp, beef, vegetables, squid, mochi and cheese. It is cooked in a griddle and usually made by the customers themselves, which can be part of the fun. Because the preparation has to be cooked from both sides, by the time it has to be turned, it is a stressful and also funny moment, especially when it is your first time doing it! However if you find it hard, the staff will gladly help you or even make it for you, so don’t worry.
Recommended Okonomiyaki Restaurants in Tokyo
Address: Koizumi Building 2F, 5-15-1 Toyotamakita, Nerima, Tokyo
Hours: Mondays to Saturdays 5:00 P.M. – 2:00 A.M.
Sundays and holidays 5:00 P.M. – 11:00 P.M.
Website: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1321/A132102/13008999/ (info)
Address: Great Building 2F, 4-14-19 Ginza Chuo, Tokyo
Hours: 5:00 P.M. – 11:00 P.M.
Website: https://r.gnavi.co.jp/e390001/ (info)
6 - Shabu Shabu
Shabu-shabu is a dish consisting of a stew (beef, pork, chicken, shrimp), vegetables (watercress, shinkiku, chard, garlic, chives, moyashi etc.), mushrooms (shiitake and shimeji) and others ( udon, konnyaku, kamaboku, etc.).
The ingredients are quickly cooked in a beef broth and served with ponzu (usually prepared with sesame). This broth is prepared hours before the actual preparation of the main course, since they are boiled in the water: pork and / or chicken, along with konbu (seaweed) and shiitake (mushroom) - without any seasoning. This broth is only for cooking the ingredients. To serve the dish, only the meat and vegetables (without the broth) are removed, and then seasoned with the ponzu (sauce). It is very delicious!
Recommended Shabu Shabu Restaurants in Tokyo
Address: 1-12-19 Shirokane Minato, Tokyo
Hours: 5:00 P.M. – 00:00 A.M.
Address: 3-12-2 Roppongi, Minato, Tokyo
Hours: 12:00 - 3:00 P.M., 5:00 P.M. - 10:30 P.M
7- Miso soup
Miso Soup (Japanese: 味噌 汁 | misoshiru) is a side dish often consumed by the Japanese. The word missoshiru means fermented soy broth, consisting of two words where misso means "fermented soy" and shiru, "broth". It is usually prepared with soy, hondashi, tofu, chives; sometimes other vegetables are added. The misoshiru is served before the main course in mostly every meal and with almost every dish, making it a must try if you really want to emerge yourself in the japanese gastronomic culture. Being a popular side dish, you can basically find it at any restaurant you go.
Yakitori (焼 き 鳥, や き と リ) or ‘‘grilled chicken’, is a Japanese type of broiled chicken. The term "yakitori" may also refer to spit foods in general. The Kushiyaki (grilled spit) is a formal term that covers both poultry and non-poultry, on the skewer and grilled. The terms yakitori and kushiyaki are used as synonyms in Japanese society.
The yakitori-ya are small restaurants or tents that grill the yakitori in the coal to be consumed along with alcoholic drinks (usually beer or shochu) at night. These establishments are known for their informal atmosphere and are popular meeting places, particularly for young people and workers on their way home. In some parts of Japan, a large number of yakitori-yas can be found together in a street or alley.
It has a occidental flavor so if you are not sure about what to taste first or you find out that traditional Japanese flavors are a bit too exotic for you, this is one of the options that foreigner could be more identified with.
Recommended Yakitori Restaurants in Tokyo
Address: 1-5-4 Kyobashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 11:30 - 2:00 P.M., 4:30 P.M. - 9:00 P.M
Website: http://www.isehiro.co.jp/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 3-14-7 Koyama, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 5:00 P.M - 2:00 A.M.
Website: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1317/A131710/13137059/ (info)
9 - Onigiri
The oniguiri (Japanese: お 握 り) also known as nigiri or omusubi (お む す び) is a Japanese rice ball usually triangle shaped, or oval shaped wrapped in a nori leaf.
This is the most popular snack in Japan. It can have several types of filling, but traditionally it is stuffed with fried salmon, umeboshi, katsuobushi, or any other type of salty or sour ingredient. In Japan the oniguiri is found in a multitude of places ranging from convenience stores, supermarkets, free fairs, sushi houses or even specialized establishments in oniguiri called onigiri-ya. No matter what time is it, or where you are, if you are hungry and you don´t have time, you can buy an onigiri
10 - Udon
Udon (Japanese: う ど ん or 饂 飩) is a type of thick noodle made from flour, popular in Japanese cuisine. Udon is usually served as soup, in hot broth based on dashi, shoyu and mirin. About basic udon, one or more ingredients are added, and these ingredients give rise to various types of udon. Most of them carry negi (chives) chopped.
The flavor of the broth and the additional ingredients varies from region to region. Dark brown broth made with stronger-tasting shoyu (koikuchi shoyu) is consumed in Tokyo and in the northern regions of Japan, and light brown broth made with softer shoyu (usukuchi shoyu) is preferred in Osaka and in more regions south.
The difference in broth is also a fact when it comes to instant noodles, which are sold in two different versions, one adapted to the north and another to the south
Recommended Udon Restaurants in Tokyo
Address: 2-15-17 Nihonbashi-Ningyocho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 11:00 A.M. - 3:00 P.M., 6:00 P. M - 10:00 P.M.
Website: http://tg-supply.jp/taniya/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 3-16-1 Kanda-Ogawamachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 11:00 A.M. - 7:30 P.M.
Website: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1310/A131003/13000629/ (info)
11 - Soba
Soba (そ ば or 蕎麦) , meaning buckwheat in Japanese, is a type of Japanese pasta made from buckwheat flour, which gives it the colour, and may or may not mix other ingredients in the dough. Soba noodles are thin (Udon noodles are thick) and they can be eaten also cold or hot. There are shops and restaurants in Japan that only cook soba, maybe with some simple side dish as tempura. You can also find the fresh noodles at the supermarkets to cook at home. To make the preparation easier, this noodles can be also eaten just with a mentsuyu sauce.
Recommended Soba Restaurants in Tokyo
Address: 1-13 Kanda Sudacho, Chiyoda, Tokyo
Hours: 11:00 A.M. - 8:00 P.M.
Website: http://www.kanda-matsuya.jp/ (Japanese Only)
Address: 5-23-3 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo
Hours: 11:30 A.M. - 8:00 P.M.
Website: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1306/A130601/13129390/ (info)
12 - Gyudon
Gyudon (ぎ ゅ う ど 丼), is a Japanese dish consisting of a bowl of rice topped with beef and onion cooked in a lightly sweet sauce made from dashi (bonito and algae), shoyu ( soy sauce) and mirin (a type of sweet sake). It can also include shirataki and tofu. Gyu means cattle (both ox and cow), while don is an abbreviation for donburi, a type of Japanese bowl. A very popular food in Japan, it is usually served with beni-shoga (tanned ginger), can add raw egg and / or shichimi (mixture of peppers) and accompanied by a missoshiru. Besides the simplicity, it is a very tasteful dish and also cheap. Another good thing about it is that the service is very fast. You can have it in your table in less than 5 minutes. This makes gyudon a very good option for a quick lunch time.
Recommended Guydon Restaurants in Tokyo
Address: You can find restaurants of this chain all over Japan
Hours: open 24 hours
Address: You can find restaurants of this chain all over Japan
Hours: Vary according on shop, some stay open 24 hour
13 - Omurice
Omuraisu or Omurice (オムライス) is a western dish which was adapted to fit the Japanese taste (Yoshoku). It is very popular in Japan, Korea and Taiwan and basically consists of omelet with fried rice with a ketchup topping. It is said that Omurice was first served in 1902, at a western style restaurant called Renga-tei, in Ginza district, Tokyo.
The owner said that the idea come from an old Chakin-Zushi (sushi rice wrapped by a thin omelet layer) recipe. The omurice filling is usually is a Raisu Chikin (rice with chicken and spices), but may vary depending on the recipe, containing beef, vegetables and other ingredients.
Recommended Omurice Restaurants in Tokyo
Address: B1F, 4-18-1, Nishiazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Hours: 11:30 A.M. - 2:00 P.M., 5:30 P.M. - 9:30 P.M.
Website: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1307/A130703/13001363/ (info)
Address: 1-12-10 Nihombashi, Chuo, Tokyo
Hours: 11:00 A.M - 9:00 P.M.
Website: https://www.taimeiken.co.jp (Japanese Only)
14 - Katsudon
Katsudon (カツ丼) is a traditional Japanese dish, consisting on a bowl of rice covered with breaded pork chop, egg and other ingredients. The word “Katsu” is an abbreviation of “tonkatsu” (pork chop) and “don” is from “donburi” (dishes served in a bowl with rice).
The Katsudon is a very popular meal among the Japanese and is considered an auspicious dish because of it’s name. “Katsu” has the same pronunciation as the verb “to win” or “to be victorious”. For this reason, to taste this dish on the eve of school exams has become a tradition among students.
Recommended Katsudon Restaurants in Tokyo
Address: 5-24-2 Sendagaya | Takashimaya Times Square 14F, Shibuya, Tokyo
Hours: 11:00 A.M - 10:00 P.M.
Address: 41-26 Udagawacho, Shibuya, Tokyo
Hours: 11:30 A.M - 8:00 P.M.
15 - Green Tea and Flavored Sweets
This is the last one of our list and we can´t leave you without the tea time. Green Tea, besides being the favorite drink of the Japanese, is the most consumed in all of Asia. In fact, this tea with green leaves and a pleasant and pleasant taste hides a multitude of medicinal properties that have been leaving scientists astonished due to the many benefits that this tea can bring to our health.
But for the Japanese, green tea is much more than simply a healthy tea that is good for health. Green tea in Japanese culture is full of historical and spiritual meanings. So much so that it exists until the Ceremony of the Tea, called Chanoyu that is an ancient ritual realized until the present day.
But green tea is never alone. Tea in Japan is traditionally also accompanied with japanese sweets, the most common of them made with beans or sometimes with matcha. Also, Japanese sweets are known for being delicious and have the most beautiful shapes and colors in the world. Sweets in Japan are Art!
Recommended Places to Taste Green Tea and Sweets in Tokyo
NANA'S GREEN TEA
Address: Jiyugaoka 1-29-18, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 10:30 A.M - 10:30 P.M.
KOOTS GREEN TEA
Address: Azabu-Juban 2-1-3, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 9:00 A.M - 10:00 P.M.
Website: https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/A1307/A130702/13031449/ (info)