A travel to Japan is guaranteed to be one of the most exciting vacation experiences ever. With its rich culture, distinct traditions, and great views, the country ranks among the most sought-after holiday destinations. Beyond its main tourist attractions, another thing that makes Japan a place to visit is traditional Japanese dishes.
Yes, exploring is not enough to really get to know Japan. To become an expert, you must take action and enjoy the most sumptuous feature of all: their food. Their cuisine is rich, fun and remarkably acclaimed. Most Organized tours in Japan include some sort of food tasting, then you might as well be introduced to some of them.
Here are the top 10 must-try traditional Japanese dishes…
When you think of the land of the rising sun, sushi is one of the first things that come to mind. While the meal is hugely popular around the world, you really should try the authentic version in Japan. They pride themselves on the freshness of the ingredients and the care they put into their recipes, so testing the beautiful blends of fish, seaweed and rice is essential.
If you know your Asian cuisine, you’ve probably seen or even tried some kind of variant of noodles. However, the main ones to try are called Udon. Made from wheat flour and salted water, these noodles are easily handled in any type of meal. Thus, you will have many options. Do not hesitate to order a fondue or a broth, or to take udon as an accompaniment. However, you should know that they are usually added to traditional noodle soups.
Heavenly, that’s how you describe Tempura. Primitive in appearance, the dish is at the top of all crispy fries and will win you over for seconds. Composed of slices of meat, fish or vegetables, the tempura is optionally fried until it acquires this beautiful brown hue and this crunch. You can order it as a starter, side dish or add it to your noodle soup.
One of the most controversial dishes on the list, sashimi is a traditional Japanese dish loved by locals but a bit intimidating to visitors. Basically, you can try raw fish or meat that has only been prepared with precise knife work. The sashimi is usually served with slices of radish or ginger, so you’ll have enough to cleanse the palate, but the exciting meal remains what it is.
By the way, originally sashimi is best tried in Tokyo, so if you’re looking for the most authentic experience, we suggest Trains in Japan and a quick trip to the capital. Work your way to that perfect bite.
Literally translated as “grilled chicken”, Yakitori is precisely what it is. While some find it odd that chicken is part of the authentic Japanese menu, yakitori has been around since the Meiji period in the 19th century. Right now it’s mostly considered Japanese street food, so take a break from your explorations and order the tastiest chicken with sauce, tare, sake liquor and sugar.
If you visit Japan in the winter, sukiyaki is the way to go. Best enjoyed when it’s cooler, it’s an exciting cauldron of sliced beef, broth, vegetables, noodles and all kinds of protein. The meal is a good chameleon, so you can get it from street vendors, local cafes and fancy restaurants.
The further you go, the more interesting it becomes. Mentaiko is marinated fish roe with spicy seasonings and sauces. Although it sounds a bit risky, mentaiko actually has a pleasant taste that you can easily pair with rice, noodle soup, or hot pot. Recently, the Japanese have started adding it to their pasta dishes to give them more flavor.
A fun name for a fun dish, you’ll love okonomiyaki if you like easy yet flavorful foods. The principle is very simple: just mix a batter with shredded cabbage, add a little seasoning or other optional ingredients, and cook it as you would a pancake. Some Japanese restaurant chains allow you to make it yourself when you order it. And we are all for new experiences.
#9. curry rice
While the dish is primarily associated with India, the Japanese have their own authentic take on curry rice. You’ll see the difference in the distinctly sweeter aftertaste, milder seasoning and thicker texture. Plus, the Japanese version is made with local rice, so you can easily spot the contrast. We highly recommend it for comfort food.
Last but not least, Gyoza is probably as popular as Sushi and a must to become a Japanese expert. These crunchy, rich, and delicious moon-shaped dumplings are a great hangover cure, dinner option, and experimental dish if you haven’t tried them yet. There are also many different fillings: minced meat, spicy vegetables or seafood.
Our main advice for you is to try everything. Even if something seems unusual or even a little scary to try, you might find yourself liking it. So be brave and curious in your Japanese quest and prepare your taste buds for new flavors. Good luck!
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