Skip to content

Top 5 Traditional Japanese Dishes

When Mei first meets Yasahiro, the town’s newest bachelor chef, in THE DAYDREAMER DETECTIVE, it’s not all fireworks and lovelorn looks across the room. She’s been a fan of city-style fast food straight from the convenience store for the past ten years or more, and Yasahiro’s Japanese slow food cuisine makes her want to roll her eyes. In the beginning, she’s very skeptical, and even though he’s annoyed by her behavior, he still wants to prove to her that his food is better than anything you can buy at the local 7-Eleven.

When I think of typical traditional Japanese dishes, my mouth starts to water and I seek out the ingredients at my local grocer. Skipping over fresh, hot rice from the rice cooker, these are my top 5 traditional Japanese dishes.

Miso Soup – A staple at many Japanese meals, miso soup, made from miso paste dissolved in dashi stock and garnished with seaweed and tofu, is a light but hearty hot soup that is consumed at any time of the day. I usually make mine with packets from the store, but homemade is even better.

Sushi – Of course sushi! Probably one of the most well-known Japanese foods outside of Japan. It’s rice and raw fish or vegetables, rolled up in vinegared rice, and wrapped in nori seaweed. I make it at home occasionally, but I love it fresh from my favorite Japanese restaurant. In Japan, sushi was once “fast food,” eaten standing up with your fingers. Now, it’s that AND it can also be upscale and gourmet.

A super oishii sushi meal but sushi is just the tip of Japanese cuisine.

Tempura – Possibly one of my favorite Japanese foods, tempura refers to vegetables, fish, or meat, breaded and deep-fried, usually served with a dipping sauce and rice, but also can be put into noodle soup dishes. Sweet potato tempura is my all-time favorite. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

Yakitori – Walk any of the city streets in Japan and you’ll smell it, the sweet aroma of meat, fish, or vegetables cooked over charcoal. Chicken and beef yakitori, small bits on tiny wood skewers, are the most popular versions of yakitori. You’ll see them cooking over hot charcoals and someone diligently flipping them and fanning the smoke away. I love eel yakitori. Mmmm. And in the autumn, mountain vegetables cooked over charcoal are especially delicious.

Soba and Udon – I had to put these two noodles together because they’re both quintessential Japanese dishes. Udon are white wheat noodles, usually thick and plump. Soba are darker, buckwheat noodles, usually cut thin. Both can be served in a variety of ways from cold with dipping sauces, in a bowl of soup or with curry ladled over them, or fried up with vegetables or meat. For an on-the-go meal, udon and soba cannot be beat. They’re filling, tasty, and affordable!

Now that I’m so hungry I could die, it’s time to go out and eat some delicious Japanese food!

2 thoughts on “Top 5 Traditional Japanese Dishes”

  1. Challenge accepted. Ramen – not the instant stuff, the real thing with the broth to die for and the slice of pork on top. Okonomiyaki, preferably the Hiroshima style because that’s the one I tasted first. Seafood, meat, cabbage, scallions, noodles, eggs and flour griddled in a pancake with the sauce my extremely misguided daughter doesn’t like. Takoyaki – small chunks of octopus in batter with the same sauce, and a sprinkle of flaked bonito. Chanko nabe – the soup/stew favored by sumo wrestlers. My Japanese brother-in-law took us to a place run by a former sumo wrestler in Hiroshima. All in addition to your great recommendations.

    1. Yum! I’ve had all of that but chanko nabe. We do make nabe at home in the winter, but not the sumo variety. And there’s a Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki place in Nishi-Shinjuku I’ve been to that’s amazing. So good.

Comments are closed.

Steph Gennaro