Traditional Japanese Food: 20 Dishes To Try In Japan or At Home

Traditional Japanese Food: 20 Dishes To Try In Japan or At Home


Whether you’re visiting Japan or trying to mix things up in your own kitchen, you should familiarize yourself with Japanese cuisine. Traditional Japanese food uses many basic ingredients that are unusual in western cuisine. If you’re looking for rich new flavors, Japan is the perfect place to start!

20 traditional Japanese dishes

When we visited Japan, we found that eating wasn’t just about filling our stomachs, it was an experience. Our meals can last for hours and include 16 courses of delicious cuisine. The Japanese take food seriously. Eating out feels almost like a ceremony where you are served incredible food that has been carefully arranged. Ordering food can be intimidating when traveling to Japan. We’re here to help you know which foods to look out for so you can try them in their most authentic form.

Japanese traditional dishes

Read on and we’ll tell you all about 20 Japanese dishes to try at home or abroad.

1. Sushi

Japanese food sushi

Sushi is one of the most iconic Japanese dishes today, but it actually is comes from China in the 1st or 2nd century BC And was known as Narezushi. Contrary to popular belief, sushi does not mean raw fish, but actually sour rice. Sushi refers to any dish made with sushi rice (sour rice) that is served with egg, vegetables, or fish.

There are a couple of common types of sushi that you have probably eaten before if you’ve ever gone to a Japanese restaurant. These types include fillings in rice wrapped in nori, bite-sized lumps of rice with a single piece of raw fish on top, and sushi rice in a bag with fried tofu. When you eat sushi you will be surprised that the main ingredient is not the fish, but the sushi rice that makes up the meal.

We find it easy to make sushi at home. Get a bamboo mat, seaweed sheets, and sushi rice – all available at the grocery store, then fill it with everything from cucumber to avocado and salmon to tuna. Here are some great recipes to follow when making sushi at home.

2. Sashimi

Traditional japanese food sashimi

Sashimi is also a common menu item in American sushi restaurants. Sashimi is finely chopped, fresh, raw fish that is served with pickled ginger, radish, wasabi and soy sauce. Although some sushi contain raw fish, sashimi is different from sushi in that it is not served with rice. Sashimi is actually the raw fish dish that many refer to as sushi.

3. Gyoza (fried dumplings)

If you are looking for Japanese cuisine at home, Gyoza is the place for you! These fried dumplings are easy to prepare at home and make a great starter. They can also serve as a main course alongside fried rice or pasta. Gyoza are dumplings (usually filled with pork and vegetables) that are fried until crispy in a pan and then steamed to finish off. Serve them with soy sauce for dipping! You can use this recipe to make your own gyoza at home.

4. Onigiri

Japanese traditional snacks onigiri

Onigiri is a portable Japanese snack. Onigiri is made from rice with a filling inside, shaped into a triangular shape and placed in a piece of nori for convenient carrying. Common onigiri fillings include chicken teriyaki, seaweed, and tuna mayonnaise. In Japan, onigiri is usually sold in convenience stores as a cheap and tasty snack; but it is one of the the easiest Japanese foods to make at home! We seriously picked up onigiri in a 7-Eleven!

5. Natto rice bowl

In Japan, the same foods are often eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The main difference between breakfast and other meals is the ease of preparation and smaller portions. One of the most common breakfasts in Japan is the natto rice bowl. Natto is made from fermented soybeans and has a hearty and salty taste that goes great with rice.

6. Fluffy Japanese pancakes

Traditional Japanese pancake food

If soybeans are not your style and you are looking for a traditional breakfast, this is the place to be ultra-fluffy Japanese pancakes At home. You can make fluffy Japanese pancakes at home by beating your egg whites with a hand mixer until stiff. The result is a pile of the tallest, wobbly pancakes you’ve ever tasted! Serve them with butter and syrup or honey.

7.Yakitori (chicken skewers)

Japanese food yakitori

Yakitori means “grilled chicken” in Japanese. Yakitori is a popular street food that can be found on every corner in Japanese cities. Before grilling, these chicken skewers are coated with a sauce made from mirin, sake, soy sauce and sugar. You can take one away as a quick snack or serve it with rice and vegetables as a main course.

8. Miso soup

The Japanese eat miso soup at almost every meal. Miso broth is made from fermented soybeans and dashi broth. Miso soup often contains tofu, seaweed, and spring onions. It is common for Japanese people to warm up the miso soup from the night before and eat it for breakfast. Give it a try next time you long for a warm start to the day! We use that Recipe for miso soup the whole time.

9. Ramen

Japanese traditional food ramen noodles

Ramen is one of the most famous Japanese recipes. On a cold winter day, there is nothing more calming than a bowl of warm broth, thick noodles and vegetables. If you’re a fan of instant ramen, you can always update your next bowl with soy sauce, chili paste, spring onions, a soft-boiled egg, and other toppings. If you’re looking for a good one Ramen recipe this one is delicious!

10. Kashipan (sweet bread)

Bakeries are everywhere in Japan, and Kashipan is one of their favorite snacks. Kashipan is a sweet bun that is sometimes baked with cookie dough on top or with sweet bean paste.

11. Yakisoba (fried noodles)

Traditional Japanese food yakisoba

Yakisoba can be found at every street festival in Japan. This fried noodle dish is made with grilled noodles, pork, cabbage and other vegetables. You can make your own version of yakisoba at home in a large pan or wok. This dish has a rich taste and is easy to prepare; just toss everything in a pan and let it sizzle!

12. Japanese curry

Japanese curries are very different from the Indian curries you may be familiar with. Japanese curry has a sweet taste and is prepared like a stew; Meat and vegetables are cooked together with a curry paste that acts as a thickener.

Japanese curry is easy to make at home, especially when you can get your hands on a pre-made curry paste.

13.Nikujaga (meat and potatoes)

Japanese dishes Nikujaga

Fried meat and potatoes are the backbone of many styles of Western cuisine. However, did you know that the Japanese have their own version of this dish?

Nikujaga is a meat and potato stew with soy sauce, mirin, sake and sugar. Nikujaga is a common household meal, and the best way to try it in Japan is to get an invite to a local for dinner.

14.Takoyaki (fried octopus)

You don’t have to be fluent in Japanese to order Japanese food. But if you ask for takoyaki make sure you get octopus.

Although octopus is not a common snack in the US, don’t be afraid to try this delicious street food. The perfect way to try new food is poured in batter, deep-fried and topped with seaweed and mayo.

15. Sukiyaki hot pot

Japanese traditional food Sukiyaki

Hot Pot is the ultimate comfort food for a cold day. Sukiyaki uses a broth made from mirin, sake, soy sauce, and sugar. Pour this rich broth over fried beef and vegetables.

Sukiyaki means “cook what you like”. You can make your own version of a Japanese hot pot at home using any vegetables and protein!

16. Tonkatsu (pork chops)

Tonkatsu is a traditional Japanese food

Europeans introduced a range of Western foods to the Japanese. Over time, Japanese chefs have adopted these dishes and created new staple foods.

An example of this is tonkatsu pork chops. These crispy fried tenders look a lot like strips of chicken; only they are prepared with juicy, flavorful pork and served with crispy cabbage.

Fun fact: the Japanese word for imported food in Europe like tonkatsu is “yoshoku”.

17. Tempura

Japanese traditional dishes tempura

Speaking of fried snacks, everyone should try tempura at least once in their lifetime. Most Japanese restaurants have all kinds of tempura on the menu; Shrimp, Chicken, Vegetables, Tofu, and more.

You can also make tempura batter relatively easily at home! Always serve tempura-fried foods with soy sauce for a crisp, balanced taste.

18. Udon noodle soup

Udon noodle soup Traditional Japanese food

Udon noodles are a Japanese staple food. These noodles are made from wheat flour and have a slightly chewy consistency (perfect for slurping chopsticks).

The most common way to eat udon noodles is udon noodle soup. You can top your soup with fried tofu, tempura-fried vegetables, or anything else your heart desires.

19. Soba (buckwheat noodles)

Soba noodle Japanese food

Another staple food in Japan is the soba noodle. Soba noodles are always made with buckwheat flour, which gives them a unique, subtly nutty taste.

Soba noodles go well with strong flavors like garlic, sesame oil, or chilli.

20.Okonomiyaki (hearty pancake)

Have you ever been to a dim sum restaurant and had a shallot pancake? Okonomiyaki is the Japanese version of the savory pancake. Okonomiyaki is made from cabbage, batter, and any other ingredients you desire.

In Japan, it is easy to find restaurants that specialize in okonomiyaki. You can also easily prepare this stir-fry in your own kitchen!

Try traditional Japanese food at home or abroad

Traditional Japanese food at home

Learning how to make traditional Japanese food at home is easier than you might think! Try one of these dishes the next time you run out of ideas for dinner.

Check out our Japan travel guide if you want to try these dishes (and more) in Japan! Traveling the world is a breeze with our expert tips and travel guides.

Use these resources to plan your trip to Japan



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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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