There is so much more to Japanese cuisine than sushi and ramen.
From Japanese-style barbecue to hibachi, Japanese cuisine has a huge diversity of regional and seasonal dishes. Plus, the Japanese diet — generally healthy and light — is sometimes credited with longevity.
Here are the 42 amazing dishes to try in Japan.
Tonkatsu is a thick, deep-fried pork cutlet that is eaten with sweet brown sauce. Because it is heavy and rich, oftentimes a pile of shredded cabbage will come alongside the tonkatsu.
Oyakodon translates to “parent-and-child donburi.” Chicken, sliced onion, and eggs are simmered in a soy-based sauce to create an omelette-like dish that’s draped over a bed of rice.
Takoyaki is a popular Japanese snack. A piece of octopus is fried inside a wheat flour batter, then topped with bonito flakes, seaweed, mayonnaise, and tare (a thick, salty sauce).
Sukiyaki is served hot pot style. In a shallow iron pot, thinly sliced beef, vegetables, and noodles simmer in a sweet broth.
Shabu shabu is more of a savory hot pot than sukiyaki. Assorted meats and vegetables are cooked in a boiling broth.
Tamago kake gohan
Tamago kake gohan is a simple, yet comforting breakfast meal. Like many Japanese dishes, it uses raw egg, in this case mixed into a fresh, steaming bowl of rice and mixed with soy sauce.
Tatsuta-age is Japanese-style fried chicken. Coarsely chopped chicken thigh is brined in a soy sauce and ginger marinade, then dredged in potato starch and deep-fried.
Miso soup is a traditional Japanese soup that consists of softened miso paste, diced tofu, seaweed, and scallions.
Omurice is a fluffy omelette that envelopes a bed of tangy fried rice. It is usually topped with ketchup, although some Western-style diners serve it with demi-glace or white sauce.
Yakitori is a Japanese cooking style that involves grilling skewers of meats and vegetables over a charcoal flame.
Udon is a thick wheat flour noodle that is served chilled in the summer and hot in the winter. The simplest form is called kake udon, which is mildly flavored with a dashi, soy sauce, and mirin broth.
Mochi is Japanese rice cake that is made of a short-grain glutinous rice. The rice is pounded into a sticky, chewy paste and shaped into spheres.
Ramen is one of Japan’s most well-known dishes — thin, curly noodles served in fatty chicken or pork broth. Sliced scallions, chashu (pork), and a soft boiled egg are common toppings.
Korokke are Japanese-style croquettes that are rolled in panko breadcrumbs and topped with a Worcestershire-based sauce. Common stuffings include kani (crab meat), and mashed potato.
Ikayaki is baked or grilled squid that is commonly found in izakayas (gastropubs), or at festivals in Japan. The body squid is brushed with a soy sauce glaze and sliced into rings.
Yakiniku means “grilled meat” in Japanese. Diners will cook a few bite-sized pieces of meat and vegetables on a metal griddle.
Soba noodles are made out of buckwheat. A popular and inexpensive fast food item, soba is served in a wide variety of dishes, and is served hot in the winter and cold for the summer.
Onigiri is rice that has been shaped into handy, triangular pyramids. A popular lunch item that’s found in convenience stores, onigiri is filled with various stuffings like salted salmon or umebushi (pickled plum).
Gyoza is the Japanese version of Chinese pot stickers. They are usually smaller than their Chinese counterpart, and have more finely textured fillings and thinner, crispier skin.
Natto consists of fermented soybeans and is an acquired taste thanks to its pungent smell and slimy texture. People in eastern regions like Hokkaido and Kantō eat it for breakfast.
Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake that is typically associated with Osaka or Hiroshima. Toppings and batters vary according to region, but the predominant version includes dashi, eggs, shredded cabbage, and meat.
Kobe beef refers to the Tajima strain of Wagyu cattle. The cows are raised in Japan’s Hyogo prefecture and their meat is prized for its intense marbling and delicate texture.
Tempura is Japanese-style fried anything. Shrimp, broccoli, sweet potato, and eggplant are commonly deep-fried in a light tempura batter.
Tamagoyaki means “grilled egg” and is a type of Japanese omelette that is made of several layers of cooked egg, mixed with dashi and/or sake.
Mentaiko pasta is an Italian-inspired Japanese dish that involves cod or pollack roe. The tiny eggs make a creamy, briny sauce that gets mixed in with spaghetti.
Horumonyaki is a special Japanese cuisine consisting of beef or pork offal, or sweetbreads. Horumon is typically grilled and includes anything from intestines, heart, and pancreas.
Yuba is as traditional dish from the Nikko area, which is just north of Tokyo. The byproduct of tofu, yuba is cut into strips and used in various dishes like udon and sashimi.
Gyūtan is grilled beef tongue. Originating in Sendai, gyūtan is usually served with rice, tail soup, or pickles. In other areas of Japan, the tender meat is served in yakiniku restaurants.
Unagi is freshwater eel that is commonly eaten in a donburi, or rice dish. Sweet tare sauce is brushed on top, and caramelizes when the eel cooks.
Hamachi kama is grilled collar of the yellowtail fish. Juicy and fatty, this dish is usually prepared either boiled or grilled until the skin is crisp.
Fugu is one of the world’s most notorious dishes. A sashimi made from poisonous pufferfish, only certified chefs are legally allowed to prepare it.
Umeboshi is a Japanese pickled plum, and known for its sour and salty taste. Because it aids digestion, it is often served as a side for rice.
Yakisoba is a dish of thin buckwheat noodles that are stir-fried with cabbage, onions, and carrots, and commonly sold in food stalls.
Agedashi tofu is flash-fried silken tofu that is doused in a flavorful tentsuyu broth that is made with dashi, mirin, and shō-yu (Japanese soy sauce).
Chawanmushi means “steamed in a tea bowl.” This egg custard dish is usually eaten alongside a meal, and consists of an egg mixture flavored with soy sauce and mirin.
Oden is a savory, spongy fishcake. Different varieties of oden are stewed with hard boiled eggs and daikon during the winter.
Champon is a regional dish from Nagasaki. Rooted in Chinese cuisine, this noodle dish is made with ramen noodles, stir-fried pork and veggies, and a pork or chicken bone broth.
Taiyaki is a popular street food that consists of a pancake or waffle outer shell filled with a sweet red bean paste. It is generally shaped like a fish.
Curry rice is a Japanese staple. Roux is mixed with meats and vegetables, then poured over rice.
Chanko nabe is a hearty stew that sumo wrestlers commonly eat to gain weight. The bulk of the dish is made up of large amounts of protein simmered in a dashi broth.
Melon pan is a sweet bun that is shaped like a melon and has a crisp cookie dough crust. Despite the name, this dessert isn’t melon flavored.
Sushi is obviously a key element in Japanese cuisine. Seasoned rice is combined with raw seafood like toro (fatty tuna) or sake (salmon). Other toppings include fish roe and tamago (egg).
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