A Guide to Japanese Food and Recipes

10. August 2023

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Japanese food has become so popular in the UK in recent years thanks to the rise of Japanese restaurants and better availability of key Japanese ingredients like miso, dashi and mirin in supermarkets.

You can easily prepare your own homemade Japanese food, whether you choose traditional and authentic recipes like Nigiri Sushi & Vegetarian Temaki sushi, or prefer to try out some more modern twists inspired by Japanese cuisine, such as Salmon Poke Bowls and this fusion-style Teriyaki Chicken Bento Box.

In fact, there are so many wonderful Japanese dishes to explore (see our recipe collections at the end of this post!)… but it can be daunting knowing where to begin. So to help get you started, here’s our pick of some of the best dishes to come from Japan that are super simple for you to make at home:

Japanese Curries

Japanese curries are a bit different as they’re made with mild ready-prepared curry powder and have a rich umami flavour, whereas Indian curries tend to have many different individual spices and are often hotter.

The most famous Japanese curry in the West is Katsu Curry, made with breaded pork or chicken (like a schnitzel) served with a mildly spiced sweet & salty sauce and sticky rice. It’s very popular in Japanese restaurants with all ages and a great dish to try at home as it’s not complicated to make. Or try this Japanese style Chicken Curry recipe, made with mostly store cupboard ingredients and fruity apples. Delicious!

Japanese Izakaya food

An izakaya is an informal Japanese bar where you can enjoy some drinks and snacks after work with colleagues or when socialising with a group of friends. Typically, the food comes out as small plates, like tapas, for sharing with the table. It’s a really fun way to eat.

Along with edamame, fried seafood, salads, sushi and hot pots, you’ll often find Japanese grilled chicken skewers called Yakitori on the menu. These are always served with salt or a sweet thickened sauce called tare. This classic recipe for Negima Yakitori (chicken thigh and spring onion skewers) is hard to beat.

Another well-known Japanese chicken dish served in izakaya is Karaage. Chicken thigh is marinated then coated in cornflour and deep-fried until crisp. Unsurprisingly it goes very well with beer! We’ve given the traditional snack an update in this Karaage Tacos with Citrus Mayo recipe.

Japanese street food

Street food is a big deal in Japanese culture, it’s especially served at festivals and events and in city hotspots around the country.

One of the most popular Japanese street food dishes is Okonomiyaki – a savoury snack that’s a cross between a pancake and omelette. Depending on the region, they’re filled with meat, tofu, seafood or vegetables, plus various toppings e.g. mayonnaise, dried seaweed and bonito flakes and a special okonomiyaki sauce. This simple vegetarian okonomiyaki street food recipe is made with cabbage.

Katsu sando is another great Japanese street food. Essentially, it’s a sandwich stuffed with a thick slice of fried breaded meat, raw cabbage and a Japanese BBQ sauce.This Japanese beef version of Katsu Sando is best made with fillet steak, though you could use pork tenderloin instead.

Other Popular Japanese Foods

For more information about other popular types of Japanese food read our guides to:

  • Sushi – the most popular Japanese sushi recipes and how to make sushi rice
  • Tempura – Japanese crispy battered vegetables and seafood recipes and how to make tempura batter
  • Gyoza – authentic Japanese fried and steamed dumpling recipes, including vegetarian gyoza
  • Ramen - the different styles of Japanese ramen noodle soup and recipes
  • How to Cook Rice and How to Cook Sushi Rice – a daily staple of Japanese cuisine, our guides tell you how to cook rice and sushi rice perfectly every time
  • What is Umami – learn why umami is so important in Japanese cuisine, especially when it comes to ingredients like Kikkoman Soy Sauce

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