Unraveling the intriguing flavours of Japan

Here are 10 foods you simply have 
to try when you make your way to the Land of the Rising Sun

By Kushmita Bose

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Tasty sukiyaki Japanese cuisine.
Tasty sukiyaki Japanese cuisine.

Published: Mon 11 Dec 2023, 1:12 PM

Japanese cuisine is celebrated worldwide for its artful presentation, delicate flavours, and the meticulous attention to detail in every dish. Beyond sushi and ramen, Japan boasts a diverse culinary landscape with a myriad of unique and intriguing dishes. So, whether you're an adventurous eater or simply curious about the world of Japanese cuisine, these dishes offer a glimpse into the vast and extraordinary world of Japanese gastronomy.


Often referred to as a Japanese savory pancake, okonomiyaki is a versatile and customisable dish that originated in Osaka. The word "okonomi" means "what you like" or "what you want," emphasising the dish's flexibility. The batter is made from flour, grated yam, shredded cabbage, and various ingredients like meat, seafood, or cheese. It is cooked on a griddle and topped with mayonnaise, okonomiyaki sauce, seaweed flakes, and bonito flakes, resulting in a delicious and visually appealing creation.


Natto is a polarising dish made from fermented soybeans and is renowned for its distinct aroma and sticky texture. This dish is an acquired taste, with its pungent scent and gooey consistency. Typically eaten with rice, natto is often garnished with mustard, soy sauce, and chopped green onions. Rich in probiotics, natto is praised for its potential health benefits and is a staple in Japanese breakfast cuisine.

Sushi on a black wooden surface
Sushi on a black wooden surface


The Japanese beef-and-rice bowl, gyudon, is a classic Japanese fast food that’s both comforting and hearty. Consisting of thin slices of beef, tender and sweet onions, and a garnish of bright-tasting benishoga (pickled red ginger) all atop a bowl of steamed white rice, gyudon is a crowd-pleaser. Gyudon is just one of many types of Japanese rice bowl dishes, aka donburi.


This Japanese hot pot dish is ideal for social dining, with raw beef, noodles, and vegetables cooked at your table in a shallow iron pot of boiling broth made from soy sauce, sugar, and a type of rice wine for cooking called mirin. The thin strips of beef are usually dipped in raw, beaten egg after cooking.

Japanese style lamb barbecue
Japanese style lamb barbecue


A beloved variety of Japanese street food is the delectable grilled squid known as ikayaki. This culinary delight features different squid types and sizes, with presentation styles ranging from chopped squid rings to skewered whole pieces.  Typically accompanied by soy or teriyaki sauce, or a traditional Japanese marinade comprising rice wine, miso paste, ginger, and soy sauce, the squids are swiftly prepared on the grill, resulting in a tender and plump texture.


Tekkadon is a simple Japanese dish that consists of steamed, vinegar-flavored rice that is topped with pieces of sashimi-style, raw tuna. Typically adorned with nori seaweed strips and sliced scallions, the dish is commonly served alongside a side of soy sauce. Tekkadon belongs to the group of donburi dishes, and it can be enjoyed as a light main course.

Tekkadon Bowl
Tekkadon Bowl

Onsen Tamago

Onsen tamago, a traditional Japanese dish, involves the slow-cooking of eggs in baskets submerged in the soothing waters of onsen hot springs. The key to this culinary delight lies in the precise temperature of the hot springs, imparting a creamy and flavorful interior to the eggs. It is recommended to garnish the dish with finely chopped spring onions on top.


Yakitori refers to Japanese grilled chicken where pieces of chicken meat are skewered with a particular type of skewer called kushi (which can be made from either steel or bamboo) and are then traditionally grilled over a charcoal fire. An important step in the making of yakitori is the seasoning, either salty or salty-sweet, which can be done during or after grilling.


Jingisukan is a Hokkaido-specialty consisting of grilled mutton or lamb. The dish is always prepared tableside on the convex-shaped grills. The guests are served with sliced meat, which can be plain or marinated, and are then encouraged to grill the meat themselves, along with various vegetables such as onions, cabbage, leeks, or peppers. Typical accompaniments include special soy sauce-based condiments, chili sauce or grated garlic.

Agedashi Tofu

Frequently enjoyed as a side dish or appetiser, agedashidofu is a popular dish featuring deep-fried tofu, typically accompanied by tentsuyu dipping sauce made with dashi, soy sauce, and mirin. Although it is easy to prepare, one can find agedashidofu in almost every Japanese restaurant. The dish is commonly topped with chopped negi spring onions, grated daikon, or dried bonito fish flakes.

— kushmita@khaleejtimes.com

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