Japanese Foods You Need To Try (That Aren't Sushi!)

There is so much history and unique nuances to Japanese cuisine and we don't want you to miss out on them! So take the leap and go beyond sushi!


Eating fish heads not your thing? Well maybe that will change with this snack! Taiyaki is a typical street vendor snack in Japan that is made from waffle or pancake batter baked in fish shaped molds and filled with different flavours like red bean paste, custard, chocolate or even sweet potato. The specific shape of the fish is actually imitates a specific type of fish referred to as “Tai” which is a Japanese Red Seabream and yaki means “grilled/baked”. So even though they look like fish and their name technically means grilled fish, no actual fish in this one!


Katsu actually refers to the word “cutlet” in Japanese and describes a cut (well, cutlet) of meat cooked in a certain style. Most commonly the cutlet is pork (tonkatsu, ton = pork) or chicken (which the Japanese refer to as torikatsu), filleted or pounded quite thin, which are then seasoned, dredged in flour, then egg and finally coated with panko breadcrumbs and fried. Often the cutlet is served with shredded cabbage, although is most commonly served with katsu sauce, which is a thick brown, almost BBQ-like sauce. Yum!


Onigiri are rice balls either filled with or covered with something savory. Consider it Japan's answer to the sandwich. Although not all are wrapped with seaweed, it is very common and serves a purpose! The rice can be fairly sticky and the seaweed keeps it from sticking to your fingers while you enjoy your onigiri. Various fillings range from pickled plums, salted salmon, bonito flakes with soy sauce, tuna with mayonnaise and more. Easily eaten on-the-go and quite filling, you can find these at practically any supermarket, convenience store or even train station in Japan. Learn how to make them in our Bento Box Cooking Class and you’ll be taking them for lunch or for an on-the-go snack in no time!


Another awesome Japanese street food creation are takoyaki which are small batter balls made with special molds that are filled with octopus pieces. The batter is made with flour, egg and dashi stock (an umami packed stock used in tons of Japanese dishes), then filled with diced octopus, tempura pieces (called tenkasu), scallions and pickled ginger. When served they are usually topped with takoyaki sauce, which is a Worcestershire based sauce with sweet notes, and Japanese mayonnaise (if you haven’t tried Japanese mayonnaise, you really, really need to, like…now!).


Also known as Japanese Pancakes, okonomiyaki consist of pan-fried batter mixed with cabbage and a variety of meats and vegetables. The name “okonomi” translates to “to one’s liking” which reinforces that there is no one particular recipe for this dish. It can be filled with whatever you like! Octopus, pork, shrimp, yams – you pick! There are two styles of preparing okonomiyaki, Kansai or Osaka style (pictured above and the style we make in our cooking class) and Hiroshima style (prepared with noodles and ingredients aren’t all mixed into the batter). Although the preparations can vary, the basic ingredients and topping are similar. Once the “pancake” is flipped and done cooking, okonomiyaki sauce (a Worcestershire based sauce) is painted on with a basting brush, Japanese mayonnaise is striped on top, then shaved smoked bonito flakes are delicately placed on and finally sprinkled with dried seaweed pieces. Chef Yoshimi will help you make yours as Instagram-worthy as hers above!


From being served cold with dipping sauce like soba, tokoroten, hiyamugi, or somen, to being the star in soups and stir-frys like ramen and udon, to adding into dishes for texture like harusame and shirataki– Japanese cuisine has no shortage of noodles. Explore all the wonderful noodles and discover a new favourite.


Ramen is so much more than those instant ramen packs you may have had in college. Originally imported from China, ramen noodle soup, commonly referred to as just “ramen”, has become widely popular, not only in Japan but also internationally. This long thin noodle is made from wheat, giving it a nice chewy texture when cooked. Ramen restaurants, also called ramen-ya, cook their broth from scratch. There are tons of variations of broth types, however, the most traditional are Shoyu (soy sauce), Shio (salt), Miso and Tonkotsu (Pork Bone). The soup is topped off with various things like chashu (slices of braised pork), eggs (hard boiled, soft boiled, raw and even marinated), bean sprouts, green onions, corn, seaweed, and even a pat of butter. So go beyond the flavour packet!


*WARNING* You will have cravings for these. Gyoza are dumplings filled with finely ground pork and a mixture of vegetables such as chives, spring onions, cabbage, ginger, garlic plus soy sauce and sesame oil all wrapped in a thin heavenly dough. There are two main types of cooking gyoza – pan fried (yaki gyoza) and boiled (sui gyoza) and occasionally you’ll find them deep fried (age gyoza). Our favourite style to prepare them is pan fried. They get a beautiful crispy bottom while still being juicy and soft on the tops. Is your mouth watering yet? Chef Yoshimi will have you perfecting these babies in her Dumplings Cooking Class so you can satisfy your cravings anytime you want!


There is debate on whether the name Karaage refers to the actual dish or the specific technique of cooking the dish, but either way it’s delicious. Although you can find new variations popping up, most traditional Karaage is dark chicken thigh meat, marinated in soy sauce and then covered in potato starch before being fried. Served with a lemon wedge, this juicy, crispy, fried goodness is one you seriously need to try.


Many of these Japanese dishes have very literal descriptions of them as their names and donburi is no different. Translating to “bowl” and commonly shorted to be called “don”, donburi are a general term to describe rice bowls with various toppings. So explore all different combinations from pork to tofu and find your don. Don’t know where to start? Check out our Teriyaki Bowls Cooking Class!


Small Japanese sweet dumplings made from rice flour, called mochiko, usually served on a bamboo skewer. You can find many different flavours of dango like green tea and red bean and various varieties including ones covered in syrups or even pastes.


Brought to Japan by the Portuguese, tempura was introduced to Japanese cuisine in the 16th century and has since become one of the most recognized dishes/ preparations associated with Japanese food. The key to tempura is the freshly prepared batter with ice-cold water. There are many more modern variations that incorporate soda water, baking soda, and even corn starch, although, traditionally the batter consists of ice-cold water, flour and egg yolks. The batter is left slight lumpy with lots of air bubbles which helps give tempura is crispy texture when fried. Shrimp, pumpkin, fish, mushrooms, yams, eggplant… the list goes on for what can be cooked in tempura…but, we’re getting hungry.


Japanese Cooking Classes

Video conference Chef Yoshimi into your home. She'll teach you how to cook traditional Japanese dishes (like some of the amazing ones in this list!) live from her home in Tokyo, Japan - in a private cooking class.

Japanese Cooking Classes >

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