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Quick and Simple Guide to 8 Popular Japanese Foods

Updated on September 24, 2012
Katsudon | Source
Sushi | Source

Japanese foods are arguably one of the most popular foods in the world.

Foreign people love Japanese foods for their proven health benefits and demonstrated ability to promote long life.

They also take delight in the distinct flavors of Japanese foods and have come to label them as genuinely Asian.

Japanese people themselves love their local delicacies.

In Japan, people go to Hokkaido in the northern part of the country for the seafoods, to Osaka for the okonomiyaki, and eat in the ubiquitous ramen shops all over the country almost any time of the day.

Below is a list of the most popular foods from Japan, a quick and simple guide to help people know what to expect from their plate of Japanese cuisine.

Note though that the original Japanese versions of these foods may be far different from the “Japanese” foods that you can order in a restaurant near you.

It’s because foreign countries would often tweak the taste of Japanese foods just so they can suit the palates of their locals.

1. Sushi

Perhaps the superstar among the well-known Japanese foods is the famous sushi, a viand consisting of shari, neta, and sometimes nori.

Shari is vinegared rice while neta is the ingredient that comes with shari. Nori is sometimes used to wrap shari and neta together. It is a kind of black seaweed wrapper.

Sushi is such as feast for the eyes. They come in various cuts, presentations, ingredients, and colors. They can be served in small plates for individual consumption or in trays for parties.

Some of the most popular kinds of sushi include:

  • chirashizushi = sushi rice topped with sashimi and other garnishes
  • inarizushi = sushi rice in a small, fried, tofu pouch
  • makizushi = sushi rice formed into a roll, filled with fish and vegetables, and wrapped in nori
  • nigirizushi = sushi rice formed into short, finger shapes, topped with raw fish or shellfish, and flavored with wasabi or Japanese horseradish
  • temakizushi = sushi rice spread in a rectangular nori, formed into a cone, and filled with seafoods and vegetables

2. Sashimi

Frequently confused with sushi is another popular Japanese delicacy called sashimi, thinly sliced strips of raw meat.

Unlike sushi, however, sashimi can be eaten on its own or together with a separate bowl of rice and/or miso soup.

Some of the most common ingredients of sashimi in Japan include:

  • tuna = maguro
  • fatty tuna = toro
  • shrimp = ebi
  • octopus = tako
  • squid = ika

Many Japanese also eat basashi or raw horse meat. They also eat whale meat or gei-niku.

3. Tempura

A popular Japanese food among Westerners is tempura, deep-fried seafood or vegetables often dipped in sauce and daikon or Japanese radish.

Tempura can be eaten on its own or it can be served with rice – tendon – or Japanese noodles like udon or soba.

Some of the common ingredients that can be cooked into tempura include:

  • prawn
  • shrimp
  • squid
  • scallop
  • fish
  • mushroom
  • potato
  • carrot

4. Yakitori

Yakitori is one Japanese food that comes close to the Western-style barbecue. It refers to grilled and skewered chicken but can refer to any poultry or non-poultry foods that are grilled.

Yakitori is flavored in either salt or tare sauce or grilling sauce, and then skewered in bamboo sticks before being grilled until cooked.

Some of the foods used in yakitori include:

  • toriniku = any white meat
  • kawa = chicken skin
  • gyutan = beef tongue
  • shiro =small intestines of chicken
  • butabara = pork belly

5. Yakiniku

Not to be confused with yakitori is yakiniku, grilled dish that can also look like barbecue.

Yakiniku has small, bite-sized meat and vegetables grilled over flames of charcoal.

Some of the ingredients used for yakiniku are:

  • chicken
  • seafoods
  • vegetables
  • beef
  • pork
  • offal

6. Shabu-Shabu

A winter dish that Japanese people love eating throughout the year is shabu-shabu, a variant of the world-renowned hot pot.

Shabu-shabu is made of thinly sliced meat and vegetables cooked in hot pot. It is dipped in sauces like sesame seed sauce or eaten with steamed rice.

It is said to be more savory than a similar hot pot dish called sukiyaki.

7. Sukiyaki

Similar to shabu-shabu but sweeter in taste is sukiyaki, a wintertime Japanese food that has become a staple in Japanese year-end parties called bonenkai.

Sukiyaki is prepared in a nabe or cooking pot, then made into a stew of vegetables, beef, tofu and noodles.

The stew is flavored with soy sauce, sugar, and mirin or sweet sake used for cooking.

8. Domburimono

Often eaten with miso soup and pickles is a staple Japanese lunch called domburimono, a bowl of rice topped with various ingredients.

The toppings on the rice or domburi may include:

  • beef = gyudon
  • chicken and egg = oyakodon
  • fried shrimp = tendon
  • fried pork and egg = katsudon

Copyright © 2011 Kerlyn Bautista

All Rights Reserved

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    • kerlynb profile image

      kerlynb 6 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      @tirelesstraveler Hi there! Thanks for dropping by my hub. LOL :D Yeah, too many slices of raw fish here! Like yakitori too, especially when it's sprinkled with sesame seeds :)

    • kerlynb profile image

      kerlynb 6 years ago from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^

      @anjperez Hi kabayan!

      Tell me about it. Christmas is just so big for us Pinoys. Would really like to try out international cuisine for Christmas but my folks are so Filipino at heart, they would always look for crema de fruta, Pinoy spaghetti, leche flan, ham, the like :D

      Sukiyaki is a bit easy to prepare and its a little sweet, too. You may want to try it out :)

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 6 years ago from California

      Japanese food is wonderful. I love Yakitori,and Sushi, but not Sashemi. One too many pictures of raw fish in this hub for my pleasure. None the less, it is still a wonderful hub.

    • anjperez profile image

      anjperez 6 years ago

      kelynb, seeing this hub made me really excited for Christmas! because, only during this time that we can spend a little extra to make the occasion special. and every year, i try to cook / prepare new dishes. last year i did chinese and korean. maybe i'll try japanese this time. the easiest i can prep is the tempura. sashimi is also locally available so that would not be a problem. some ingredients i will have to look for in the supermarket. but i am sure they would have it. very inspiring hub...!