Japanese Food Near Me | 14 Must-Try Traditional Japanese Dishes

Japanese Food Near Me: Japan is famous for its wonderful and unique cuisine. But when we think about Japanese food, the first thing that comes to mind is fish and rice. 

When you go to Japan, be sure to eat these 10 traditional Japanese dishes. In this article, find out what to dine on to enjoy Japan’s rich washoku food culture fully, from sushi to miso soup, unagi eel, tempura, soba, udon, and rice balls.

japanese food near me

Unique and beguiling, Japan is a country of binaries. It straddles both the traditional and ultra-modern, with buzzing cities alongside stunning natural landscapes.

As well as revolutionizing our cars, computers, and cartoon characters; Japan has also broadened our culinary knowledge with the introduction of its delicious and highly unique cuisine.

Its food is famously nutritious, with a diet based around super-fresh, seasonal products. We’ve picked the 14 Best Japanese Food Near Me to seek out when visiting. 

14 Best Japanese Food Near Me

Here’s the list of the top 10 dishes you need to try when you’re traveling in Japan. Sushi being an obvious one, but there are so many other delicious dishes you need to taste while you’re here.

1. Sushi & Sashimi

Let’s start with the food item that most of us associates Japan with Sushi and Sashimi.

Sushi is known all over the world and is unique in its creation because every piece of rice is seasoned with a rice vinegar mix (made with sugar and salt) and then mixed with different ingredients such as a variety of seafood, vegetables, and nori (seaweed).

You can just grab a piece of sushi with chopsticks and dip it into soy sauce or wasabi, or both. It is truly a mix of flavors in your mouth!

Depending on the shape and ingredients that are used, sushi can be called different names: Nigiri sushi, Maki sushi, Oshi sushi, Temaki sushi, etc.

 

2. Teishoku – a set meal

Set meals are very popular, particularly at lunchtime, and most restaurants offer set meals of some kind. Typically, a set meal includes rice, pickles, soup, and the main dish of fish, seafood, vegetables, or meat.

With lots of food and cheap prices, the teishoku dining option is a great introduction to everyday Japanese food.

Some of the better restaurants offer kaiseki – a traditional Japanese tasting menu. The preparation of kaiseki is considered an art form requiring a careful balance of taste, texture, appearance, and color, using only fresh seasonal ingredients

3. Udon

One of the three main noodle varieties eaten in Japan; udon noodles are thick, chewy, and traditionally made from wheat flour and brine water.

Udon can be served in a number of different ways (mixed into stir-fries, added to hot pots, served cold with a tsuyu or tentsuyu soup base on the side for dipping), but are most commonly used in noodle soups, where they are served in a savory soup broth with different garnishes.

Some of the most common udon noodle soup dishes include kitsune udon (‘fox udon’, topped with aburaage fried tofu), tempura udon (topped with tempura battered seafood and vegetables), and chikara udon (‘power udon’, topped with grilled mochi rice cakes).

4. Tempura

Crispy, tasty, somewhat healthy, and cheap, tempura is one of the most popular dishes in Japan.

Your choice of prawns, fish, squid, vegetables, or tofu is lightly battered and quickly deep-fried to prevent the loss of nutritious vitamins and minerals. Tempura may be served on its own, but is often presented on top of noodles or rice, with a variety of dipping sauces.

 

5. Ramen

Ramen (egg noodles in a salty broth) is Japan’s favorite late-night meal. It’s also the perfect example of an imported dish – in this case from China – that the Japanese have made completely and deliciously their own.

There are four major soup styles: tonkotsu (pork bone), miso, soy sauce, and salt. Fukuoka is particularly famous for its rich tonkotsu ramen while pungent miso ramen is a specialty of Hokkaido. 

6. Unagi – Grilled Eel

Unagi, or eel, is a fish known to be found mainly in rivers. In Japan, it is a delicacy typical in high-class Japanese dining. There are also many casual restaurants that specialize in unagi dishes.

At unagi restaurants, you will be able to enjoy kabayaki, where the unagi is put on skewers and grilled with a special sauce containing soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and sake. 

Unadon, a dish of kabayaki on top of white rice, is also offered at these establishments.

7. Tofu

Although tofu is mainly thought of in Western countries as healthy food or vegetarian alternative, in Southeast Asian countries like Japan, tofu (particularly silken tofu) is enjoyed by everybody and is a common part of the traditional diet.

To answer the question ‘what is tofu?’, it is soy milk that has been coagulated, with the resulting curds being pressed into blocks.

These blocks come in differing levels of firmness and can be eaten uncooked (perhaps with a couple of savory garnishes), boiled in hot pots, or fried into tasty pieces of aburaage and used as a garnish.

8. Yakitori

While some of us might pick up a serving of chips or a hot dog during a sports match, the Japanese will pick up some yakitori.

With a name literally meaning ‘barbecued chicken’, yakitori are small skewers of bite-sized chicken pieces seasoned with salt or brushed with a sauce, or tare, of mirin rice wine, soy sauce, sake alcohol, and sugar.

There are many different types of yakitori, but the most common varieties are momo (chicken thigh), negima (chicken and spring onion), and tsukune (chicken meatballs).

9. Donburi

This rice bowl dish is almost as popular as ramen in Japan and a common lunchtime choice among busy Japanese workers. Donburi is made by preparing (normally by simmering or frying) various meat, fish, and vegetables and serving over steamed rice in large bowls (also called ‘donburi’).

While donburi can be made using just about any assortment of ingredients, the most common types include oyakodon (simmered chicken, egg, and green onion), gyudon (sliced beef and onion simmered in a soy sauce soup base), tendon (fried tempura pieces drizzled in tsuyu), and katsudon (breaded and deep-fried pork cutlets, or tonkatsu, simmered in tsuyu with onion and egg).

10. Tamagoyaki

A versatile delicacy that can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, tamagoyaki (which literally means ‘cooked egg’) is a Japanese omelet made by sequentially cooking and rolling up several layers of beaten egg (sometimes seasoned with soy sauce and/or sugar).

A freshly cooked tamagoyaki looks like a rolled-up crêpe, which can then be sliced up and eaten by itself (often this is how it is eaten at breakfast) or used as a topping or filling in sushi.

Tamagoyaki-topped nigiri sushi is often eaten in sushi bars as the final course, as the tamagoyaki has a slight sweetness that makes it almost dessert-like.

11. Soba

Otherwise known as ‘buckwheat noodles’ (‘soba’ is the Japanese word for ‘buckwheat’), soba is one of the three main varieties of noodles most frequently eaten in Japan.

Unlike udon and ramen; soba noodles are made partially, if not entirely, from buckwheat flour. This gives them a distinctly earthy and slightly nutty flavor that works well with stronger flavors like garlic and sesame.

Soba can be served hot in soups with toppings of spring onions, agetama tempura flakes, kamaboko fish cakes, and/or grilled mochi), or cold with a side of tsuyu and garnishes of green onions, shredded nori seaweed, and wasabi.

12. Kashipan

The Japanese love a good bread roll as much as the next person, and bakeries line Japan’s city streets with almost as much regularity as ramen bars.

The word ‘kashipan’ means ‘sweet bread’, and it refers to a range of single-serve bread buns that were originally invented in Japan. Among the most popular of these are melon pan (a bread bun with a cookie dough top), an pan (a bread bun filled with an or anko; a sweet red bean paste), and karee pan or kare pan (a bread bun filled with curry sauce, covered in panko breadcrumbs, and deep-fried).

Kashipan is a must-try for bread lovers in particular.

13. Miso Soup

Few Japanese dishes are consumed more often or more consistently than miso soup. Made from a combination of miso paste (traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans) and dashi broth, miso soup is served as a side dish with traditional

Japanese-style breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. The complex savory flavors of the soup help to enhance the umami of the main dishes with which it is served.

To give the miso soup a little more body, several complementary toppings are normally added to it, such as green onion, wakame seaweed, and firm tofu.

14. Curry Rice

Known in Japanese as kare or kare raisu, Japanese curry is a yoshoku dish that was originally introduced to the Japanese by the British during the Meiji era (1868-1912).

Japanese curry differs from the Indian varieties with which the UK is more familiar, in that it is generally sweeter in flavor, thicker in texture, and prepared more like a stew (with meat and vegetables being cooked by boiling in the water together).

Japanese curry is often prepared in Japanese homes with the help of curry roux; blocks of solidified Japanese curry paste that melt into the ‘stew’ and thicken up to become a flavorsome curry sauce.

Being an island nation, the Japanese diet is heavily influenced by seafood and offers great variety through the use of seasonal ingredients.

Always artfully presented, a product of centuries of history, Japanese cuisine is a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. The best part is that each dish, more often than not, has its own regional twist. This means that once you find a dish you like, you can try it in a different region for a delicious spin on what you tasted originally.

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