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Representative dishes of Japanese cooking


SashimiSashimi is sliced raw fish, and it is the star of Japanese cooking.
It is certainly served at the dinner of ryokan or minshuku, and we can find it as one of main dishes at most Japanese pubs.

You may think that Japanese people eat raw fish with fishy odor in whole.
But it is a mistaken perception.
For sashimi, most tasty flesh of a fresh fish is carved out, and it is sliced finely. And it is beautiflully arranged on a plate.

Maguro (tuna) is the most popular ingredient of sashimi.
Bright red flesh is called "akami", and it is the common-served part of maguro.
Sometimes pink and marbled flesh are served. It is called "toro" and is most fatty part of maguro. It is expensive.
They are never fishy, and we feel slightly sweet.

Many kinds of fish are eaten as sashimi.
We often find buri (alias name is "hamachi"), tai, hirame, ika, ebi, uni, hotate-gai and so on. Of course, other kinds of fish are found at each season and country.

Grating wasabi When we eat sashimi, we dip in shoyu and eat with grated wasabi as spice.
Wasabi is Japanese horseradish.
Grated wasabi has light green color, and is the spice to irritate to the nose.
So you should put little wasabi on a piece of sashimi.
Or, mixing moderate amounts of wasabi to shoyu is one of the method to eat sashimi.

In many cases, a lump of grated wasabi is put on a side of sashimi dish.
Some ryokan or restaurants give a raw wasabi and a grater to the guest, and the guest grate it according to his/her taste.
It is the consideration to the guest to enjoy the fresh flavor of wasabi.
(Wasabi is a delicate plant, so standard home uses the processed product.)

On the other hand, when the sashimi of fugu (pufferfish), ponzu (shoyu and vinegar) is served insted of shoyu and wasabi.

Generally finely-filamented raw daikon or ooba are added by the sashimi, and of course you can eat them.

Maguro (Tuna) Hamachi (Yellowtail) Tai (Red sea bream)
Ika (Squid) Fugu (Pufferfish) Decorated sashimi dish for group guests

Boiled dishes

Some ingredients are put in the soup of dashi, shoyu and mirin, and are boiled.
The ingredients sopped the tasty soup become soft, and the taste is salty-sweet.
Various vegitables, fish and other foods are used, but the method of cooking is simple.
So this is traditional home cooking.
The combinations of ingredients are without number, and followings are some of the most popular dishes.


Rotus root, burdock root, carrot, bamboo shoot, Japanese yam, shiitake mashuroom, kon'nyaku and chicken are boiled in the soup.
Many root vagitables are used and it has a hard texture.


Nikujaga means "meat and potato".
It is the dish that sliced beef, potato and onion are boiled in the soup.
It was first made by chefs of the Imperial Japanese Navy in the late of 19th, and it is one of most beloved dishes now in Japan.


Oden is the dish that daikon, kon'nyaku, boiled egg and a lot of foods processed fish are stewed in the soup of dashi and shoyu.
Generally it is made in large volume in a big pot, and is continued to stew.
Therefore, we have more chances to eat them at Japanese pubs or stalls rather than home.
And because it is popular in cold season, most convenience stores also sell them in such season.

In most cases, we can order the ingredients of oden which we want to eat.
So they are picked up from a big pot to a plate and served.
Generally we eat them with Japanese mustard which is yellow and very sharp.

Chikuzen-ni Nikujaga Oden

Broiled dishes

Originally there wasn't frying pan as cooking device in Japan. So when they wanted to heat foods directly, they broiled them.
Then many broiled dishes are found in Japanese cooking.

Broiled fish

Cooks sprinkle salt on a gutted fish, and they broil it directly.

The broiled fish has original feature and is lying on a plate. We Japanese eat it breaking into flakes with chopsticks and leave only the skeleton.
This is the method for the smaller fish than about 20 cm in length.
Sanma, ayu, tai and so on are popular fish.

Big fish are cooked by filleting. Most fillets are with skin.
Salmon, cod, buri, sawara and other many fish are popular.


Teriyaki is a word of cooking technique.
Ingredient is broiled with brushing with sweet shoyu mixed mirin or sugar.
The sugar give the ingredient luster and viscosity, so that's called "teri" in Japanese.
Most popular ingredients are buri of fish and chicken.


Yakitori is a Japanese type of skewered chicken.
Some bite-sized pieces of chicken meat or offal are skewered on a bamboo, and they are broiled.
Commonly we have a choice of seasonings either simple salt or teriyaki sauce every skewer.
Yakitori is most popular dish in Japanese-style pubs.

Kabayaki eel

Kabayaki is also a word of cooking technique.
Fish is filleted, boned and dipped in sweet shoyu mixed mirin or sugar before broiled on a grill.
Generally kabayaki refers to the dish made with eel.
The kabayaki eel is usually served with itself topped on rice. We can eat it at eel restaurant.

Broiled salmon Broiled sanma Broiled ayu
Teriyake of buri Yakitori Kabayaki eel

Nabemono (One-pot dish cooked at the table)

"Nabe" means "cooking pot" and "mono" means "kinds".
A portable stove is set on the center of table.
A pot is put on it, and various ingredients are stewed in the pot.
You pick some favorite foods from the pot to your plate, and eat them.
Very hot foods are eaten around the heated pot, so most nabemono dishes are usually served in the cold season.

Eating together from a shared pot is an important feature of nabemono.
We believe that eating from one pot makes for closer relationships of the members.

In ryokan or minshuku, the meals are servered individually.
So when a nabemono is served in there, a small pot and a stove are set on each individual table.


"Yosenabe" is most popular nabemono, and it means "one-pot dish cooked various ingredients together".
Generally an earthen pot is used for Yosenabe.
Tofu, a few kinds of seafoods, some kinds of vegitables (Hakusai, shungiku, green onion etc. are popular.) and mashrooms are cooked together in the pot. In advance, water and a piece of dried konbu for dashi are put in the pot.
You eat picked ingredients from the pot after dipping in the sauce besed on shoyu.
Also it is common that the ingredients are stewed in the seasoned soup with shoyu or miso.

After all ingredients are eaten up, very tasty soup is left in the pot.
We often put boiled rice into this soup and make "zousui" like risotto with boiling them.
We also feel happy when we eat zousui after we have enjoyed the Yosenabe.


"Sukiyaki" is one of most famous Japanese dishes well-known in the world.
When making sukiyaki, a shallow iron pot is used.
Generally, it is made by stewing sliced beef, yakidofu, shirataki, green onion, shiitake mashroom etc. in the soup of dashi, shoyu and sugar.
The ingredients are usually dipped in a small bowl of raw, beaten eggs, when we eat the ingredients.


"Shabu-shabu" is the dish that the diner soaks a thinly-sliced meat in boiling water in a pot with chopsticks for a moment and eats after dipping in favorite sauces.
The sauces are usually used "ponzu" (mixed juice of Japanese citrus fruits to shoyu and mirin), or "goma-dare" (mixed sesami paste to shoyu and mirin).
As the ingredients, vegitables and tofu are preparated in addition to meat.
beef or pork is used as the popular ingredient, but we can find the restaurants which serve the shabushabu of crab, chicken or lamb.


"Yudofu" means "tofu in boiled water", and is the dish that only tofu is boiled in a pot in which water and dried konbu for dashi are put.
We eat picked boiled tofu with dipping in the sauce besed on shoyu.
Many restaurans of yudofu are found in Kyoto.

Raw egg is a sauce of Sukiyaki.
Ponzu sauce for Shabu-shabu
Boiling Yudofu

Fried dishes

Japanese dishes basically are cooked without oil.
But there are some exceptional dishes made by frying ingredients in deep oil.
They aren't original Japanese dishes.
Western or Chinese people made their dishes in Japan, and Japanese cooks learned and suited them to Japanese taste.


"Tenpura" is one of the most famous Japanese dishes, and is fried lightly-battered seafoods or vegitables in deep oil.
It was introduced by Christian missionaries in the 16th century.
It was like fritter at the time, but it had changed to lightly-battered dish today.
A light batter is made of cold water, wheat flour and eggs. And it takes a certain amount of skill for the cookto make tenpura well.
Generally, it is served with "tentsuyu" (sauce mixed dashi and shoyu) and grated daikon.
You dip tenpura in the tentsuyu mixed grated daikon and eat.


"Tonkatsu" is the Japanese version of western pork cutlet, and it was invented by a restaurant in Tokyo in the late 19th century.
It is unique that a thick-cut pork fillet ("hire" in Japanese) or pork loin ("roosu" in Japanese) coated with flour, egg and breadcrumbs is fried in deep and low-temperature oil for about 10 minutes.
It is commonly eaten with sosu (Japanese Worcestershire sauce) for tonkatsu and often a bit of Japanese mustard.
And certainly heaped cabbages cut into strips are served with tonkatsu.


"Kara" means "old China", and "age" means" fried cooking".
It is thought that the soldiers back from China after losing in the World War II spread in Japan.
The kara-age of chicken is most popular, and it is made by flouring soy-flavored chicken and frying it in deep oil.

Tenpura Tonkatsu Kara-age


"Donburi" means "bowl".
Donburi dishes are that cooked ingredients are put over rice in a bowl. So we can eat main dish and rice together.
Because they are very convenient dishes, we eat donburi as lunch or the meal when we don't have enough time to enjoy our meal.
So there are many fast-food restaurants for donburi dish in any city.
Of course, there are various varieties of donburi dishes. The following dishes are the popular dishes.
As you can see, "don" at the end of the name comes from "donburi".


"Oyakodon" is the dish that chicken, egg, onion, and other ingredients are all simmered together in a sauce of dashi, shoyu and mirin and then served on top of rice in a donburi.
"Oyako" means "parent and child", and it comes from using chicken and egg as main ingredients.


"Gyudon" is the dish that sliced beef, onion, and other ingredients are all simmered together in a sauce of dashi, shoyu and mirin and then served on top of rice in a donburi.
It is often called "beef bowl" in English.
In Japan, it can be found in many Japanese restaurants and some fast food chains specialize exclusively in the dish.
Yoshinoya is the largest chain in the industry and has many restaurants overseas.

Yoshinoya USA : The pages of Japanese restaurants are in Japanese.


"Tendon" is the dish that some tempuras are put on the top of rice.
Generally main ingredients of tempura are one or two prawns and a few vegitables.


"Katsudon" is the donburi that Tonkatsu (Japanese pork cutlet) is put on rice.
To season, the tonkatsu is simmered with egg and sliced onion in a sauce of dashi, shoyu and mirin.
"Katsu" has the same sound as the word for "win" in Japanese, so students taking an entrance exam and athletes somtimes eat it before their fights.

Unadon, Unajuu

"Una" is abbreviation of unagi which means eel, so unadon is the donburi which kabayaki eel is put on the top of rice.
Also Unajuu is the same dish, but it is served in not a donburi but a lacquer box.
Generally, Unajuu is a little more expensive than Unadon.
These are the common style to eat kabayaki eel.


"Magurodon" is the dish that some pieces of thin sliced raw maguro (tuna) are put on the top of rice.
It is sometimes called "Tekkadon".
In short, sashimi of maguro is on rice. So it is eaten by pouring a little shoyu with grated wasabi on the maguro in general.

Oyakodon Gyudon Tendon
Katsudon Unajuu Magurodon

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