Have you ever tried Japanese cuisine? It is truly one of the richest and most diverse cuisines out there. The combination of local and international foods makes for an incredible taste experience.
The different flavors of Japan make Japanese cuisine so unique and enticing.
When we think of Japanese food, sushi is usually the first thing that comes to mind. No wonder, after all, this dish has caused a worldwide sensation in recent years.
But let’s face it: if you’ve only tried sushi outside of Japan, you’re definitely missing out! Because nowhere does it taste as authentic and delicious as right on the spot.
But sushi is by no means the only highlight of Japanese cuisine. What do you say to sashimi, ramen, miso soup, gyoza, yakitori, tempura or okonomiyaki? These dishes have also long been known beyond the borders of Japan and enjoy great popularity.
But between you and me, a trip to Japan is simply a must for any foodie who is passionate about Japanese cuisine. Here you can experience the variety and quality of Japanese dishes up close and be enchanted by the culinary art of the Japanese.
I was really really impressed by the variety of delicious dishes.
In this video we visited for example the Ramen museum in Yokohama, just South of Tokyo:
You should definitely try the lesser known Japanese dishes.
For all fish fans there is Takoyaki and Saba Daikon, while meat lovers will get their money’s worth with Kara-age and Kakuni.
But don’t worry, there are plenty of delicious options for vegetarians and vegans to discover in Japan as well.
What makes Japanese cuisine so special?
You’ve probably heard of Japanese cuisine and maybe even tried a dish or two. But what makes Japanese cuisine so special?
The dishes are often full of fish and are super healthy because they contain little fat.
This has a historical background: in the past, people in Japan were forbidden to eat meat and slaughter animals for over a thousand years. Therefore, they specialized in fish and seafood and developed their recipes and tastes in a low-fat direction.
But there are many more factors that contribute to making Japanese cuisine special. One is the variety of ingredients and the way they are prepared.
In Japan, it’s common to enjoy many small dishes in one day. Great importance is placed on the quality and freshness of the ingredients, which usually consist of rice, vegetables, fish and meat.
Preparation is traditionally minimalist and some is even served raw to preserve the valuable nutrients.
An important aspect of Japanese cuisine is to emphasize the intrinsic flavor of the ingredients. Therefore, seasonal and local ingredients are preferred, which is also in line with the current trend towards more sustainability in food.
In Japanese cuisine, everything revolves around the product. Even with inexpensive dishes, great care and quality are taken.
But aesthetics also play a major role. The presentation of the dishes is often artistic and aesthetically pleasing.
Another important factor is the culture and tradition rooted in Japanese cuisine. Many dishes have a long history and are closely associated with Japanese culture. All these factors make Japanese cuisine a unique experience for the senses.
Typical ingredients that have shaped the culinary landscape of Japan are rice and soy products such as soy sauce, miso and tofu.
But locally grown vegetables and fruits also play an important role. Fresh and regional products are a must! It is worth discovering regional specialties and trying them out in each prefecture.
The traditional Japanese diet is also low in fat and therefore particularly healthy – perfect for a trip to Japan!
Related read: Eating at Japanese Restaurants: What you Need to Know
Cook Japanese dishes yourself
Be enchanted by the diversity of Japanese cuisine and be sure to try yasai itame, gyozas, yakitori or yakisoba. There are so many delicious dishes that you can prepare yourself.
No wonder Japanese cuisine was named a UNESCO Intangible World Heritage Site in 2013. The typical dishes are not only low in fat, but also gently prepared and full of flavor.
What makes them special is that each dish is supposed to combine all five flavors (sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami).
For the preparation you need typical ingredients like rice, fish, seafood, vegetables, tofu and seaweed. Seasoning is done with miso paste, soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. You can find all ingredients in a japanese online store, a well-stocked supermarket or in the nearest Asian market.
Let yourself be inspired by Japanese cuisine and conjure up a taste experience on your plate.
Related read: Supermarkets in Japan: Common Items Explained
The different flavors of Japan: What is there to discover?
You certainly know the four classic tastes: sweet, sour, salty and bitter. But did you know that there is another one?
Have you ever heard of “umami”? Umami is just as important as the other four flavors we all know. And yes, umami also has its own special receptors on our tongues.
The word “umami” is best translated as “meaty,” “savory,” or “savory.” It describes a full, rich flavor, like that of meat, cheese or mushrooms.
And in Japan, you can discover all these flavors that are often unfamiliar to the ‘Western’ palate. From sweet to salty, from sour to umami – Japanese cuisine offers a variety of flavors to discover.
Dishes such as sushi, ramen and udon are particularly popular, and are now also becoming increasingly popular in Europe and North America. But there is also plenty to try beyond the well-known classics.
How about Takoyaki, for example, small balls of dough and octopus, or Yakitori, grilled chicken on skewers?
Japanese candy culture is also worth a trip. From traditional wagashi to modern creations, there’s plenty to discover here.
And the best thing about all the delicious flavors is that they all affect how full we feel, and therefore how much we eat. So, if you find yourself eating beyond hunger again, your taste buds may have fooled you.
How do the different regional cuisines differ from each other?
Did you know that there are several regional cuisines in Japan that differ from each other?
For example, the cuisine in Hokkaido, in the north of Japan, is very dominated by seafood and dairy products, while in Kyushu, in the south of Japan, there is a lot of use of spices and hot sauces.
Nagano Prefecture is also known for its specialties, such as soba noodles and apple cider.
Each region has its own ingredients and preparation methods that make its dishes unique.
In this video we visited the island Kyushu, where we tried the Yakiniku, the Japanese BBQ, apart from many other delicious meals.
From Hokkaido in the north to the tea-growing island of Kyushu in the south and the paradise islands of Okinawa in the south (check out these Top Food to Try in Okinawa), you can expect a variety of regional specialties and dishes that are not only super delicious but also mega photogenic.
So it’s well worth discovering and sampling the different regional cuisines when traveling through Japan.
Tip: The easiest way to travel through Japan is with a Japan Rail Pass.
What is the secret behind authentic Japanese dishes?
What makes these dishes so special and how do Japanese chefs manage to prepare them so perfectly?
The secret lies in the careful selection of ingredients and the art of preparation. Japanese cuisine places great emphasis on fresh and high-quality ingredients, prepared with love and care.
Chefs often use traditional techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation to perfect the flavor and texture of the dishes.
It’s not just about the taste, but also the presentation and aesthetic beauty of the dishes. Japanese cuisine is an experience for all the senses and it’s no wonder it has so many fans around the world.
Conclusion: Why is Japanese cuisine worth trying?
So, why is Japanese cuisine worth trying? Well, apart from the variety of flavors and aromas that you can discover, there are many other reasons.
For example, Japanese cuisine is known for its healthy ingredients and balanced diet. Many dishes are rich in vegetables, fish and seafood, all of which contain important nutrients and vitamins.
In addition, Japanese cuisine is also very aesthetically pleasing, with its focus on presentation and aesthetics. Dishes are often artfully arranged and decorated, which not only looks beautiful, but also stimulates the appetite.
Japanese cuisine is also an important part of Japanese culture and tradition. By trying Japanese dishes, you can learn more about the history and customs of the country and immerse yourself in the culture.
Finally, it’s super delicious!
So all in all, there are many good reasons why Japanese cuisine is worth trying and enjoying.