Wednesday 31st March 2021

9 Must-Try Traditional Japanese Foods And Dishes


Everyone's a foodie. If you're not then let's be honest, you're probably lying (I mean why else would you be here?) If you're someone who can't choose when it comes to food you've come to the right place!

Japanese cuisine is diverse and over the past few decades, it has made a significant impact on the western world. From instant ramen to luxurious sushi and beef, Japan has everything.

With all that said we've created a list of the best Japanese Foods And Dishes to have on your trip to Japan! (According to us of course)

For those in a hurry -

1. Sushi

2. Ramen

3. Sashimi

4. Tempura

5. Yakitori

6. Onigiri

7. Miso-Soup

8 . Oden

9. Tamagoyaki

1. Sushi

Yup, you guessed it, it's Sushi. Sushi is without a doubt the most popular dish in Japan. It's traditionally made with Japanese rice which has been seasoned with vinegar and topped with fresh fish. Sushi can be enjoyed in many different ways and at many different prices. Common varieties include Nigiri (A topping, usually fish served on top of Sushi rice), Maki (Rice and filling wrapped in seaweed), Urumaki (Rice outside the seaweed wrap).

Some places where Sushi can be enjoyed in Japan are Kaiten-zushi (conveyor belt sushi)its cheap and a lot of fun, Edo mae sushi (Edo style sushi) These are high-end places where the chef prepares the sushi before your eyes.

Sushi making is considered an art in Japan and Itamae (Sushi Chefs) are treated like celebrities.

Some things to keep in mind while enjoying Sushi are, always eat Nigiri with your hands, If you don't want wasabi in your sushi (I understand why) you can ask for "Sabi Nuki" (without wasabi), When dipping the sushi in Soy sauce, you should always turn the sushi over and dip the fish instead of the rice. This is to prevent the rice from sucking up too much soy and overpowering the original taste of the fish.

If you live in London and want to find out more about Japanese culture check out this group!

2. Ramen

No, I'm not talking about instant ramen because as delicious as it is, it can't even compare to traditional Japanese Ramen that you might find at a restaurant. There are many different types of ramen but the most popular ones are - 

Shio (Salt) Ramen - Shio Ramen uses a Salt based broth that is made from boiling down chicken bones.

Shoyu (Soy Sauce) Ramen - This is the most common kind of Ramen that you'll find in diners. the soy sauce provides a deep and rich flavour to the broth which is made from chicken bones and other seafood products.

Miso Ramen - Miso Ramen uses a miso paste based broth. It has the most amount of varieties in it including charred miso, red miso, white miso, soybean miso etc.

Tonkotsu (Pork Broth Ramen) - Its another popular type of Ramen featuring a broth made from boiling down pork bones.

Tsukemen - Tsukemen is a unique Ramen dish where the noodles are rinsed of and kept in a bowl alongside another bowl of thick soup which can be either hot or cold. You are supposed to enjoy the noodles after dunking them in the broth or you can drink the broth without the noodles (But where's the fun in that)

Along with the different broths, there are also MANY different topping for your delicious bowl of ramen. Some common ones are Naruto(Fish cakes, not the anime) Onions, Char Su, Boiled Eggs, Bean Sprouts, Corn and the list goes on. In restaurants, you'll be asked what kind of toppings you'll like on your bowl of ramen.

3. Sashimi

Sashimi is pretty much sushi without the rice. It's raw fish that has been cut into easy to eat pieces. You really get the luxurious taste of the high-quality fish without the rice.

Just like Sushi, there are dozens of varieties of Sashimi. some of the most popular and common ones are Margura and Tuna Varieties, Mackerel, Salmon and Sea Bream. You can also try some of the unique varieties like Clams, Sea Urchins, Uni and Salmon Roe though these are commonly eaten on special occasions. 

Sashimi is typically eaten with Soy Sauce but if you have suicidal tendencies you can also add some wasabi for the extra heat.

The fish used for Sashimi is incredibly fresh both for taste and to avoid the risk of contamination.

4. Tempura

If you enjoy crispy foods then you're in luck! Tempura is a dish involving slices of meat, fish or any other vegetable that has been covered in Tempura batter (batter is usually made from flour and egg) and deep-fried until crunchy and gold in colour.

Unlike in the UK where battered food tends to be made from meat or fish, Tempura is usually made from small shellfish like prawns, or vegetables like pumpkin, green beans, daikon mooli radish and sweet potato. 

Tempura is generally dipped in a special sauce called Tentsuyu before eating. Tentsuyu is made from the broth of kombu (dried bonito), mirin and soy sauce in a particular ratio.

It can be eaten by itself but it's usually served on top of rice bowls and noodle soup. It also goes well with duck sauce.

Can duck sauce go on Japanese food?

Duck sauce goes really well with fried and grilled Japanese food like yakitori and tempura.

5. Yakitori

While in the UK you might pick up some chips and a hot dog for a sports match, the Japanese prefer Yakitori. Yakitori is a popular food item where chicken is placed on skewers and then grilled. Its usually seasoned with salt or brushed with soy sauce, mirin (rice wine) or sugar.

The name Yakitori literally means barbequed chicken. There are many different types of Yakitori but the most common varieties are Negima (Chicken and Spring onion as shown above)Momo (Chicken Thigh), and Tsukune (Chicken Meatballs).

Yakitori is often found in izakayas (small bar) and casual restaurants making it a good option for a night out in Japan. Yakitori is also commonly found in Japanese festivals. It doesn't matter if it's made from the side of the street or a fancy restaurant, we can guarantee that you'll love Yakitori (especially if you like fried chicken).

You can also find other meats and vegetables on skewers in different restaurants.

6. Onigiri

Like the sandwich is the original portable food for British cuisine onigiri is the original portable food of Japan. Onigiri, also known as 'Omusubi', 'Nigirimeshi', or just rice balls are made with Japanese rice usually with a filling in the centre that has been moulded into triangular or cylindrical shapes before being wrapped in Nori Seaweed.

They are found in Bento lunches made by families and they're also sold in most if not all supermarkets and convenience stores. Onigiris are one of the most popular choices for a light snack or a meal in Japan.

The most popular Onigiri flavours are Kelp, Umeboshi (dried plum), Salmon and Bonito flakes. There are many different flavours available so enter your nearest convenience store and go nuts!

Another great thing about Onigiri is that it's pretty inexpensive and doesn't take a lot of time to make at home. If you want to try your hand at making some delicious riceballs then you can check out this video! (it also contains many other great Japanese recipes)

7. Miso soup

Few dishes are consumed as often as miso soup in Japan. Miso soup is a staple in the Japanese diet. Miso soup is made from the combination of miso paste (pate made from fermented Japanese soybeans) and Dashi broth (mixture of Bonito flakes and Kelp) Miso soup is generally served as a side dish for Japanese style breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

There are many different varieties of miso soup, from simple soup with tofu to ones with crab and all kinds of vegetables.

Miso paste also comes in many different types from white which has a more light and sweet flavour to red which is darker and saltier. You can find miso soup at most if not all traditional Japanese restaurants at all price ranges. It also usually comes as a side dish in teishoku set meals and high-end kaisekis.

8. Oden

If you visit Japan in winter you'll find a lot of restaurants that sell Oden. Oden, also known as Nabemono is made by taking a variety of vegetables and proteins (including fish cakes, mochi rice cakes, boiled eggs, daikon radish, konjac yam and tofu) and stewing them in a broth seasoned with soy sauce and dashi (a stock made from a mixture of bonito flakes and kombu kelp seaweed and other savoury ingredients) in a large pot.

The pot is generally kept at the centre of the table so that people can scoop out their favourite ingredients.

Oden can be found pretty much everywhere from convenience stores to Vending machines (especially in the winter months).

9. Tamagoyaki

Tamagoyaki is a versatile dish that is enjoyed for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Japan. The name Tamagoyaki literally means cooked egg. Tamagoyaki is a Japanese Omelette that is made by cooking and rolling up several layers of beaten eggs. The eggs are generally seasoned with sugar or Soy sauce.

A freshly cooked Tamagoyaki when done right usually looks like a rolled-up crepe which can be sliced and eaten or used as a topping or filling in sushi and ramen. Tamagoyaki generally has a slight sweetness which makes it almost desert-like.

Some restaurants add nori and cheese to the omelette while rolling it up to give it extra flavour.


Japanese food is incredibly diverse. If you try any of these dishes please comment your thoughts below as I would love to hear them.

One final thing to keep in mind is when eating food, Japan has a lot of Etiquette rules which include food. If you want to learn more about Japanese Etiquette Here is a short guide to Japanese Etiquette