As you know, there’s nothing I like more than reviewing great restaurants and diners, and also sharing delicious recipes. Food shouldn’t just be a way to refuel. Eating a top-quality meal can one of the most pleasurable experiences in life. There are a great variety of meals and cuisines out there too and trying something you may not be familiar with can really pay off. Take Japanese cuisine. The island nation of Japan has a very different cultural and historical background to America, and that’s reflected in its food. I’ve been getting to know Japanese cuisine, and it’s varied, healthy and exciting. If you’ve never tried Japanese dishes before, here are seven that you owe it to yourself to try.
Whisper this if you ever find yourself in Tokyo, but ramen has its origins in China. Nevertheless, it has become the national dish of Japan, and you’re sure to find it on the menu of Japanese restaurants right across the world. Eaten from a bowl, it contains a wide variety of ingredients, and this makes for a dish that’s incredibly tasty and delicious, and just a little spicy too. The main ingredient is noodles, which are suspended in a soup and soy sauce mix. There’s usually a boiled egg on top, and also in the bowl, you’ll typically find tender strips of pork, vegetables, and seaweed (Japanese cuisine is big on seaweed).
2. Atlantic Rolls
Sushi is perhaps the most famous Japanese dish of them all; many people think of it as raw fish, but it’s so much more than that. In fact, raw fish alone is called ‘sushimi’ and the word ‘sushi’ signifies the addition of seasoned rice. Proper sushi is a treat for the eyes as well as the taste buds, and it comes in many different shapes and forms, but perhaps the king of all sushi variants is the Atlantic roll. Salmon is the most commonly used fish in this dish, and you’ll also find cucumber and rice, and often a seaweed outer shell that helps to give it the defined rolled shape.
3. Sushi and Steak
Sushi is a great dish in its own right, but it’s even better when it’s eaten as part of the Japanese equivalent to ‘surf and turf’: sushi and steak. The high-quality restaurant chain Roka Akor specializes in sushi and steak dishes, and you can select tasty fish and meat dishes which are prepared exactly as you want them, and which always deliver on both appearance and flavor. You can find out more by visiting this location on the web, or by making a reservation at their restaurants in Scottsdale, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, Oak Brook or Old Orchard.
4. Miso Soup
Soup is perhaps the ultimate comfort food, and what could be better than a bowl of hot soup on a cold day? Well, miso is no other soup you’ve tasted, and once you’ve tried it you won’t want to go back to plain old tomato. The secret to its great taste comes from its two main ingredients: dashi, the stock, and a miso paste which is stirred into it. The flavor is further enhanced by the addition of chili, garlic, and rice, and often other ingredients including onion, tofu, and ginger are also incorporated. It’s a hot and satisfying dish, and if you’re wondering what exactly the miso paste is made from, it is fermented soybeans, salt, and a locally grown fungus. Don’t worry, it tastes a lot better than it sounds.
You may have heard of tempura batter, and know how thin, crisp and delicious it is, but in fact, tempura in Japanese cuisine refers to the food within the batter as well. A classic tempura dish will typically include prawns or vegetables, or a combination of both, and will be accompanied by a side dish of soy sauce. It’s a simple dish and easy to make, but tempura made by expert chefs is one of the great tastes in world cuisine, as the batter and the food within melts in your mouth.
Rice is the staple food of Japan, and indeed of much of eastern Asia, so you’ll find it appearing in some form in much of Japanese cuisine. It reaches its zenith, however, in onigiri. It’s quite simply a rice ball, but on another level, it’s much more than that and can become almost a work of art. The ball itself is wrapped in a sheet of nori and has a sharp tasting center, which typically includes pickled salmon. It’s a popular takeaway snack in Japan, and they make them into elaborate shapes and designs including cute kittens and manga-like creations.
Gyudon isn’t the most well-known Japanese dish in America, but it’s certainly one of the most satisfying. Using similar ingredients to ramen, including, occasionally, the use of an egg on top of the dish, the main difference is that the meat takes the upper hand here rather than the stock. Beef is usually the main ingredient of a good gyudon, with rice and onion added and then simmered gently in a seaweed dashi. You’ll often be served ground chili pepper with this dish, but if you’re a Japanese cuisine newcomer, don’t add too much at first. Gyudon translates as ‘beef bowl’, and you can think of it as a refined and oh-so-tasty Japanese style beef stew.
Japanese cuisine is becoming increasingly popular across America, from the east coast to the west, and with dishes as tasty as gyudon, tempura, sushi, and ramen, it’s easy to see why. One thing you’re sure to notice when eating a Japanese meal is how refined and well-presented it is, and you’ll see the same aesthetic displayed in Japanese restaurants such as Roka Akor as well.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with Japanese dishes you haven’t tried before but do be aware that they often have a high ginger or chili content, so can be fierier than they first look. It always helps to have a cup of Japanese green tea to hand, or a cup of saki, the famous rice wine.