How To Eat 12 Popular Japanese Dishes Correctly

How To Eat 12 Popular Japanese Dishes Correctly

Did it ever happen to you to hesitate about eating a Japanese dish because you weren't sure how exactly you should eat it? This article intends to solve such problems. Check out what is the correct way to eat sushi, tempura and other dishes!

Food Tastes Better When Eaten Properly

There are plenty of unique dishes like sushi and tempura found all over Japan. Although you can enjoy these dishes in other countries, the authentic taste of those prepared in Japan is an extraordinary experience you just have to have.

There is a proper way to eat each Japanese dish in order to enjoy its flavors to the fullest. Of course, no two people eat alike, but if you learn to eat the foods in the manner that the Japanese do, you just might find that these dishes taste differently than you are used to. This article will explain how to eat sushi, tempura, soba, udon, yakitori, sukiyaki, tonkatsu, natto, onigiri from convenience stores, gyoza and hitsumabushi like the Japanese.

How to Eat Sushi


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Sushi is a traditional Japanese dish, and was the very first dish that spread the appeal of Japanese food to the world. There are many enthusiastic fans of sushi all over the world now. As you might know, nigiri-zushi (hand-shaped sushi) which has a slice of raw fish on top of rice is usually eaten with soy sauce and wasabi.

Wasabi, which is well known for causing a spicy burning sensation in your nose and sinuses, is not liked by everybody. If you don't like wasabi, please tell the staff "sabi nuki" (without wasabi) when you order your sushi in Japan.

In addition, when you dip sushi into the soy sauce, flip the sushi over so that the fish absorbs the soy sauce rather than the rice; this way the rice won't soak up too much soy sauce and you won't lose the flavor of the fish itself.

Read more about sushi:

How To Eat Sushi Like A Pro

How to Eat Tempura

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Tempura is a common dish made from meat, fish or edible plants that are dipped into a mixture of flour, water and eggs then fried in oil. These crunchy and flavorful foods are almost addictive! You won't be able to stop eating them.

The standard way of eating tempura is with ten-tsuyu, which is a special dipping sauce for tempura. Ten-tsuyu is made from dashi soup stock, soy sauce and mirin (sweet rice wine). You can also add grated Japanese daikon radish and grated ginger to ten-tsuyu which bring a sharp freshness to its dish.

The order of eating its tempura pieces is also important. If several pieces of tempura are served on one plate, you should start with lighter types of food (such as vegetables and shrimp) first and then move onto heavier types of food such as anago eel.

Read more about tempura:

What You Need To Know About Eating Tempura

How to Eat Soba and Udon Noodles

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Soba and udon noodles are two of the most well known noodle dishes in Japan. Soba noodles, made from buckwheat flour, and udon noodles, made from wheat flour and salted water, are popular dishes often served at home.

How to eat them changes depending on how they are served. If the noodles are served tsuke-men style, in which you dip noodles into a separate sauce, first you add wasabi and spices like green onions into the sauce then pick up and dip a few noodles into that.

On the other hand, if the serving style is kake-jiru style, where the noodles are already in the soup, you can add sesame seeds and shichimi (seven spice blend) to suit your palate. If you order soba noodles, you can add the hot water used to boil the soba called soba-yu to your sauce and drink it as a soup after eating all the noodles. Soba-yu is quite nutritious and is an excellent way to finish your meal.

Read more about soba and udon noodles:

Know Your Noodle: The Differences Between Soba And Udon

How to Eat Tsukemen

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As we mentioned above, tsukemen is a dish wherein the noodles and soup are served separately. The temperature difference between the hot soup and cold noodles is a taste sensation that many find addictive.

The standard way of eating tsukemen is to pick up a mouthful's worth of noodles, dip them into the soup and then slurp them up. The most important point to this is how quickly you can bring the noodles to your mouth, as the soup will cool off quickly if you take too long.

In addition, tsukemen comes with its own version of soba-yu, called soup wari. You simply ask the staff for this restaurant specific light broth, which you then add to the remaining soup and drink. This is a Japanese dish that you can enjoy right down to the very last drop. Why don't you fill your empty stomach with this happiness?

Read more about tsukemen:

Dipping Noodles in Broth? How to Enjoy Tsukemen

How to Eat Yakitori

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Yakitori are cubed pieces of chicken that have been skewered on bamboo sticks, seasoned and then grilled over charcoal or gas, searing in the juices. This dish is an especially good match with alcoholic drinks like beer and shochu.

The main two forms of flavoring this dish are salt or 'tare', which is a salty-sweet sauce made from soy sauce and other ingredients that vary by restaurant. People who prefer the taste of the chicken itself tend to enjoy the salted type; the dishes made from chicken organs however are quite nice when seasoned with tare.

You can eat the yakitori directly on the stick itself - simply put the used stick in the container provided on the table after you've finished.

Read more about yakitori:

How Well Do You Know Yakitori? Let’s Find Out!

How to Eat Sukiyaki

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Sukiyaki is a popular cold weather dish where thinly sliced beef and vegetables like green onions and mushrooms are cooked in a shallow iron pan in a mild stock base; this is a typical Japanese comfort dish.

The way of eating sukiyaki varies from region to region in Japan. In the west, the beef is grilled on an oiled pan first and then the vegetables are added to the pan. The broth that comes from the meat and vegetables as they cook forms the basis of this stock, to which soy sauce and sugar is later added.

On the other hand, in eastern Japan the beef is not grilled first. Instead a sauce made from the combination of soy sauce and a Japanese wine called wari shita, is first poured into the pan, then the beef and vegetables are added. Once the ingredients have boiled, it is ready to eat.

Though the means of preparing the dish are different, the ways to finish them up are the same. Once the ingredients have been all eaten, udon noodles are added to the remaining broth; the sweet, spicy and savory taste of the soup goes very well with the noodles.

Read more about sukiyaki:

How to Eat Sukiyaki, A Japanese Cuisine Staple

How to Eat Tonkatsu

トンカツ ソース

Tonkatsu is a well-known standard lunch menu in Japan, and is a pork cutlet that has been breaded and deep fried. The most common tonkatsu dish is tonkatsu served with tonkatsu sauce (a sauce made from vegetable and fruit extracts, salt, sugar, vinegar and other spices), shredded cabbage, and steamed rice.

The crunchy coating and savory taste of this dish will spread all through your mouth the moment you sink your teeth in. If you want to change the flavor of the sauce, you can add karashi, a spicy Japanese mustard, or Western style mustard to this dish.

Read more about tonkatsu:

An Introduction To Tonkatsu, The Japanese Dish You Just Need To Taste!

How to Eat Natto

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Natto is one of the most divisive foods in Japan: people who like it and those who cannot stand the smell or texture of the dish. Considered a healthy food, it is often part of a standard Japanese style breakfast.

Natto is fermented soybeans which are usually sold in a white styrofoam box in packs of three. Inside each package there are two satchels of Japanese mustard and a brand-specific sauce, both of which you add to the beans and then mix them together well, ideally with chopsticks. The more you mix the natto up, the milder the texture becomes, which has an effect on how easily it can be eaten.

Then, many people scoop up the natto and put it on top of hot white rice. Easy to prepare and healthy, this dish has seen an increase in popularity in the last few years. Please give natto a try if you have the chance.

Read also:

Graduate from Your Dislike! Learn to Eat Natto from Step One!

How to Eat Onigiri from Convenience Stores

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Onigiri are rice balls that come in a wide variety of flavors, and have long been considered a comfort food by the Japanese.

Onigiri either come as a rice ball where the rice is visible and the topping mixed throughout it, or come wrapped in a sheet of dried seaweed. Convenience stores sell onigiri of various types for anywhere from 100 to 200 yen. This Japanese staple has become increasingly popular with travelers from overseas as a quick means of trying Japanese food on the go.

The onigiri from convenience stores use a special wrapping method in order not to break its ubiquitous shape may look really complicated to open at the first. But it is actually quite easy to open if you follow the numbers included on the packaging. More details on how to open these delicious treats are available in the following article.

Read more about Onigiri:

How to Open a Convenience Store Rice Ball: 1, 2, 3!

How to Eat Gyoza

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Gyoza dumplings originally came from China and are a beloved dish in Japan. These dumplings are made with a combination of ground pork, Chinese cabbage, green onions, chives and spices which are then encased in a thin flour wrapper. These dumplings are then cooked in one of three ways: grilling, steaming or boiling.

Many Japanese style restaurants serve grilled gyoza in Japan. Once your gyoza is served, you can make your own dipping sauce by combining soy sauce, vinegar and chili oil. Be careful with the chili sauce though, as it can be spicier than it seems, so add it sparingly at first. Now that your sauce is ready, dip the non-grilled side of the gyoza in the sauce and enjoy!

Read more about gyoza:

How To Eat Gyoza (Dumpling)

How to Eat Hitsumabushi

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Hitsumabushi, which is a famous dish from Nagoya, features grilled eel on a bed of rice served with a sweet sauce. Hitsumabushi is most commonly eaten in three different ways.

The first way is to simply eat the dish as it is, enjoying the taste of the eel on the rice itself. Then many like to add spices (such as wasabi and green onions) and mix the parts together, which has a great, refreshing taste. The final step has you pour a cup of warm soup over the eel and rice, making the meat softer and further changing the flavors. Hitsumabushi is an excellent meal for someone that wants to try a wide variety of Japanese tastes, and is sold in many different places throughout Japan now, though Nagoya is still the best place to try this dish.

Recommended articles:

The Three Ways To Enjoy Nagoya’s Famous Hitsumabushi
An Introduction To Tonkatsu, The Japanese Dish You Just Need To Taste!
7 Must-Eat Foods in Japan
5 Traditional Japanese Foods You Don’t Want To Miss

Author & Translator

94年生まれ。神戸出身、東京在住。アメリカからの帰国子女。旅、アート、食が大好きな大学生。

Translated by Allie

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