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Ready For Japan! Vol. 14 - Recipe Ideas For Traveling Japan From Your Kitchen

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Create a flavor journey to Japan in your own kitchen! This article introduces six basic recipe ideas from around Japan, from miso ramen in Hokkaido to local Osaka dishes, to classic Tokyo-style sushi. Read for inspiration and learn where to find ingredients online or at a nearby grocery.

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6 Regional Japanese Dishes You Can Recreate in the Kitchen

cooking japanese food

With the most Michelin starred restaurants in the world and a UNESCO-recognized traditional cuisine, Japan is full of exquisite eats that attract visitors from around the world. From ramen to tofu dishes to buckwheat noodles, these dishes are easily enjoyed in Japanese restaurants, however, they can be savored and prepared abroad, too.

This article introduces six regional foods in Japan that can be recreated in the kitchen at home, along with their essential ingredients and where to obtain them internationally. Continue reading to learn about these iconic dishes and to hone your cooking skills!

1. Sapporo Miso Ramen - Taste Hokkaido's Soul Food

sapporo miso ramen

Sapporo miso ramen is a famous dish in Japan and known to ramen connoisseurs throughout the world. This hearty ramen dish was created to combat the cold winters in the city, located in Hokkaido, the northernmost prefecture in Japan. Combining the salty flavors of miso with a rich pork-based broth, topped with crispy bean sprouts, sweet corn, and a pat of butter, this ramen will delight all with its layers of flavor.

Below are the essential ingredients for making this dish at home.

Essential Ingredients Recommended Places to Buy
Miso paste Supermarkets, Amazon Japan
Chicken and/or pork stock, soy sauce Supermarkets
Fresh, soft ramen noodles Asian/Japanese Supermarkets
Pork belly and/or minced pork Supermarkets
Grated ginger, Green onion, bean sprouts, canned corn, bamboo shoots Supermarkets
Lard and butter Supermarkets

Please note that cooking ramen restaurant-style generally requires hours or even days to obtain an authentic broth. However, there are shortcuts you can take that will also produce a delicious broth, by using pre-prepared ingredients, like chicken and pork broth, instead of creating your own from scratch. Use the method that works for you.

For in-depth instructions on how to make miso ramen, we recommend viewing Cookpad in English. Another option is the step-by-step recipe on Just One Cookbook. Please note that recipes may list different ingredients than the list shown above: use what works with your tastes and which ingredients you have available.

Vegetarian and even vegan options of this ramen can be made with substitutions.

2. Zaru Soba - Refreshing Buckwheat Noodles, Nagano-style

zaru soba

Soba is another noodle dish in Japan that pleases all. Thin and made from buckwheat, these aromatic noodles contain healthy minerals like magnesium and fiber. Many regions in Japan boast delicious soba, but one of the most famous are the noodles from Nagano Prefecture. Known as Shinshu soba, these high-quality noodles are enjoyed chilled or hot. One of the most famous preparations of buckwheat noodles is zaru soba, a refreshing dish where the noodles are served chilled and served with a mentsuyu dipping sauce. It is a dish that can be easily made at home with the correct ingredients.

Soba noodles are often gluten-free and vegan and can be prepared to suit different dietary needs (please check the ingredients and allergens in the noodles to confirm before you consume).

Below are the essential ingredients for recreating this dish at home. Buying high-quality, Japan-made noodles, which are available online, will make a big difference in the flavor of this dish.

Essential Ingredients Recommended Places to Buy
Soba Noodles Asian/Japanese supermarkets, Amazon Japan
Bonito and/or Kelp Dashi Asian/Japanese supermarkets, Amazon Japan (click to see bonito and kelp)
Soy sauce Supermarkets
Mirin (rice wine for cooking) Asian/Japanese supermarkets, Amazon Japan
Green onion, grated ginger Supermarkets
Grated daikon radish Asian/Japanese supermarkets
Shredded nori seaweed Asian/Japanese supermarkets, Amazon Japan

Zaru soba is a relatively simple dish to make. Prepare the noodles in a pot of boiling water on the stovetop, and then cool them off in a similar fashion to pasta. The dipping sauce requires mixing together the dashi, soy sauce, and mirin together.

We suggest viewing Just One Cookbook or Cookpad in English for step-by-step recipes on how to make zaru soba. The entire process takes around 15 minutes, making this an ideal, easy meal for the summer or when you want something refreshing to eat.

3. Edomae Sushi - Classic Tokyo Flavors

edomae sushi

Photo by Pixta
Sushi is renowned throughout the world and there is no better place to try it than Japan. Tokyo, in particular, is known for inventing edomae sushi, which led to what is now often known as nigiri sushi.

Consisting of rice (shari) and a topping (neta), this classic dish may best be enjoyed at restaurants in Tokyo but can be made tastily at home, too, for those up to the challenge.

The necessary ingredients are listed below.

Essential Ingredients Recommended Places to Buy
Short-grain Japonica rice, Koshihikari rice Japanese/Asian supermarkets, Amazon Japan
Rice vinegar Japanese/Asian supermarkets, Amazon Japan
Soy sauce Supermarkets
Wasabi Asian/Japanese Supermarkets, Amazon Japan
Akami lean tuna Supermarkets

As the ingredients are simple, it is important to use high-quality, short-grain, Japanese rice, and high-grade fish for the best result. Koshihikari rice is often used by sushi shops in Japan and is available to buy on Amazon.

Edomae sushi used to be made with pickled fish, in order to preserve food when refrigeration didn't exist. To keep traditional, stick to lean tuna for the topping. Other common neta are prawn, anago eel, and Japanese whiting. For vegan and vegetarian options, pickled eggplant and avocado work well, too.

We recommend following this Cookpad recipe in English for making this classic sushi dish. The recipe suggests using nigiri sushi molds, which allows beginners obtain the correct shape of the sushi.

4. Yudofu - Warm Tofu Delicacy from Kyoto

kyoto yudofu

Photo by Pixta
Kyoto is famous for its many unique cuisines: one of these is yudofu, which is a warm dish in which tofu is boiled with kelp, and then enjoyed with a variety of toppings. The ancient capital has many yudofu specialty restaurants, but this nutritious, delicious hot tofu dish can be easily recreated in the kitchen.

Yudofu can be made with just two ingredients: tofu and kelp. However, commonly-added ingredients to go in the pot, and toppings ("yakumi" in Japanese) are listed below, too.

Essential Ingredients Recommended Places to Buy
Silken tofu Japanese/Asian supermarkets
Fresh shiitake mushroom Japanese/Asian supermarkets
Carrot Supermarkets
Dried kelp or kelp dashi powder Japanese/Asian supermarkets, Amazon Japan
Soy sauce Supermarkets
Wasabi Asian/Japanese Supermarkets, Amazon Japan
Green onion, grated ginger (for "yakumi") Supermarkets

Yudofu is typically prepared in a clay pot, or "donabe" in Japan. However, it can be made in a metal pot on the stovetop, too, by boiling the tofu and vegetables in kelp broth (available on Amazon). Toppings and sauce can be simple, like finely-chopped green onion, grated ginger, and soy sauce. For recipes and other ideas, Just One Cookbook offers a classic version of yudofu.

5. Kushikatsu - Breaded and Fried Osaka Comfort Food

kushi katsu

Kushikatsu is one of Osaka's many famous and local foods, consisting of vegetables, seafood, chicken, and other ingredients breaded and deep-fried, then eaten on a skewer with a tangy Worcestershire-like sauce. Kushikatsu is typically found at casual places, like bars and izakaya; the Shinsekai area in Osaka is particularly famous for this dish, although it can be enjoyed throughout Japan.

It is also possible to make this Osaka dish at home, too. Pair it with a glass of Japanese beer or your favorite beverage for a fun evening in.

The necessary ingredients for kushikatsu are listed below.

Essential Ingredients Recommended Places to Buy
Panko bread crumbs Supermarkets, Amazon Japan
All-purpose flour, egg, neutral-tasting oil for frying Supermarkets
Bamboo skewers Supermarkets
Protein of choice: beef, pork, chicken, shrimp, firm tofu Supermarkets
Fresh shiitake mushrooms Japanese/Asian supermarkets
Asparagus spears, lotus root, bell pepper, onion, cherry tomato Supermarkets
Worcestershire sauce, okonomiyaki sauce, ketchup Supermarkets, Amazon Japan (okonomiyaki sauce)

Kushikatsu is a satisfying, deep-fried dish that is one of the most famous foods in Osaka, like takoyaki and okonomiyaki. Cut ingredients into easy-to-bite sizes, skewer them, and then dip them in the flour-egg batter, and roll in panko bread crumbs. Fry each skewer in a deep pan. Be sure to prepare a drying rack or towels to take off excess oil after the skewers are fried.

This Cooking with Dog recipe provides an authentic and easy-to-follow recipe to make tasty kushikatsu, including its tangy, savory sauce. Other fun ingredients to fry include mochi, cheese, and baby corn. A squeeze of lemon or lime juice is a delicious alternative to the sauce.

6. Taco Rice - Okinawa's Unique Fusion Cuisine

okinawan taco rice

Okinawa is the southernmost prefecture in Japan, located around 966 miles, or 1,554 kilometers from Tokyo. This distance and Okinawa's complex history pre- and post-World War II has resulted in a number of cultures not found on the main islands of Japan, including those surrounding food.

Taco rice is one popular and unique Okinawan dish, which fuses together Tex-Mex cuisine with Okinawan food. This satisfying dish combines tomato, ground beef, lettuce, and cheese with Japanese white rice, making it very simple to make at home, too.

The basic ingredients of taco rice are listed below.

Essential Ingredients Recommended Places to Buy
Japanese short-grain rice Japanese/Asian supermarkets, Amazon Japan
Tomato, cheese, lettuce, cilantro, onion, lemon Supermarkets
Ground beef or ground protein of choice Supermarkets
Soy sauce, taco seasoning Supermarkets
Salsa, ketchup, pizza sauce, and/or Worcestershire sauce Supermarkets

Tacos and taco-inspired dishes may feel familiar to many, but this is a very popular dish in Okinawa. Feel free to customize the ingredients as needed: for instance, a mixture of ketchup, tomato sauce, or tangy Worcestershire sauce is also used for the sauce in some recipes. Use ground tofu or ground soy meat and plant-based cheese for a vegetarian, vegan-friendly dish.

We suggest seeing the Just One Cookbook for a basic recipe.

Savor the Tastes of Japan at Home

With some planning and online shopping, it is more than possible to recreate and indulge in the flavors of Japan in your own kitchen. Please bookmark this article to come back to for future inspiration and virtual travel through cooking!

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Main image by Pixta

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