Let us start with the disclaimer that anything proclaimed to be the best must be subjective.
After all, a Japanese food involving Kobe beef would not be on any vegetarian’s ‘top 10’ list of recipes to try.
Likewise, somebody allergic to seafood would not be tempted to follow any recipe that calls for prawns, no matter how many food critics sing its praises.
And then, there are ethical concerns: would anyone truly lust for a meal of whale meat in the face of the current global outrage over whale hunting?
Well, obviously Japanese people would, even if only a small slice of the population.
Nevertheless, these examples serve well to illustrate how one’s best Japanese meal could be distasteful or downright lethal to their dining companion.
In light of that, your Superprof now dons an apron to prepare a sampling of Japanese foods; some iconic and some renown... and maybe even some you’ve never heard of, to compile a 10-long list of dishes in high demand.
Cleavers ready? Let’s chop!
How to Prepare Sushi
Japanese cuisine is known the world over for its healthy composition of fresh ingredients – that would be ‘fresh’ as in ‘raw’, not as in ‘just yanked out of the sea’. Our first sampling includes raw seafood...
This global favourite is made of rice, seafood and/or vegetables, and is usually wrapped in seaweed.
Sashimi is often mistaken for sushi in the west because both involve presentations of raw fish.
However, sashimi is not as compact as sushi is; the latter provides two-bite taste explosions that are often enhanced with a dab of wasabi.
As you might imagine, there are many types of sushi rolls; here we provide only general guidelines. It will be up to you how you present your sushi.
- 2/3 cup of short-grain rice, (uncooked)
- 4 sheets of nori seaweed
- cucumber, peeled and cut lengthwise into thin strips
- 1 avocado
- 1/2 pound of your fav fish, thinly chopped
- 3 tablespoons each of rice vinegar and white sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
- 2 tablespoons pickled ginger.
In a pan, boil 1/13 cups of water; stir in rice; allow to steam. This step is made easier if you have a rice steamer.
In a bowl, mix the rice vinegar, salt and sugar. One the rice is cooked, blend this mixture into it.
Now it is time to get the seaweed ready for rolling.
In a warm oven (heated to 190 degrees), allow the nori sheets to warm for a minute or two... not any longer lest they become too brittle!
Place one sheet on your sushi mat – a bamboo mat that makes rolling sushi easy, and plane rice into an even layer on the sheet.
You will have to press down on it with your hands and this is easier done when your hands are wet.
Once you have achieved an even layer, place cucumber, avocado, ginger and meat in a row in the centre of the rice.
Remember that you will have four such rolls to make, so only use 1/4 of your ingredients at a time!
Now that you have everything laid out just so, it is time to roll the sushi. You do this by picking up one edge of the mat and rolling it up as you would a yoga mat, pressing gently all the while.
Once you have a fairly firm roll, it is time to slice it (with a wet knife!), or you may wait until you have made all four rolls.
Either way, we are certain you know what to do from there: serve it with a side of soy sauce... don’t forget to put grated ginger in it!
Are the Japanese as crazy for sushi as we are? Find out what constitutes traditional Japanese food...
Most of us know teriyaki as a type of Japanese meat dish, perhaps pork, chicken or beef.
Neither our understanding of teriyaki nor the ingredients used are true to the Japanese art of cooking in this manner.
Teriyaki is a technique for grilling or broiling meat covered in a glaze made of soy sauce, sugar and a rice wine called mirin, meant especially for cooking.
Furthermore, authentic Japanese teriyaki generally calls for fish.
Now that we know that the secret is in the sauce – not the meat, let’s have a recipe.
- 1 cup of water
- 1/4 cup of soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 5 packed tablespoons of brown sugar
- 1 to 2 tablespoons honey (according to your tastes)
You will also need: 2/3 of a cup of cold water and 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
Mix all of the ingredients save the last 2 in a pan; warm them over low heat. As it is heating, stir the cornstarch into the cold water, mixing until dissolved.
Once the ingredients in the pan start simmering, add the water/cornstarch mix, whisking until the mixture has reached the desired thickness.
Allow it to cool for about 20 minutes and then pour it over your choice of meat and grill away!
If ever there were a fan fav, this simple dish would have to be it. Easy to make and perfect for dinner after a hard day’s work, it only takes a few ingredients to make a tasty bowl...
If you are so lucky as to have a rice steamer, you are already ahead of the game. If not, you can pre-cook your rice the night before so that it will be ready for frying when you get home.
Additionally, you should consider what you want in your rice. Do you have any leftover chicken, pork or beef? Those would do nicely; if not you could use tinned ham... or no meat at all.
For a bit of colour and to add to the taste, a spring onion works well. Besides that, carrot slivers or cubes, soybeans and corn help to add a bit of texture. And you will need at least one egg.
Ideally, you should fry your beaten egg(s) in about a centimetre of oil and cook them first, so that they remain fluffy and do not make your rice soggy.
After removing the eggs, toss your rice into your wok, adding soy sauce, salt, ginger powder and pepper.
Next, come the meat and veg; whichever ones you had decided on. Finally, as the rice turns a delicate gold colour, add the egg, stirring vigorously to break it up.
Are you hungry yet?
Fried rice is very popular the world over... but is it authentically Japanese? Learn how those foods have been adapted to suit the world's tastes.
How to Prepare Yaki Udon
With all of the hoopla about food waste today, finding ways to use up leftovers is an excellent idea and Japanese foods lend themselves very well to that concept... to wit, the fried rice recipe above.
Not everyone is a fan of rice and, even if they are, sometimes noodles would be nice!
This dish is best when using packaged noodles you can find in the refrigerated or frozen section, perhaps at an Asian food store.
Besides noodles, you would need vegetables and some sort of protein, either meat or tofu.
For seasonings: black pepper, a soup base and, of course, soy sauce.
First, stir fry your meat in vegetable oil, then add your vegetables, cooking them till they are soft. Recommended are cabbage, carrots, onion and shiitake mushroom tops.
These selections can be anything you have left over from previous meals.
Now is the time to add your noodles. As they should already be cooked, you only need to rinse them before mixing them in.
Season this mixture with salt and soy sauce and top it all off with your soup base. Allow to simmer together for about 5 minutes and serve.
Note: a similar dish, Yakisoba, is prepared much the same way except it calls for Chinese-style noodles; the kind you would find in ramen dishes.
Make these yourself thanks to the best cooking courses London on Superprof.
Nothing like a cool salad to beat these record-breaking temperatures!
This salad is more than a step away from what we expect crisp, cool salad to be; noodles are the main component that complements the ‘dressing’ and garnish.
Beware that these noodles cook faster than spaghetti noodles so, after only a few minutes in hot water, you should drain them and flood them with cold water so that your salad will be the cooling treat you want it to be.
To make it, you will need green onion, cilantro and roasted sesame seeds.
For the dressing, use oil with a neutral flavour, add a little sesame oil, a couple of tablespoons of honey, some crushed red pepper (if you like things spicy) and, naturally, soy sauce.
All of these ingredients should be whisked together as they heat, on the stovetop or in the microwave.
Once your noodles and dressing have cooled, it is simply a matter of putting it all together: mix the cilantro and green onion in, drizzle dressing over the top and grab your chopsticks!
Authentic Japanese cuisine calls for this dish to be deep-fried; this recipe bakes rather than fries for a healthier result that is just as tasty.
Tonkatsu is a pork cutlet, crispy on the outside and savoury-soft on the inside. The secret to that crispy outer crust is panko, what Japanese chefs use instead of breadcrumbs.
A key step is to cook the panko before breading the cutlets.
This involves heating oil in a pan and adding panko till the bottom is covered. Allow it to sizzle until the panko is golden brown; remove from the heat and pour it into a glass dish to cool.
Next, prepare your cutlets by trimming excess fat and cutting small slits into connective tissues to prevent the meat from buckling or bowing under heat. Once they are all trimmed, pound them flat.
The thinner the meat, the more evenly they will cook. Your cutlets should end up about one centimetre thick.
Now, dash them with salt and pepper, coat them in regular flour (shaking off excess), and then in egg and finally into the panko. Place on a baking rack in an oven heated to 200 degrees.
The 20 minutes or so they take to bake will give you time to set your table... be sure to have tonkatsu dipping sauce handy!
Gyudon – the Ultimate Beef Bowl
This dish is considered comfort food to the Japanese palate and, just like our comfort dishes, it is quick and easy to make. All you need is:
- Thinly sliced beef
- sliced onion (and scallions for garnish)
- (3) eggs
For the sauce, you will need:
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 tbsp sake
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 1 tsp soy sauce
This version does not call for dashi broth, however, you could add some in the winter time to make it extra warming.
First, saute the sliced onions until they are golden and then, add the meat. As it is browning, sprinkle on the sugar, stirring all the while and, once the meat is no longer red, add the sake, mirin and soy sauce.
Lower the heat and simmer for a couple of minutes, after which you pour on the beaten eggs. Allow them to cook thoroughly, and then serve over rice, garnishing with green onion.
Discover also the diversity of regional Japanese cuisine...
Honey Soy Sauce Chicken
Children are notoriously picky eaters; serving them anything out of the norm is liable to cause outright rebellion.
Fortunately, traditional Japanese cuisine takes fussy appetites into account; a hands-down favourite is this next recipe.
All you need is 1.5 pounds of chicken drumlets, salt and black pepper.
For their glaze, have 4 tbsp honey and an equal amount of soy sauce on hand, and 2 tbsp sake (or cooking sherry). Mix those ingredients in a food storage bag – Ziploc would be a good brand to use.
While waiting for the last of the honey to drip out of the measuring spoon, prick the chicken with a fork and rub salt and pepper on it.
Add the chicken to the glaze mixture; make sure every part is covered. Allow them to marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.
Arrange them in your baking pan, skin-side up. Pour the leftover marinade over the chicken, and then bake at 220 degrees for 20-30 minutes.
Voila! Instant fussy eater favourite!
Omurice Tops the Easy Japanese Recipes Kids Love
While all of the recipes we’ve featured so far can be found on any Japanese restaurant menu, this next one is traditional in the extreme even though it is not usually served in restaurants across Japan.
Nevertheless, it is a kid fav and, reasoning there are readers with kids out there, we wanted to include this one on our ‘top ten’ list because kids love it.
It too makes use of leftover rice and whatever meat you happen to have on hand; it also features a kid’s dietary staple: ketchup.
Of course, not only kids enjoy this thin egg shell stuffed with fried rice (and ketchup!) and its complexity can vary with the tastes of the chef and diner. Here is the basic recipe:
- ¼ onion
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 tbsp green peas and minced mushrooms
- salt and pepper
- cooked short grain rice
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter(divided)
Naturally, you can omit (or add) any ingredient you wish; if you suspect peas and mushrooms will turn your child off, you can leave them off... or mince them smaller.
Additionally, you will need:
- 3 tbsp ketchup
- 3 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp water
These ingredients should be mixed and set aside before cooking anything.
Finally, beat 4 large eggs with a tablespoon of milk (to make them extra-frothy).
After prepping all of the ingredients, start by frying the onions until they are golden brown. Add your veg and meat (or tofu); season it all with salt and pepper.
As that mixture sizzles along, add the cooked rice, breaking up large chunks. Once it is thoroughly mixed in, add your sauce – don’t forget to save some to pour on top of the omelettes.
Now it is time to cook the eggs. In a clean pan, use one tsp of butter to cook half of the egg mixture (this recipe should yield 2 omelettes).
Once the eggs start to harden, add half of your rice mixture. Now, for the tricky part: ‘cradling' the rice mixture within the eggs. It should look like a boat by the time you’re done with it; the rice floating in a border of yellow egg.
Slide this creation to a plate and use your hands to pull the egg over any visible filling and shape the omurice into an oval.
Drizzle the remaining ketchup sauce on them and dig in!
Fundamental Japanese Cuisine: Miso Soup
No list of Japanese food recipes would be complete without miso.
It is eaten virtually every day in Japan. There are endless varieties and ingredients, depending on the region and the season, on personal preference, and so on.
It all starts with dashi broth. It could start with chicken or beef stock but some feel that it takes away from the taste.
If you have an Asian shop nearby, you may find dashi powder or dashi packets; either one will give you a ready-made soup base.
Miso is fermented soybean paste, a key ingredient that you could also find at the Asian shop.
You will need 3 tbsp of this bean paste, along with 2 cups of dashi broth and whichever ingredients you choose to make your soup.
Cabbage, eggplant, mushrooms and yuba make particularly good choices; you can consult this recipe page for more suggestions, along with how to make dashi from scratch.
Granted, nobody is in the mood for soup when the pavement is buckling from the heat but, for its health benefits alone, miso is well worth incorporating into your diet.
Are you feeling inspired now? Ready to dust off your Benihana grill and give some of these recipes a go? Your taste buds will surely thank for it!
Now discover more Japanese food specialities...