Japanese cuisine is as world-famous, diverse, colourful, and beautiful as its culture. The world knows about Sushi and Ramen. However, authentic Japanese food has so much more depth to it and there are many other dishes that are popular and are worth trying.  So, if you are planning to visit Japan anytime soon, here are some of the best Japanese food you must try to get a taste of the rich Japanese food culture. 

Hence, we have an authentic Japanese food list to explore.

List of the Popular Japanese Food to Try

Japan offers a wide array of traditional food, each with its own unique appeal. Exploring authentic Japanese cuisine reveals a wealth of ingredients and combinations that might be entirely new and exciting for you.

Here are the best Japanese dishes for you.

  • Udon

Among the different types of noodle dishes you may find in Japan, Udon is an internationally popular food, and it looks similar to Ramen. Udon is essentially a thick noodle made from wheat flour, and it is served with a broth made of soy sauce, mirin and dashi. There are different types of Udon with different flavour profiles, which you can try.  

This is one of those Japanese dishes that can be served hot or cold, depending on the season and personal preference. You can try Udon with a side of tempura for a more robust and complete meal.    

  • Miso Soup

When you talk about popular Japanese dishes, you cannot leave out Miso Soup. You can have this heart-warming soup any time of the day, be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Simple and flavourful, this soup is a staple of Japanese cuisine.  

The main ingredient of the soup is dashi, and the stock is mixed with miso paste and other ingredients as per individual preference. If you try miso soup in any Japanese restaurant, it may be served with mushrooms, fish, scallions, tofu, and shrimp.  

A comfort food for many Japanese locals, you must have this soup in the winter, it will fill your tummy and heart with immense warmth.

  • Yakitori

Yakitori, an authentic Japanese food, is an on-the-go pick-up food. It is the Japanese version of hot dogs in the US. The Japanese locals like to pick up some Yakitori while going to a sports match or in a rush and want to eat on the go. Yakitori, literally means barbecue chicken, and they are small skewers of bite-size chicken pieces that are seasoned with salt and brushed with soy sauce or mirin rice wine.  

You can find different varieties of this famous Japanese food throughout the country. However, the most popular and common varieties are momo, which is made of chicken thigh, and tsukune, which is made of chicken meatballs.  

  • Donburi

Donburi is a rice bowl dish like the popular Japanese food Ramen and Sushi, and the most preferred choice of one-bowl meal among Japanese workers. Donburi is made by simmering or frying chicken/pork meat, fish and vegetables that are served with steamed rice in a large bowl called Donburi. 

You can find different varieties of this Japanese meal in different parts of Japan. However, the most common types are Oyakodon (made with simmered chicken, egg, and green onions) and Kasudon (made with deep-fried pork cutlets, onions and egg). 

  • Tamagoyaki

A versatile and healthy Japanese dish, Tamagoyaki can be enjoyed for lunch, dinner or breakfast. The name of the dish literally translates to cooked egg in Japanese language. It is basically an omelette made by meticulously cooking and rolling up many layers of eggs and seasoned with soy sauce and sugar (optional).  

A freshly made Tamagoyaki looks similar to a rolled-up crepe, and you can eat it by itself as a full meal or have it with rice and curry.  

  • Gyoza

Gyoza is a dumpling that has a filling of minced meat, green onions, mushroom, and cabbage, wrapped in a gyoza wrapper and shaped like a half moon. It is cooked by frying until the outside is golden brown and then steamed for about 2-3 minutes so that the meat inside is moist and juicy. Every bit of Gyoza oozes deliciousness. When you are in Japan, it is one of the must-try Japanese dishes.  

  • Onigiri

Onigiri, a convenient Japanese food, consists of rice encasing a flavourful filling, typically shaped into a triangle and wrapped in nori for easy portability. Popular fillings include teriyaki chicken, seaweed, and tuna mayonnaise. While Onigiri is commonly found in Japanese convenience stores as an affordable and delicious treat, it is also among the simplest Japanese dishes to prepare in the comfort of your own home! 

  • Yakisoba

Yakisoba is a popular Japanese food staple at street festivals, featuring barbecued noodles, pork, cabbage, and various vegetables. Crafting your own yakisoba at home is a breeze with a sizable frying pan or wok. It's a dish bursting with robust flavours, effortlessly prepared by combining all the ingredients in a single pan and letting them sizzle to perfection! 

  • Japanese Curry

Japanese curry differs significantly from the Indian curries you may know. It boasts a sweet flavour profile and is crafted similar to a stew. The meat and vegetables are simmered with a curry paste that doubles as a thickening element. Creating Japanese curry at home is relatively straightforward, especially if you have access to pre-made curry paste. 

  • Nikujaga

Roasted meat and potatoes form the foundation of various Western cuisines. Surprisingly, the Japanese also boast their unique rendition of this classic combination. 

Nikujaga, a stew featuring meat and potatoes, is crafted with soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar. This is one of the popular Japanese foods made at home, and the ideal way to savour it authentically in Japan is by securing an invitation to a local's dinner table. 

  • Takoyaki

Takoyaki is the best Japanese food to have as a snack. It is like little fried octopus balls. Originating from Osaka, these round treats have octopus bits, green onions, and ginger in a tasty batter. They're cooked in a special pan until they're golden outside and gooey inside. The final touch is adding sauce, mayo, seaweed flakes, and bonito flakes for a mix of sweet and savoury flavours. People often enjoy takoyaki at festivals or special food places, making it a tasty part of Japanese street food culture. 

  • Tonkatsu

The Japanese have been exposed to various Western foods by Europeans, and over the years, Japanese chefs have uniquely adapted these dishes, leading to the emergence of new Japanese food. Tonkatsu pork cutlets exemplify this transformation. Resembling crispy-fried chicken strips, these savoury delights are crafted from succulent pork and accompanied by crunchy cabbage. 

  • Tempura

A beloved Japanese culinary art, it features lightly battered and deep-fried seafood, vegetables, and even desserts. This cooking technique ensures a delicate, crispy exterior while preserving the ingredients' natural flavours. Commonly served with a dipping sauce called tentsuyu, tempura delights the palate with its combination of textures and subtle umami taste. Whether enjoyed as a standalone dish or complementing other Japanese specialities, tempura offers a delightful and satisfying culinary experience. 

  • Soba

Soba noodles, a Japanese staple, are made from buckwheat flour, giving them a subtly nutty taste. These versatile noodles can be enjoyed hot or cold and pair well with bold flavours like garlic, sesame oil, or chilli. Whether in a comforting broth or served with a tasty dipping sauce, soba noodles offer a simple yet best Japanese food experience, highlighting the distinctive charm of Japanese cuisine. 

  • Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki, the Japanese savoury pancake, is a delicious treat made with cabbage, batter, and your choice of ingredients. The name means "what you like," highlighting its customizable nature. Cooked on a griddle, it becomes a tasty mix of flavours and textures. Whether topped with traditional bonito flakes and mayo or personalized with seafood or cheese, Okonomiyaki is part of a versatile Japanese food list and is a comforting dish that captures the essence of Japanese culinary creativity. 

  • Karaage

Found in many Japanese gastropubs, Karaage is a bite-sized twice-fried chicken. Marinated in a mix of soy sauce, sake, and ginger, it's juicy and full of flavour. What makes Japanese fried chicken special is using potato starch for an extra crispy coating. Perfect for snacking or pairing with a drink at an izakaya, Karaage offers a delightful combination of tenderness and crunch, making it a popular Japanese food for fans of such cuisine.  

  •  Somen

Somen is a delicate and thin Japanese noodle made from wheat flour. Often served cold, Somen is a popular dish during the hot summer months. The noodles are typically served with a light soy-based dipping sauce called tsuyu and can be garnished with ingredients like green onions, ginger, or shiso (perilla) leaves. Somen is not only known for its refreshing taste but also for its elegant presentation, often served on ice to maintain its cool temperature. Whether enjoyed as a refreshing snack or a main dish, Somen noodles offer a light and satisfying culinary experience in Japanese cuisine. 

  • Melonpan

Melonpan, a beloved Japanese food, is a type of sweet bread with a distinct appearance and flavour. Despite its name, it doesn't actually contain melon but is named for its melon-like appearance. The bread dough is often coated with a thin layer of crisp cookie dough, creating a delightful contrast in textures. The sweet aroma and the crunch of the outer layer give way to a soft and fluffy interior. Melonpan comes in various flavours and may feature fillings like chocolate or custard. Often enjoyed as a snack or dessert, Melonpan is a popular treat that combines the best of crunchy and soft textures in Japanese baking.

Best Time to Try the Above Authentic Japanese Foods List

From refreshing spring Udon to cosy winter Curry, each Japanese dish has its moment. Here’s a list to help you enjoy some of the best Japanese food at the perfect time of the year.

Spring (March to May):

  1. Udon (try with spring vegetables and fresh herbs)
  2. Miso Soup (comforting during cool evenings)
  3. Tamagoyaki (with seasonal ingredients like spring onions)

Summer (June to August):

  1. Cold Udon (refreshing summer dish)
  2. Miso Soup (light ingredients like tofu and seaweed)
  3. Somen (refreshing noodles with tsuyu dipping sauce)

Autumn (September to November):

  1. Udon (enjoy with hearty autumn vegetables)
  2. Miso Soup (with mushrooms and root vegetables)
  3. Donburi (autumn ingredients like sweet potatoes)
  4. Gyoza and Tamagoyaki (comforting fall snacks)

Winter (December to February):

  1. Hot Udon soup and tempura
  2. Miso Soup (with rich ingredients like seafood and pork)
  3. Donburi (warm and hearty toppings)
  4. Nikujaga and Japanese Curry (comforting winter dishes)

Year-Round Dishes:

  1. Yakitori
  2. Donburi
  3. Tamagoyaki
  4. Gyoza
  5. Onigiri
  6. Yakisoba
  7. Japanese Curry
  8. Tonkatsu
  9. Tempura
  10. Melonpan
  11. Okonomiyaki
  12. Karaage
  13. Takoyaki
  14. Soba

Special Occasions:

  • Okonomiyaki (during festivals or special events)
  • Takoyaki (delightful street food for outdoor activities)

Japanese food is truly incredible. The more you try, the more you carve. Try as many Japanese dishes from the Japanese foods list mentioned above as possible.

On your trip to Japan, you can try as many authentic Japanese foods as possible, and you will surely fall in love with the food there.

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