By Leia Sharma
There is a lot more to Japanese cuisine than just sushi. From noodles to deep-fried vegetables to broth-based dishes, there’s something to delight every palate. Like many cuisines around the world, Japanese dishes incorporate influences from other countries. And fret not, vegetarians – despite their skill in cooking raw fish, there are lots of vegetarian options available too.
Udon is a thick white noodle made of wheat flour. On a Japanese menu you will find it served either cold with a dipping sauce, stir fried, or cooked in a hot broth made of mirin, dashi, and soy sauce. How to eat udon? Either dip the noodles into the dipping sauce or, if served in broth, eat the noodles with your chopsticks and then drink the soup straight from the bowl.
Another type of Japanese noodle, soba is made of buckwheat flour, with similar thickness to spaghetti. Soba noodles are often eaten boiled, cold, and dipped in a soya-based sauce. They can also be served hot in a bowl of broth.
Japanese tofu is made of curdled soy milk. A good source of protein, specially for vegetarians, tofu is used in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes. Find it in miso soup, breaded and fried into agedashi tofu or mapo tofu, a Japanese adaptation of a popular Szechuan dish.
One of the most famous dishes in Japanese cuisine, sashimi is thinly sliced, raw food. Sashimi is typically made from seafood but can also be found in other types of meats and sometimes tofu skin. Dip sashimi into soy sauce, wasabi and add a garnish of thinly sliced ginger.
Another import from China, ramen is a noodle soup served in broth garnished with seaweed, beansprouts, green onion, pork and egg. Ramen is typically categorised according to the soup base, the most common type being shoyu ramen, which is made of soy sauce and chicken broth.
Seafood or vegetables lightly coated in batter and deep fried create tempura. Usually served with dipping sauce or daikon (white radish), tempura was first introduced to the Japanese by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Tempura can be a main dish, side dish, as well as a topping for rice or noodle dishes.
Yakitori consists of chicken which is skewered and grilled. Cooked over a grill, yakitori is typically inexpensive and served with beer, making it a popular dish. Yakitori can be made up of different parts of chicken, such as its thigh, fatty chicken skin, chicken wings, or chicken liver.
The most famous Japanese dish outside of Japan, sushi is enjoyed by the Japanese usually on special occasions. There are many different types of sushi, but all are characterised by rice that has been prepared with sushi vinegar. Nigiri, for example, consists of small rice balls that are topped with fish. Norimaki, one of the most popular types of sushi, is made up of sushi rice that has been rolled in dried seaweed sheets.
All images sourced from open media libraries.