Eat Like A Local: Lesser Known Japanese Dishes You Need To Try

Eat Like A Local: Lesser Known Japanese Dishes You Need To Try
Lesser known culinary gems of Japan Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Don’t forget to try these lesser known dishes when in Japan

Uttara Gangopadhyay
November 26 , 2019
06 Min Read

There is more to Japanese food than ramen or sushi, dishes which have turned into global favourites. Traditional cuisine in Japan not only varies according to region but season too. Freshness of the ingredients is also key to most Japanese dishes. While dishes such as sushi or ramen have turned into global favourites, a tour through the various prefectures reveal some unique dishes which are little known outside Japan.


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Apparently this soup was introduced as a pocket-friendly yet filling and nutritious meal for students from China by a Nagasaki-based Chinese restaurant in the Meiji era. This noodle soup, rich in vegetables and sea food, soon became synonymous with Nagasaki. According to food experts, it is the noodles that make the dish unique – in Nagasaki, the noodles are infused with some special ingredients, including toaku (brine).


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This popular dish derives its name from the Japanese words ‘o-konomo’ or ‘as you like it’ and ‘yaki’ or ‘to cook’. Essentially, it consists of a thin flour-based dough topped with various ingredients, such as vegetables, meat and noodles, and then fried on a ‘teppan’ or iron griddle. There are two major variations, the Osaka style and the Hiroshima style, the latter being more popular. In the Osaka style, the ingredients are mixed while in the Hiroshima style, the ingredients are layered. It is said there are more than 2000 okonomiyaki restaurants in and around Hiroshima city.

Kiritanpo Nabe

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A Japanese hotpot, Nabe, is a dish especially enjoyed in winter.  Hence, the ingredients may vary depending on the region and personal preferences. Common ingredients include leafy vegetables, mushrooms, meat and fish, and noodles. In Akita, one of Japan’s main rice-growing regions, people add ‘kiritanpo’ to the nabe. Freshly cooked rice is mashed by pounding, shaped like cylinders around a wooden skewer, and then roasted in an open fire. The kiritanpo, which is also had with miso, is used an ingredient to make nabe.

Miso Katsu

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Aichi prefecture in Japan is known for the variety of its local cuisine. According to many, the food tastes unique largely due to the use of fermented ingredients, such as miso, soy sauce and mirin. One of the popular street foods of Nagoya, the prefecture’s capital, is Miso Katsu or breaded pork cutlet covered with thick miso sauce. Here the miso sauce is made with fermented red bean paste to which broth and seasonings are added. However, the fermented sauce may appear a tad strong for the uninitiated.

Sakura Mochi

Sakura Mochi

There exists a mind-boggling range of Wagashi or sweets across Japan. Made from traditional recipes, many of the sweets are seasonal. For example, during the Cherry Blossom Festival (hanami), people enjoy the Sakura Mochi. Here the mocha (rice cake) is filled with red bean paste and wrapped in a salted cherry blossom. Another popular wagashi eaten during this time is the Hanami Dango, where the sweet dumplings made from rice flour and coloured green white and pink, are served together on a skewer.


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