Japanese food is popular all over the world. However, there’s no denying that some people are still intimidated by sushi and sashimi. It’s usually a cultural thing, but after their first encounter with these authentic Japanese cuisine staples, love and appetite grow.
However, Japanese food is not mostly raw fish. Although Japanese chefs emphasize that there’s no better way of preserving natural flavors than meticulously preparing food raw, they also like to create new tastes using creative cooking techniques.
Therefore, if you are still building up the courage to try sushi or sashimi at an authentic Japanese restaurant for the first time, you have an abundance of other options. Six wholesome and cooked Japanese dishes are listed below.
1. Donburi bowls
Donburi bowls are essentially rice dishes with different toppings. The most famous ones are unadon, katsu-don, oyaku-don, and tendon.
These are sold everywhere, from small kiosks to humble cafeterias, specialist dining establishments, and contemporary Japanese restaurants. Families and workers enjoy having them for lunch and dinner because you can get everything you need for sustenance in one bowl.
Unadon, for example, offers a large heaping of rice topped with grilled unagi or eel. Quite often, a variety of small greens are thrown into the bowl as well for color, richer flavor, higher nutrition, and texture. This particular donburi bowl is ideal to eat for lunch because unagi is an energy booster.
Tempura is another iconic Japanese dish that everybody can enjoy. It is a light, perfectly fried dish that, unlike other fried treats, can be quite greasy and stodgy. Properly cooked tempura is not soaked in oil. This is because the filling for the batter is cooked from the steam of the fried batter.
You can eat it on its own, but you can also enjoy tempura with rice or ramen. Tempura usually makes use of light seafood (fish, prawn, and the body of squid or cuttlefish), sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, or a combination of green onions, julienned carrots, and white onions.
Japanese buckwheat noodles or soba are considered year-round dishes. Soba comes in two varieties: one that’s served cold and one that’s served in hot soup.
Cold soba is a summer favorite. It’s often served in a bamboo mat with ice, and a dark, hot dipping sauce with grated ginger, sesame seeds, scallions, and a raw quail egg at times. Meanwhile, hot soba is your typical noodle dish. It’s served in a bowl with a hot, sweet, and savory broth.
There are different recipes for soba noodles. Most regions in Japan have their own, and they make use of unique cooking styles and include local ingredients to complement the chewy consistency and delightful texture of the noodles.
This Japanese pancake is often served as an appetizer, and the most famous recipes for it come from Osaka. The simple green onion okonomiyaki is light, and many people love how the green onion and cabbage balance out the strong flavor of the bonito and seaweed flakes that usually top the pancake.
Another in-demand option is the beef tendon okonomiyaki, which is quite savory and filling. Most of the time, it’s heavy enough to serve as a full meal.
Overall, if you see okonomiyaki on the menu, do try it out, especially if you’re eating with children because you can usually request for new ingredients to be added to the batter.
5. Miso soup
Miso soup is a heart-warming starter for any meal. It is rich in protein and probiotic-rich miso. But like other Japanese offerings, it comes in different recipes.
What a lot of women love particularly is miso soup with fresh clams, scallions, and seaweed that add a bit more sweetness to the soup. This kind of miso soup is famous in Japan’s Shimane Prefecture because it is believed to be a beauty elixir.
Miso soup goes well with pretty much anything because of its subtle flavor, but it is loaded with nutrition. You can pair it wagyu beef steak on top creamy rice, pan-seared sea bream, fish steaks, maki, and tempura. And, when you feel ready to try sashimi, a small bowl of hot miso soup is the perfect way to prepare your stomach for it.
Curry is another wholesome meal that is typically offered in Japanese restaurants. It is a Western-influenced meal that has managed to become a staple in Japanese cuisine. It always places high in surveys as favorite Japanese food.
What’s exceptionally amazing about Japanese curry is that it’s nothing like Indian or Thai curry. There’s a unique sauce base used for it to elevate curry’s flavor. And, when it comes to the other ingredients, you are pretty much only limited by your imagination. You can go for the typical mix of carrots, potatoes, beef cubes, or a katsu or any breaded meat cutlet, fried prawns, spinach, mushrooms, and top them all off with a fried egg.
There’s no shortage of gastronomic treats at a contemporary Japanese restaurant. It’s never just about the sushi. If you simply prefer completely cooked dishes, hopefully, the examples shared above will satisfy your palate.