The most delicious traditional Japanese dishes

Kakuni, photo by Kanko* on Flickr

No matter where you live, if you’ve ever eaten out somewhere, then you’ve probably encountered Japanese cuisine at least once in your life. When it comes to national cuisines, their degree of popularity around the world is probably a good measure of how good they actually are. And seeing as Japanese cuisine has reached countries hundreds of miles away from Japan, you can be sure that Japanese food is nothing if not fabulous. But although most people have heard or tasted dishes like sushi, tempura or ramen, there are many more dishes on a traditional Japanese menu that aren’t that well known outside of Japan. So if you’re traveling around Japan, it’s worth to take a peek at some of the most delicious traditional Japanese dishes that are less well known to the non-Japanese.

Kare Raisu

Curry Rice, photo by machu. on Flickr

Kare Raisu, or curry rice, was one of the Western style dishes introduced in Japan during the Meiji Restoration, and it has quickly become one of the comfort foods that most Japanese love. Kare raisu (or just kare) is delightfully simple, filling and tasty. Many families have their own recipes for kare, but most of them include potatoes, onions, carrots and some sort of meat. Curry rice served with a breaded pork cutlet is called katsu-kare. So if you’re still not sure that you want to give regional cuisine a chance, eat some kare at a small eatery and you’ll be set for the day.

Hōtō

If you’ve decided to adventure into the world of regional Japanese cuisine, then you should definitely give these Yamanashi-style udon noodles a chance. Hōtōare made by stewing udon and various vegetables (including pumpkin and mushrooms) in miso soup. When you’re in Yamanashi and you want a bowl of hōtō, look for shops that have the battle flag of Takeda Shingen, a famous Japanese feudal lord of the past (you can find images of the flag online).

Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki, photo by Ari Helminen on Flickr

Okonomiyaki is one of the most beloved dishes in the Kansai region, and has spread all over Japan with regional variations. The name of the dish means ‘whatever you like cooked’, because when it comes to okonomiyaki you are your own chef. Customers in many okonomiyaki restaurants are seated at tables that have hotplates (teppan), and are given a bowl of raw ingredients and batter, and you can make your own okonomiyaki pancakes with whatever delicious things your like.

Kakuni

Kakuni is one of the most famous dishes of the Nagasaki region, so if you’re visiting that area, do what Japanese tourists do and have yourself a meal of kakuni. This dish of Chinese origins is made with cubes of pork belly simmered in a sauce of soy, mirin (a type of rice wine used as a condiment), dashi (a type of broth), sake and sugar until it becomes melt-in-your-mouth tender. Even if you’re reluctant to try pork belly, give this dish a chance – it is one of the most delicious traditional Japanese dishes for sure.

Chanpurū

Chanpuru, photo by pelican on Flickr

According to many, Okinawa is a world of its own with many differences from mainland Japan, and the cuisine is also has many particularities. Chanpurū, or Okinawan stir-fry, might look like a regular stir-fry, but it isn’t – one of the main ingredients of this dish is…luncheon meat. Luncheon meat became popular in Okinawa after being introduced by the US navy, and although it hasn’t been in Okinawan cuisine for long, it’s there to stay and has become one of the staple ingredients.

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