The Japanese are among the most enthusiastic and passionate of any race when it comes to food. Meticulous presentation and careful preparation brings out the best of their cuisine. Japanese food consists of the regional and traditional dishes, which have developed through many centuries says Palash Banerjee.

The traditional cuisine consists of rice, apart from other staples like soba and udon, which are types of noodles. The food here is served raw, as in ‘sushi’ or ‘sashimi’, boiled, steamed or deep fried in a light batter called ‘tempura’.

I would recommend a list of five vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes for the first timers who are trying Japanese delicacies.

Top 5 Vegetarian Japanese Food:

japanese food
Photo: Amit Sengupta
japanese food
Photo: Amit Sengupta
  • Yasai Tempura– Yasai tempura is a dish in which some specific veggies like lotus root, shisho leaves, sweet potato etc are dipped in a thin batter and deep fried.
  • Tofu Teriyaki– In this dish, the simple combination of crispy fried tofu, stir fried in a home-made teriyaki sauce gives a burst of flavours with every bite.
  • Yasai Moriawase– In Japanese, anything grilled or fried is called ‘yaki’, ‘yasai’ stands for vegetables and moriawase for combined platter. So, as the name suggests, this dish serves a combined platter of grilled.
  • Veg Katsu Curry Rice– A vegetable katsu curry rice consists of crunchy crumbles slices of veggies (bells peppers and courgettes), and fluffy, hot Japanese rice, served with a flavoursome, well-spiced Japanese curry.
  • Sticky Fried Rice with Vegetables– The well known fried rice in this cuisine, uses long grained glutinous rice, also known as sticky rice, and is steamed rather than boiled. It has a chewy texture. As a result, one can easily use chopsticks to eat.

Top 5 Non-Vegetarian Japanese Food:

The non-vegetarian dishes mentioned here are mostly the meaty variants of the above mentioned dishes.

Photo credits: Amit Sengupta
  • Prawn Tempura– This is a batter fried dish available on the menu. Though deep fried, this dish absorbs very little oil. This is served with a dip made up of soy sauce, dashi, mirin, etc.
  • Yakitori Moriawase– A combined platter of a variety of bite- sized meatball skewers which are grilled over charcoal. Very popular in Japan, this dish is inexpensive and is often enjoyed with a glass of beer.
  • Chicken Teriyaki– This dish serves wok tossed, tender succulent pieces of chicken marinated in a home-made teriyaki sauce made by combining sake, soy sauce, mirin, sugar and ginger.
  • Chicken Katsu Curry Rice– The meat is breaded and fried and is served with Japanese rice and a luxurious, silky curry sauce slathered all over it.
  • Sticky Fried Rice with Chicken and Vegetables– A fried rice made with glutinous rice and a whole lot of chunky chicken pieces and veggies.
Japanese food
Chicken Katsu Curry Rice. Photo credits: Amit Sengupta

Though the list of must-try vegetarian dishes has been given, if you are looking for complete vegan dishes, then you might face a bit of difficulty. It’s hard to find a complete vegan Japanese dish. Though they mostly consume plant based foods, most of the traditional dishes are cooked in a fish broth or are sprinkled with bonito flakes. But if that is not an issue, Japanese Cuisine is definitely worth trying. Trust me, you will never regret your decision and will look for chances to taste them again!

Mr. Palash Banerjee is Director, K. House India that owns reputed Japanese restaurants such as Aajisai, Fuji and Japanese Forest.