11 Easy & Essential Japanese Recipes to Make at Home
There’s a reason that Tokyo is frequently dubbed as one of the best food cities in the world. Besides being responsible for the world’s finest sushi, Japanese cuisine also commands a deep understanding of umami — or deeply satisfying, savory flavor. What’s more, it’s a cuisine that’s full of simple, accessible recipes, going far beyond the expensive raw fish or days-long ramen recipes by which it can be commonly defined.
So whether you’re completely new to Japanese cuisine, or you just need a quick refresher, we’ve rounded up some of most popular yet classic recipes to help you get started. From crispy tonkatsu, to comforting udon, to sweet mochi, these Japanese dishes will inspire your kitchen adventures ahead.
1. Miso Soup
Your favorite pre-sushi soup is actually one of the easiest recipes to make from scratch at home, and only requires a handful of ingredients. One of them is dashi — a very simple broth made from kombu (a dried seaweed) and dried bonito fish flakes.
2. Tonkatsu from Damn Delicious
Crunchy pork cutlets are a staple of late-night eats in Japan. In local convenience stores, they even sell “katsu sandos,” which wrap the beloved dish between two slices of white bread. At home, pair your tonkatsu with a side of rice, a crisp salad, or simply eat it on its own with a healthy dousing of tonkatsu sauce, or BBQ sauce as an alternative.
These lofty, soufflé-like pancakes are served all over Japan at breakfast spots like Gram Cafe and Flippers. They’re also fairly easy to make at home with the help of one key kitchen tool (a ring mold!).
4. Omurice from Just One Cookbook
Eggs are a standby ingredient in Japanese cuisine — and they go beyond breakfast. Take omurice, which is fried rice wrapped in a perfectly fluffy blanket of eggs. If you don’t have pork for the rice, feel free to substitute it with another protein, or simply more vegetables.
These rice balls are a perfect answer to the mid-afternoon snack craving. Fair warning that they’ll harden and lose their freshness in the fridge, so they’re best eaten as soon as they’re packed. If you’d like to make them ahead, you can also store the rice mix in an airtight container and wrap them when you’re ready to eat.
Whether it’s a cold, rainy evening or a warm Sunday afternoon, there’s no better way to wind down than with a pot of sukiyaki — or vegetable and beef hot pot. The dish is defined by its broth, which is at once sweet (in the way a French onion soup is sweet) and savory. Traditionally, the soup’s contents are enjoyed by dipping them into a beaten egg mixture.
7. Udon from No Recipes
If you need a break from ramen noodles, say hello to udon noodles. They’re thicker, chewier, and the perfect backdrop upon which to try narutomaki. It’s a cured fish paste — known for its pink swirl — which you can likely find in your local grocery store’s specialty aisle. If you can’t? Simply stick with braised pork or even shiitake mushrooms for a vegetarian take.
8. Nagoya-Style Chicken Wings from Just One Cookbook
One common difference between Japanese chicken wings and American-style wings? The use of potato starch instead of flour, which ensures maximum crispness for hours after you’re done cooking them. To further ensure the texture is just right, don’t skimp on the marinade.
9. Gyudon from The Woks of Life
Some of the best Japanese dishes are the simplest, and this beef bowl is no exception. It consists of sweet, marinated thinly-sliced beef on a bed of rice, and is a delicious reminder that soy sauce works just as well as part of a marinade as it does a dipping sauce.
10. Buta No Kakuni from No Recipes
This recipe is slightly more involved than the others on this list, but worth it for the resulting tender, fall-apart pork belly that I’d probably plan an entire travel itinerary around. It involves cutting the pork belly into cubes (kakuni translates to “square simmered”), lightly browning it, then letting it simmer in a broth for two hours.
Your favorite Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s dessert can be your next DIY dessert project, if you’re willing to scavenge for the slightly niche shiratamako. This glutinous rice flour will lend your mochi the smooth, bouncy texture that it’s known for. (And make extra — because these will disappear quickly!)