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5 Delicious Japanese Dishes You've Never Heard Of

Delicious Japanese food is not always just limited to sushi and ramen, there is so much more to experience

Japan is home to a large variety of delicacies. Plenty of people across the world praise the Japanese for their delectable food. Japanese food is so favored by many that a lot of foreigners try to recreate traditional dishes at home.

If you are traveling to Japan, chances are that you're going to be eating their iconic ramen, sushi, or donburi. But as good as these choices can be, Japan has a lot more to offer. From bread filled with curry to raw horse meat, you are sure to find something simple, extraordinary, or a little weird when you visit Japan. 

If you're looking for a new comfort food, or you want to try something more adventurous, you have come to the right place. Here is a list of five delicious but underrated Japanese foods that will surely beat your tuna rice balls.

You've probably never heard of these dishes outside of Japan, but it's never too late to try something new.

Okonomiyaki

Let's first head on over to the streets of Osaka, Japan. You may be aware of the dish takoyaki, a savory ball snack made of flour with meat inside (typically octopus) and topped with sauce, mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and seaweed. 

Well, the same idea goes with the okonomiyaki.

Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake dish. It is sometimes referred to as the Japanese pancake or even as the Japanese pizza. The name translates to "What you like" (okonomi) and "grill" (yaki.) This savory street food is made out of primarily flour, eggs, nagaimo, shredded cabbage, tempura scraps (or tenkasu), and any choice of protein (typically pork belly slices.) It's then served with the same condiments as takoyaki. 

Okonomiyaki is available throughout the country, usually sold as street food. You can also make this simple dish at home with a few ingredients. 

Kare Pan

Maybe you're looking for something more hearty. If you are walking by a bakery or a convenience store, you'll likely find this next food waiting for you by the window.

Curry bread, or kare pan, is as good as it sounds. It is Japanese curry stuffed into bread dough. The bun is then coated in bread crumbs and is either deep-fried or baked.

Kare pan is a simple bread snack that you can carry around and munch on while on the go. It's convenient to buy and is the perfect comfort food after a long day of sightseeing around Japan. 

If you want to recreate this pastry at home, you can check out this tutorial right here.

Oyakodon

We've talked about two snacks so far, but what about a good meal? It's no surprise that in Japan, the people love their rice bowls. Try their dish called Oyakodon, which morbidly translates to "parent-and-child" donburi.

Just to be clear; you are not eating an actual parent or child. It's simply a dish that features both chicken and egg. Surely, you've connected the dots. This meal was first created in 1891 and has since been a part of the many donburi meals that you can order in Japan. There are other variations of this dish that features other meat and fishes, but we'll focus on the original, poultry version. Chicken, onion, scallion, and eggs are simmered in stock and soy sauce. Afterward, the stew is served on a bowl of steaming rice.

This is a great and easy dish that you can buy in Japan or make at home. You don't need a lot of ingredients to make oyakodon. 

You can follow this recipe video here.

Basahi

Now we're getting a little bit into the stranger territory of Japanese delicacy. It's no surprise that people from Japan love meat. Meat like beef, pork, and chicken are staples in their diet. But... horses?

Yes, Japanese people eat horses. But that might not even be the most shocking part. A lot of cultures eat horses, but what makes the Japanese different is that they eat their horses raw. Basahi is a variant of sashimi. Raw horse meat is served in thinly sliced pieces with a side of garlic, soy sauce, and pickled vegetables. Horse meat is described to be lean, has fewer calories, and, depending on how mature the horse is, can either be pink or dark red in color.

Raw horse meat is also referred to as Sakuraniku (or cherry blossom meat) because of the vibrant pinkish color. Today, horse is widely consumed by the Japanese population and is a normal part of their diet. 

To know more about how raw horse meat tastes, you can check this video right now.

Horumonyaki

We've saved the best (if not, the oddest) delicacy for last.

Barbeques are a big deal in Japan. Originally inspired by the Koreans, the practice of grilling meat over a flame has become popular among the Japanese population. So what's special about this barbeque meal? It's made out of beef or pork innards.

While it's far from common in other countries, especially in the West, the Japanese enjoy barbequing animal offals such as the intestine, stomach, and heart, just to name a few. Typically, pork is used, but beef can also be put into the mix. There are claims that this dish is "stamina building." While we can't back those claims up with solid scientific evidence, it's clear that the Japanese love their grilled innards, and maybe you will too.

You'll be surprised that the Japanese aren't the only people who eat internal organs. Other Asian countries also consume entrails from chicken, pork, and beef. It might feel a little scary to try at first, but if you are buying from a reputable restaurant, you're sure that the meat is fresh, cleaned, and ready to eat. 

Final Thoughts

You'll be surprised that there is a lot to discover when you visit Japan. The diverse choices of food in the country will make you feel full for as long as you stay. Japan is so much more than just sushi and noodles. The country is home to a lot of amazing chefs and innovative flavors. Stepping out of your comfort zone will introduce you to a world of taste like no other.

Journey through Japan with these different dishes on this list, and continue to discover more about the culture. We're sure that you'll be flying home with a brand new recipe.

Words by Athena Perez

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28 April 2021

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