From yakitori to tonkatsu, there's more to Japanese cuisine than sushi, sashimi

What is the first thing that comes to your mind when someone says Japanese food? Sushi? No doubt it's one of the most famous dishes of the cuisine but there's more to Japanese food than just that. Simple, minimal, refined and vibrant —these are some adjectives we associate with this cuisine. The emphasis is on fresh ingredients, of which the chefs and cooks retain as much of the original flavours and textures.

Sushi (Soo-shee)

You can’t talk about Japanese food and not mention sushi. It’s amazing how this humble dish evolved from a mere method of preserving fish to being a symbol of Japanese cuisine, all across the planet.

Sushi boat with norimaki and nigirizushi at Umame, Mumbai

Sushi boat with norimaki and nigirizushi at Umame, Mumbai

Aromatic balls of sticky rice adorned with seaweed and sliced fish, this healthy dish is more diverse than what one can think. Traditionally, there are four types of sushi: nigiri which is small balls of rice shrouded with fish; gunkar, a cup-like sushi made of dried seaweed and rice; norimaki is sticky rice and fish or vegetable roll; and temaki, a hand-rolled sushi in a conical shape.

Try the sushi at at Sushi KoiUmame and San Qui in Mumbai; at Shizusan and Koji in Pune; MekongCollage and Jonathan's Kitchen in Hyderabad; BenihanaKyotoIchiban and Wasabi by Morimoto - Taj Mahal Hotel in Delhi; at Fuji and The Sushi Oke in Kolkata; at the Pan Asian- ITC Grand Chola in Chennai and Harima in Bengaluru.

Okonomiyaki (O-ko-nomi-yaa-ki)

Ever heard of Japanese pancakes? Yes, they’re real and delicious too! Okonomiyaki literally translates to ‘what you liked grilled’ and it can safely be called the Japanese equivalent of a pancake.

A delectable mini meal: Okonomiyaki

A delectable mini meal: Okonomiyaki

A dish that originally started as a dessert made for Buddhist ceremonies , Funoyaki in the 1600s has come a long way to being a savoury pancake. Loaded with meat, veggies and seafood, with a liberal use of sauces, it makes for a flavourful and filling mini-meal.

Sample Okonomiyaki at KofukuRuka and Japani in Mumbai; Shizusan in Pune; Benihanaand Kyoto in Delhi; The Wall in Kolkata; Harima in Bengaluru.

Tempura (Tem-poo-ra)

If you think fried food is greasy, you should get your hands on a plate of tempura — fritters of meat or vegetables made in a light batter.

Prawns tempura

Prawns tempura

The finesse in making a plateful involves ensuring the oil is at the correct temperature, so the inside is cooked well whilst the batter outside stays crispy. Light on the palate, a well-made tempura is nothing like the greasy fried chicken you get at fast food joints. And it is delicious!

Bite into crispy tempura at KofukuShiro and Sushi Koi in Mumbai; Shizusan in Pune; Benihana and Ichiban in Delhi; The Co. by Wok Anthems — Dee Empresa Hotel and Fuji at Kolkata; Sushi In A Box at Chennai; Harima in Bengaluru.

Udon (Oo-donne)

What do you crave when it is cold and dark outside? A comforting bowl of broth with noodles. Udon is a thick wheat noodle usually served in a broth with tempura. It is a Japanese favourite and it’s just as comforting in India too!

Udon. Representational image

Udon. Representational image

Savour a bowl at KofukuWasabi by Morimoto — Taj Mahal Palace and Shiro in Mumbai; at Ichiban in Delhi; at Fung Shway in Kolkata; Sushi in a Box in Chennai; Harima in Bengaluru.

Sashimi (Sa-see-me)

Does the thought of eating raw seafood make you cringe? Have a look at a well-made Sashimi plate and you’ll fall in love with it. Sashimi is raw or blanched seafood thinly sliced and served with dipping sauces. The chefs who make sashimi do so with great care to ensure no bones remain as the dish and there's nothing fishy about it!

Sashimi platter

Sashimi platter

Try this at KofukuRuka and Yuuka, St. Regis in Mumbai; Shizusan and Koji in Pune; BenihanaIchiban and Kyoto in Delhi; Fung Shway in Kolkata; Sushi in a Box at Chennai.

Gyoza (Guh-yo-ja)

Who says war only makes history? Sometimes, it also gives rise to good food. At the time of the Sino-Japanese War, the Japanese soldiers during their occupation of Manchuria, adopted the Chinese Jioazi dumpling and brought it back home. That’s where the classic Japanese gyoza hail from. Usually filled with seasoned minced meat, this bundle of goodness can be made three ways: Yaki Gyoza (pan-fried), Sui Gyoza (boiled/steamed) and Age Gyoza (deep fried).



Tuck into gyoza at KofukuShiro and Tokyo Treat in Mumbai; at Kyoto in Delhi; at Spice Kraft in Kolkata; Aki Bay and PAN Asian — ITC Grand Chola in Chennai; Harima in Bengaluru.

Yakitori (Yak-ee-to-ree)

Translated as grilled chicken on a stick, yakitori is a bar favourite. Juicy succulent pieces of chicken are seasoned with salt, skewered and grilled. It isn’t only a delicious bar nibble, it doubles up as a snack on-the-go too!

Yakitori skewers

Yakitori skewers

Snack on some yakitori along with a glass of beer or sake at RukaShiro and Kofuku in Mumbai. Also at Benihana and Ichiban in Delhi; Zen — The Park in Kolkata; Teppan in Chennai.

Bento (Ben-toe)

With the passage of time, Japanese food has evolved and for everybody who thinks lunch boxes are boring, you’ve probably never heard of a Bento Box. Healthy and delicious, it is a flavourful ensemble of meat, seafood, vegetables, rice and pickles. Covering almost all the food groups, this isn’t only a nutritious meal — it is a visual treat too!

Bento box

Bento Box

Enjoy a nutritious Bento Box at Tokyo Treat and Shiro in Mumbai; at Kyoto in Delhi; The Wall (named Steamboat) in Kolkata; Sushi in a Box at Chennai; EdoITC Gardenia in Bengaluru.

Teppanyaki (Te-panya-ki)


The word teppanyaki means 'grilling on an iron plate'; it may seem simple, but don't be misled! Chefs exhibit their art in a live kitchen with a culinary-theatrical performance with staples such as soba or udon and meat. Just like gyoza, teppanyaki is a recent addition to the cuisine — just after World War II with the advent of the Japanese steakhouse.

Savour this performance in Mumbai at San QuiKofuku and Wasabi by Morimoto; in Delhi at Ichiban; in Kolkata at Pan Asian — ITC Sonar and Zen — The Park; Sushi Box at Chennai; in Bengaluru at EdoITC Gardenia.

Tonkatsu (Ton-ka-tsu)

An anytime snack: Tonkatsu

An anytime snack: Tonkatsu

Just when you thought that you knew Japanese cuisine, you have another chapter to learn. Katsu is similar to a cutlet or a schnitzel. Thick cuts of meat, usually pork, are breaded and deep fried. Served in a rice bowl (katsudon), as a sandwich (katsu sudon) or with curry (kare katsu), but it can be savoured just as it is with coleslaw too!

Dig into tonkatsu in Mumbai at Fat kid DeliKofuku and Japani; and in Chennai at Fuji.

With inputs from Husein Upletawala. Images for representational purposes only. Photo credits: Cryselle D'souza

This article originally appeared on Burrp

Published Date: Jan 29, 2017 09:48 AM | Updated Date: Jan 29, 2017 09:48 AM

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