How to cook Japanese food

If you thought Japanese food was too difficult to make at home, think again – try these easy dinner party dishes for a taste of Japan without the hassle.

Spread of Japanese dishes on a table

Japanese cuisine is reknowned for its light and fresh flavours encompassing a range of regional and seasonal influences. While popular specialities such as sushi, miso soup and pickled vegetables are often touted for their health benefits, the country's vibrant street food scene also showcases a variety of richer dishes such as deep-fried tonkatsu pork and sticky yakitori chicken. 

Follow our tips to help you cook like a local by using the right ingredients and techniques to replicate the fine flavour balances that define Japanese cookery.
 

Key ingredient buys

Soy sauce, miso and mochi

Kikkoman soy sauce

Adding that familiar salty umami kick to your Japanese sauces and dressings is essential to creating the symphony of flavours that makes your dishes sing. We find this one does the trick.

Clearspring sweet white miso

Made from fermented rice and soya beans, this light miso is best for dressings and sauces. Use a darker miso for a more intense flavour if you’re braising or stewing.

Little Moons mochi ice cream

Try this popular Japanese dessert of ice cream wrapped in pounded sticky rice cake. Sounds weird, tastes delicious! We love the toasted sesame seed and matcha green tea flavours. Available at ocado.com.
 

Other key ingredients

Katsuobushi, Shichimi and Kombu

Kombu

This edible kelp is the key ingredient in dashi, a kind of stock that forms the building blocks for so many popular Japanese dishes. Take the time to prepare your own and watch your ramen, soups and salad dressings transform to mirror the dishes in your favourite Japanese eateries.

Katsuobushi/bonito flakes

These fish flakes are used in the second part of flavouring the dashi, but they also make a delicious topping to rice dishes or to Japanese pancakes called okonomiyaki. Sprinkle them on and watch them dance and sway – they’re sure to mesmerise your guests.

Shichimi togarashi

This Japanese seven-spice blend adds a dash of flavour to dishes. Sprinkle it over your rice, udon noodles or ramen to add extra spice and a kick of heat.
 

Japanese dinner party menu

This is the perfect introduction to Japanese cooking, taking inspiration from street food and the dishes you might be served if you were to eat in a Japanese home. Forget the stress of trying to roll your own sushi, these recipes are much more achievable – and once you’ve tried the goma-ae sauce, you’ll never want to eat your greens any other way.
 

Yakitori chicken

Four Yakitori chicken kebabs

Create the perfect sticky chicken dish by coating thigh pieces in a sauce of soy, mirin, sake and sugar, then frying it on bamboo skewers. The secret to the irresistably sticky sauce is to keep turning the skewers to continually baste the chicken.

Yakitori chicken
 

Japanese rice/gohan

Bowl of rice topped with pickles, and chopsticks

No Japanese meal is complete without this fluffy and slightly sticky dish. The most versatile of foods, top with pickles, spring onions, nori or katsuobushi flakes.

Japanese rice/gohan


Tonkatsu pork

Sliced Tonkatsu pork with beans and spinach

This is the pièce de résistance of your Japanese feast – succulent pork loin, coated, fried and drizzled with our easiest ever tonkatsu sauce. Save any leftovers to make katsudon.

Tonkatsu pork


Japanese katsudon

Pork katsudon on a bed of rice with chopsticks

Use your leftovers the day after a Japanese feast to make this hearty meal. Crispy pork tonkatsu is sliced up and cooked in a flavoursome soy-based sauce with an eggy mixture to bring it all together. Serve on a bed of cooked rice.

Japanese katsudon


Chuka-fu shredded cabbage

Shredded cabbage on a serving plate
This typical Japanese side offers a freshness to cut through the richness of tonkatsu or other fried Japanese dishes.

Chuka-fu shredded cabbage


Goma-ae Japanese greens

Spinach and green beans topped with sesame seeds

Serve this flavour-packed side dish alongside a Japanese feast. Spinach and green beans are tossed in a dressing of soy, miso, mirin and sesame seeds.

Goma-ae Japanese greens

Learn more about Japanese cuisine...

Top 10 foods to try in Japan
Japanese recipe collection
10 foodie things to try in Tokyo
Why is the Japanese diet so healthy?

What's your favourite Japanese dish? Leave a comment below...

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