Japan’s love for crab is legendary. Its crab consumption ranks among the highest in the world and their love for it reaches fever pitch in winter. Typically eaten in the colder months, crab is the quintessential winter dish in Japan. One of the best places to have it is Hokkaido. Other places renowned for crab are Tottori, Northern Hyogo, and Northern Kyoto. There you’ll find the prized Matsuba Crab, which is a term given to male snow crabs fished from the Sea of Japan. They’re considered some of the finest in the country.
Curry is one of the most popular dishes in Japan. It was introduced by the British during the Meiji era but it wasn’t until the late 1960s that it exploded in popularity when it became widely available at supermarkets and restaurants. Today, it’s so popular that it’s now considered a national dish and is widely available throughout the country.
For the unfamiliar, sushi refers to the Japanese preparation of vinegared rice served with a variety of ingredients, mostly fish and other types of seafood. It’s commonly eaten with pickled ginger and dipped in soy sauce mixed with wasabi. Unlike sushi which may contain cooked or prepared ingredients, sashimi is always served raw and without rice.
Like sushi and curry, ramen is one of Japan’s most popular dishes. It’s a noodle soup comprised of four basic elements – the broth, the tare (seasoning), the noodles, and the toppings. Also known as kaeshi, tare is the salty, concentrated essence placed at the bottom of every ramen bowl. Together with the broth, it’s what determines the style of the ramen, of which there are four main types – shoyu, miso, shiso, and tonkatsu. The noodles and toppings enhance the experience but the true star of this dish is the seasoned broth.
Udon refers to a type of thick noodle made with wheat flour. It’s typically served hot in winter or chilled in summer and is often topped with thinly chopped scallions, tempura, aburaage (deep-fried tofu), and kamaboko (fish cake). Like ramen, the type of udon broth and toppings used vary from region to region. Eastern udon tends to be darker brown in color while western udon is lighter. This comes from the type of soy sauce used.
Tempura is a Japanese cooking method that involves battering and deep frying seafood or vegetables in oil. It’s similar to karaage except it uses a lighter batter made of cold water and soft cake flour. The batter is lightly mixed and kept cold with lumps to create a crisp and fluffy texture when fried.
Most tempura is cooked for just a few seconds before being served with grated daikon radish and a dipping sauce, most often tentsuyu which is made with dashi (soup stock), mirin (rice wine), and shoyu (soy sauce). Alternatively, it can be sprinkled with sea salt or mixtures of powdered green tea, salt, and yuzu before eating.