Japanese is one of the most distinct Asian cuisines you can have. The skills required to make Japanese dishes and the flavors achieved are always worlds away from what we normally cook at home.
We can’t exactly teach you to be professional Japanese chefs, but you can check out these easy recipes that won’t require you to be one. All you need are a few Japanese kitchen staples to get those distinct Japanese flavor notes, and you’ll be able to make these dishes, and then some.
1 Seafood Teppanyaki Recipe
The Chinese have their stir-fries, and the Japanese have their teppanyaki. In both cases, you get your favorite vibrant flavors effortlessly. This dish is extra delicious, thanks to an abundance of seafood. Don’t just stop with this recipe though! Feel free to add more: tuna, mussels, and other seafood.
Japanese kitchen staple: Sake (Japanese rice wine) is used the same way other cuisines use their cooking wines. It’s used as a marinade that can both tenderize the meat and remove foul odors. It’s also another way to add umami and subtle sweetness. If you can’t find sake, or perhaps a convenience store is closer than the grocery store, you can substitute this ingredient with soju.
2 Bangus Belly Donburi Recipe
This donburi or rice bowl dish is topped with a delicious milkfish belly that is sure to make you smile with how delicious it is. It’s a great Japanese dish that uses a quick 30-minute marinade that infuses the boneless milkfish fillet with so much umami!
Japanese kitchen staple: Dashi or dashijiru is Japanese fish stock. It can be made of dried kelp, dried bonito flakes, anchovies, or shiitake mushrooms. It packs a lot of umami! This is one of the most important Japanese staples. However, if you don’t have it on hand, we have two substitutes you can try: fish bouillon cubes or powder or a water and patis solution!
3 Japanese Steamed Fish Recipe
This 30-minute dish uses mild-flavored and tender cream dory. This means even picky eaters will love it since it doesn’t have any bones. It’s one of the many Japanese dishes that has a light, fresh flavor that leaves you feeling full and rejuvenated.
Japanese kitchen staple: Japanese cooking is all about different sources of umami. Another source of umami they commonly use is mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine). A quick substitute is a white wine sweetened with sugar.
4 Japanese Fried Rice with Ham Katsu Recipe
The chahan or Japanese fried rice is a great way to give leftover rice a makeover. It’s a convenient recipe that takes only 20 minutes to make, especially because katsu or fried meat cutlets usually use meats that need little prep time. By using ham, you’re cutting down on time.
Japanese kitchen staple: One of the ingredients that make Japanese dishes like chahan so distinct is the sticky Japanese rice. Cooking Japanese rice is a little different from cooking long-grained rice, but this glutinous short-grained rice is key not only to making great Japanese fried rice but also sushi rolls!
5 Kani Stick Salad Recipe
This 10-minute Japanese salad is a symphony of textures and flavors in your mouth. You get tender kani, creamy Japanese mayo, salty fish roe, and crisp lettuce leaves.
Japanese kitchen staple: Kani (imitation crab stick) is made of white fish and dyed to resemble snow crabs. It’s slightly sweet, tender, and so easy to store in your freezer.
6 Beef Sukiyaki Sotanghon Recipe
One of the most quintessential Japanese dishes is sukiyaki, which is a hot pot dish. This recipe turns the classic sukiyaki on its head by transforming it into a 25-minute sukiyaki noodle dish. It’s got sweet, salty, umami, and even nutty, thanks to the infused Japanese flavors.
Japanese kitchen staple: Sesame oil and sesame seeds are staples in the Japanese kitchen. They’re also a staple with Chinese recipes so make sure that you always have them in stock!
7 Tuna Mayo Rice Balls Recipe
In just 20 minutes, you can be living out your dream as an anime character munching on some tuna mayo onigiri (rice balls). It’s no surprise that tuna and rice are a match made in heaven, but the addition of umami-packed Japanese mayonnaise and crispy, roasted seaweed (nori) is one that takes every bite up a notch.
Japanese kitchen staple: As you’ve probably gathered by now, umami is the heart and soul of Japanese cooking. It’s what sets Japanese mayonnaise apart from your regular mayonnaise. To easily make a substitute, whisk 1/2 cup real mayonnaise with 1/2 teaspoon sugar, 1/2 teaspoon MSG, and 1 large raw egg yolk until thickened and light. Adjust seasoning to taste.
8 Pork Tonkatsu Rice Ball Recipe
If you are a fan of tonkatsu, you’ll love this recipe for an onigarazu or Japanese rice ball sandwich! In each bite, you get crispy nori, tender rice, crunchy panko breadcrumbs, crisp cabbage, and delicious, meaty pork chops in every bite. And it only takes 30 minutes to make!
Japanese kitchen staple: Panko breadcrumbs get less oily and stay crunchy for longer. Although a staple in Japanese recipes, they’re now widely used in other cuisines as well.
9 Hiyashi Soba Recipe
Not all noodles are meant to be served hot. Buckwheat noodles, specifically, are best served cold so they can retain the perfect consistency: firm, chewy, and hardy. We commonly associate ramen bowls with cold, rainy days, but you might want to serve this recipe on hot days so you can stay cool.
Japanese kitchen staple: There’s nothing quite like nori (roasted seaweed sheets). It’s crispy, umami-rich, and sometimes, seasoned with even more MSG for more umami. If you’re making onigiri (Japanese rice balls) or using it as a topping for noodles, keep in mind that it’s best crispy, so add it in late. However, if you want that delicious nori flavor seeping into your soup, sure, add it in early! Why not?
10 Tuna Donburi (Tuna Rice Bowl) Recipe
Japanese recipes with tuna in the ingredient list are always a hit. Sometimes, all you need are those classic flavors and you’re good to go: fresh tuna, rice, and nori!
Japanese kitchen staple: Don’t just get any kind of tuna for your Japanese recipes, especially if they’re to be served raw. You need to get sashimi or sushi-grade tuna. This tuna is treated right from the time it was caught to the time it was sold, meaning it’s safe to consume without cooking.
Japanese cuisine is all about simplicity so that you can celebrate every ingredient that goes into your dish while bringing out its best flavors. At its core, Japanese cooking can be really simple and newbie-cooking friendly!
So what are you waiting for? Write down our list of Japanese kitchen staples so you can get started on these Japanese dishes.