Japanese culinary tradition goes back centuries, epitomized around the world with dishes such as sushi, ramen, and sukiyaki. Naturally, there are tons of unique recipes throughout the country, whose authentic taste is sometimes not available outside of its region.
Karaage is essentially Japan’s version of fried chicken, though other meats as well as fish and octopus can also be prepared in the same way. Similar to the preparation technique for tenpura, the recipe for chicken karaage calls for boneless white-meat chicken deep-fried in oil with a crispy batter. An extremely popular variation called chicken nanban exists only in Kyushu, which serves the dish with a tartar sauce.
Takoyaki, whose name stands for “fried octopus,” is made of a wheat flour-based batter with various ingredients inside, such as diced octopus, ginger, onion, or ham. The pan used for its preparation gives the dish its ball shape. Takoyaki originated in Osaka, though now it is available all over the country. It is commonly served with mayonnaise and takoyaki sauce, which resembles a sweet barbecue sauce.
Moving far South, we find Chanpuru, which is a stir fry dish from Okinawa. The recipe normally includes tofu, meat or fish, vegetables, egg, and goya (bitter melon). Chanpuru, meaning “something mixed” in the Okinawan language, is accordingly considered a mixture of Okinawa’s historical influences, which include traditional Okinawan, Chinese, mainland Japanese, Southeast Asian, and North American.
Genghis Khan/Jingisukan (Hokkaido)
Genghis Khan, named after the Mongol conqueror, is a grilled mutton (lamb) dish which is popular in Hokkaido. The meat, along with vegetables, is traditionally cooked at one’s table on a metal grill. One of its characteristic qualities is its generous portion!
Manju is a popular Japanese sweet. The outside is made of buckwheat and flour. It is usually filled with red bean paste, though sometimes other flavors such as sweet potato and green tea are available. A special leaf-shaped variation is produced in Hiroshima and is one of the region’s most popular souvenirs.
Daifuku (Tokyo…but anywhere really!)
One can never have enough dessert! Daifuku is made from mochi filled with something sweet. Mochi is made by pounding rice into a thick, sticky paste before shaping it. This dessert is one of the most iconic Japanese dishes, yet also one of the most diverse due to the large amount of fillings and flavors available. The most popular filling is anko, a sweetened red bean paste. It is also common to stuff the mochi with fruits like strawberries or with ice cream.