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Five Lesser Known Japanese Dishes and How to Eat Them Like a Local

John Asano (

Japanese cuisine is famous the world over and is known for its fresh seasonal ingredients and immaculate presentation. Japanese food is best known for culinary delights such as sushi & sashimisukiyakitempurasoba, and udon

These are typical dishes that tourists to Japan try on their travels, but Japanese food is a lot more than just sushi, tempura, or ramen. There is so much variety and diversity that varies from region to region and season to season. You could spend a life-time just trying and tasting all the different dishes to be found in Japan.

If you have tried Japan’s better known specialities and want to give something new a go, then give these five lesser known but tasty dishes a try. Bon Appétit, or Itadakimasu as we say here in Japan.

Kushikatsu (Deep Fried Meat on Skewers)



Kushikatsu, also known as kushiage, is a Japanese dish that originates from Osaka in the Kansai region of Japan. Various meats such as beef, chicken, pork, and seafood, along with vegetables are skewered on bamboo kushi, dipped in egg, flour and panko breadcrumbs and deep-fried until golden and crispy. You eat kushikatsu by dipping it in a special sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce), which is usually shared between the customers. A great place to try kushikatsu in Japan is the Shinsekai area of Osaka. Our insider tip to eat this dish like a local is to not double dip the kushikatsu in the sauce and eat as much cabbage as you like since it comes free with the dish. Kushikatsu, deep fried goodness on a stick!

Shabu Shabu (Japanese Hot Pot with Beef or Pork)

Shabu Shabu


Shabu Shabu is a Japanese dish that is a lot of fun and pretty tasty to boot. Thinly sliced pieces of beef are swished in the hot pot for a few seconds and enjoyed with a special dipping sauce. The dish is similar to sukiyaki and other hot pots in nature with meat and other vegetables served in a broth and eaten with a dipping sauce. Shabu Shabu is more savoury and less sweet than sukiyaki and is typically served with better cuts of beef and finer vegetables. There are a variety of dipping sauces used to enjoy the dish including ponzu (citrus-based sauce) and goma (sesame sauce). Our insider tip to eat this dish like a local is to follow the correct order of inserting the ingredients. Start with the meat followed by the vegetables. Lightly swish the beef in the broth for a few seconds and eat the beef while it is still slightly pink. Shabu Shabu, a fun Japanese style of hot pot that is perfect for winter in Japan.

Omu-raisu (Omelette with Fried Rice)



Omu-raisu can be described as a fusion dish between East and West. It is basically an omelette covering some chicken fried rice, topped with ketchup. The name is an interesting one as well with ‘omu’ short for omelette and ‘raisu’ Japanese English for rice. It is a popular dish both at home and at western style restaurants in Japan. Today, there are even omu-raisu speciality restaurants specializing in different versions of the dish that is popular with all Japanese from young to old. Our insider tip to eat this dish like a local is to decorate the top of your omuraisu with the ketchup. You can write words or kanji or even draw a cute picture for fun! Omu-raisu, a tasty modern Japanese culinary staple.

Okonomiyaki (Japanese Savoury Pancake)



Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savoury pancake that contains a variety of tasty ingredients. The name okonomiyaki is derived from the Japanese word “okonomi” which means “what you like” and “yaki” which means “cooked”. This is another popular dish in Japan that originates from the Kansai region of Japan, but is very popular all around the country. It is often called “Osaka Soul Food” because it is so revered in the region. Kansai-style okonomiyaki usually contains shredded cabbage, green onion, and meat (pork, octopus, squid, shrimp) all mixed in a batter and grilled on a hot plate. There are even different variations throughout the different regions of the country with Hiroshima-yaki, a popular Hiroshima version of the dish containing noodles. Our insider tip to eat this dish like a local is to top your okonomiyaki with Japanese mayonnaise, and dried seaweed and fish flakes. This will give it the authentic local taste. Okonomiyaki, a dish that you can match to your own individual tastes.

Oyakodon (Chicken & Egg on Rice)



Oyakodon, which literally means “parent and child rice bowl” is a Japanese rice bowl dish, known as donburi, which contains chicken, egg, and sliced onions, all simmered together in a sauce and served on top of rice. The name of the dish is a poetic reflection of the fact that both chicken (parent) and egg (child) are used in the dish. The dish is a simple but delicious one bowl meal that can be found at most Japanese restaurants. Our insider tip to eat this dish like a local is to not fully cook the egg if you are making this dish at home. In Japan, it tends to be eaten only partially cooked and slightly runny. Oyakodon, an easy, filling, and tasty one bowl Japanese dish.

About John Asano

I’m a blogger, traveller and freelance writer living in Gifu, Japan. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, I have lived in Japan now for over 12 years. I love nothing better than picking up my camera and exploring all the amazing sights and attractions that Japan has to offer. I write about the must-see sights and attractions in Japan on my travel website Japan Travel Advice (, as well as about Japanese culture and modern life on my blog Japan Australia (