Japan is a land of vast cultural diversity. Across centuries, Japan has seen a vibrant evolution in all aspects of its heritage and culture, which has also seen it make its way to the western world. All of us would have heard of Japanese products like sushi, anime, samurais and sumo wrestling, among many others. As a metro city in India, Chennai has also welcomed Japanese culture with open arms, especially the cuisine. If you run a quick search, you’ll instantly be presented with a plethora of options for the best Japanese restaurants in Chennai!
Speaking of Japanese cuisine, it is a large enough topic to be considered a separate culture in itself! Much like most Asian culinary cultures, Japanese cuisine has a style and a form of its own. The Japanese don’t follow the typical Western-style of dining. There is a particular etiquette to follow while dining the Japanese way. Since Japanese dishes come in all shapes, sizes, and colours, let’s break it down into simpler terms for better understanding before we dive into the delectable dishes! While at it, we’ll also cover some basic do’s and don’ts while eating certain Japanese dishes.
Japanese Cuisine Overview
When you think Japanese food, you’re usually picturing bowls of rice, chopsticks, and fish. You’re not wrong! Japanese dishes place rice and seafood at the forefront, in different combinations. You’ll also see a lot of soy-based ingredients, with soy sauce being a staple at most places. As such, vegetarians (and vegans) may find themselves with limited options that fit in their dietary restrictions. Aside from this, Japanese food also consists of noodles, stews and even unique beverages that come together to create the perfect Japanese meal. Most authentic Japanese outlets in the city offer the complete package of the best Japanese cuisine in Chennai. One look at their menu should help you decide their authenticity!
Now that we have a basic understanding of Japanese cuisine, let’s go over some basics on how to go about eating the various dishes that are on your plate. Always maintain perfect etiquette, even if it may sound trivial. After all, you don’t want to embarrass yourself while dining at the best Japanese restaurants in Chennai or elsewhere!
Japanese food is mostly eaten with chopsticks. These are for food only, and to be used appropriately. Do not waste food, it is considered a sign that you did not like it. Contrary to Indochinese food, don’t bathe your rice bowl in sauce or gravy. Rice is meant to be had plain, along with the seaweed/fish accompaniments, and dipped in the soy sauce. Once you are done with your chopsticks, use the hand towel to clean your hands and let the chopsticks rest at the frame of the plate/bowl. Never leave them jutting out of a bowl or plate. Now that you know the etiquette, it’s time to dive right into the Japanese dishes! Let’s take a delectable look at 10 renowned dishes that Japan has to offer.
Japanese Culinary Excellence
For easy understanding, let’s categorize the dishes by type, to familiarize you on how to best experience them.
Everything about this dish is authentic Japanese. Most people confuse it with the more well-known sushi, but it is in fact quite different. Sashimi is raw fish sliced up into easy-to-eat chunks and served with traditional garnishing, usually soy sauce. Since Japan is an island nation, there are many diverse fish that go into making sashimi, such as mackerel and tuna. It’s a simple yet filling classic Japanese dish.
This unique Japanese dish is considered a delicacy across the world. Unagi is essentially freshwater eels that have been cooked or grilled to a particular texture. It is often served with sushi, but can also be had as a standalone dish. You will usually find this at the best Japanese restaurants in Chennai, as it is a pricey dish.
Japan’s signature crackers make for an excellent tea time snack. These are crunchy and come in both sweet as well as savoury variants. These also come in a variety of different flavours, including some quirky ones. These traditional Japanese crackers are sold by the packet.
While the name literally translates to “grilled chicken”, it is possible to find vegetarian versions of yakitori. These are made with substitutes like green onions and mushrooms. Whatever the ingredient, yakitori is flame-grilled over a charcoal flame, as a barbecue of sorts. It’s a very popular after-hours snack in Japan!
These noodles are made from what we call “hearty wheat”, giving them a thick consistency. Cooked in salt water and flour, these noodles are served with broth, tempura prawns, or even tofu for a veg touch! There exists another variant of this noodle soup, known as soba. It is made from buckwheat, giving a chewier texture.
Given how well-known this is, we can truly say that this is one of the best Japanese cuisines in Chennai and even the world! There are myriad ways to prepare these noodles, and the toppings vary greatly. The significant difference is in the broth, which can be saltwater-based (shio) or miso (soybean-based). These instant noodles are prepared fresh and served piping hot. They can even be enjoyed on-the-go!
Any discussion of Japanese cuisine is incomplete without mentioning sushi! At its core, sushi is basically rice and vinegar mixed together and served with an accompaniment, usually raw fish. Vegetarian sushi is also quite popular, and this can be served in many forms. From maki to nigiri rice, sushi is a truly versatile dish. The best Japanese restaurants in Chennai can actually be assessed by the quality of their sushi!
This dish is reminiscent of our own Indian savouries. Tempura is an ingredient like shrimp or vegetables rolled in batter, deep-fried and served in bite-size portions. It is served along with soy sauce and/or dashi, or even a sauce called tentsuyu.
This sweet is so popular in Japan that there’s even an emoji inspired by it! This pastry is a set of flavoured rice balls served on a stick. Perfect for savouring on-the-go! These are also grilled over a charcoal flame, and make for a colourful treat!
The Japanese version of cake bites. They are a sweet pastry that usually comes with a specific filling such as red bean paste. It’s the perfect snack to go along with tea, and can even be enjoyed just to satisfy your sweet tooth!
As you can see, Japan has a lot to offer the world in terms of cooking and fine dining. Whether it’s an authentic Japanese ramen kiosk, or our very own best Japanese restaurants in Chennai, there’s something for everyone’s taste! Go ahead and dive right into delectable Japanese goodness at a restaurant near you!