When we think of Japanese cuisine, ramen bowls and sushi often come to mind, but it is definitely more than that. Traditional Japanese cooking follows the philosophy of multi-course meals cooked with basic and natural ingredients based on the ‘rule of five’ – five colours, flavours and cooking techniques, including an aesthetically pleasing presentation style. Abundant use of water in the form of soup and stews, along with pickled vegetables, stocks and sauces, is what makes Japanese food nutritious and balanced with flavours. Japanese snacks are not only lip-smacking but also healthy.
It is a well-known fact that the people in Japan enjoy a long life span, with the second-highest life expectancy in the world, and they credit it to their balanced diet. From tempura to edamame and more, here is a list of some easy Japanese snacks rich in nutritional value and fitting for everyone’s taste buds.
List of popular Japanese snacks
These Japanese dumplings, also known as Japanese Potstickers, are popular weeknight snacks in Japan. These mouthwatering dumplings can be made using a savoury filling of ground pork and vegetables wrapped in a thin dough.
Crispy on the outside, the best way to eat gyoza is to pick the dumpling with a chopstick and then dip it in the sauce and pop it in your mouth. This recipe is for pan-fried gyoza, but you can also steam or boil them.
Japanese chicken skewers (Yakitori)
Yakitori translates to ‘grilled chicken.’ This is one of the favourite appetisers in Japan because of its sweet and savoury flavour. A regular on the menu of street food stalls, the main feature of this recipe is the type of seasoning and chicken parts used.
The succulent chicken pieces are grilled on the skewers to elevate the taste and reduce the overall cooking time. The sauce used to season and glaze yakitori pieces is known as ‘Tare’, and this recipe uses Teriyaki sauce for glazing the barbecued chicken. The key to perfect this recipe is to skewer chicken tightly, leaving no gap.
Enjoy your delicious Yakitori with rice or eat directly off the skewers.
Barbecued Japanese rice cakes (Onigiri)
Onigiri means rice balls in Japanese. These are barbecued short-grain rice balls with or without filing and traditionally made by grilling them over charcoal until they turn brown and crispy.
This recipe will help you cook eight basic versions of onigiri, which are easy to make at home. The rice balls are triangular or oval with savoury fillings such as tuna, salted salmon, soy sauce, Kombu kelp and grilled onigiri.
They can be wrapped in seaweed or fried directly in a pan with soy sauce until they get a crispy and smoky crust. You can make onigiri with leftover rice as well.
This Japanese recipe is everyone’s favourite, and the legend says that Japanese soldiers brought the recipe from China after WWII.
There are so many variations of ramen. This Tonkotsu ramen recipe uses pork bone broth and pork belly, cooked to perfection after marinating it in soy and Worcestershire sauce. The ramen bowl is assembled by pouring the broth and soy sauce over cooked ramen noodles, topped with a boiled egg, pork belly and vegetables and garnished with crispy seaweed.
Tempura is another favourite in the Japanese restaurant menu alongside ramen and onigiri. When juicy shrimps are fried in a light tempura batter, they get that crispy and irresistible crunch making the hard work worthwhile.
While Japanese chefs would spend years mastering tempura, it is not too late for you to begin. This recipe will serve as one of the best tempura guides out to master frying perfectly airy tempura.
The key lies in creating a balanced tempura batter to make this recipe a success. Make sure to not overmix the batter to minimise gluten formation. Once you are done with the batter, fry it immediately to avoid gluten activation. Your crispy fried on the outside and buttery soft on the inside tempura is ready to be relished.
Chicken spring rolls (Harumaki)
Harumaki literally translates to spring roll. These Japanese spring rolls are a staple of street-side vendors and food stalls across Japan. These delectable snacks have a crispy shell on the outside with an assortment of savoury meat and textured vegetable fillings on the inside.
You can make this recipe by using chicken breast and vegetables wrapped in thin rice paper into rectangular-shaped spring rolls. Serve them immediately while hot with sesame dipping sauce.
Salted chicken wings (Teba Shio)
Teba Shio is salt and pepper chicken wings that are popular as finger food in Japan. These are easy to make for a lazy Sunday dinner and require just a handful of ingredients, mostly available at home.
Chicken wings are marinated in salt, pepper and rice wine or sake. These are then oven-grilled till golden brown. Serve them with a wedge of lemon and a generous sprinkling of Japanese seven spice or Shichimi togarashi.
Japanese chilled tofu (Hiyayakko)
Incredibly easy to prepare, Hiyayakko is an easy Japanese snack recipe that can be whipped up instantly. The velvety smooth texture of tofu makes for a delightful summertime appetizer that cools down the body.
You can be creative with the toppings and seasonings to make your own variations of this recipe. Drizzle some soy sauce over the tofu right before you serve.
This recipe from Master Sushi Chef Hiroyuki Terada is one of the easiest summertime Japanese snack recipes to make. The edamame is boiled in salted water and then stir-fried with a simple triad of miso, garlic and chilli paste for that fiery kick.
Serve it hot and bite into the aromatic and flavorful beans that leave you wanting more.
Agedashi means lightly fried in Japanese. This recipe is full of flavours from the toppings and seasonings used to generously coat the fried tofu.
Tofu is first fried and then soaked in delicious Dashi sauce to enhance its taste. Garnish it with grated radish and green onions as toppings for extra zing.
Miso eggplant with pickled vegetables (Nasu Dengaku)
Nasu Dengaku means grilled eggplant over a fire. It is a classic Japanese snack recipe made with eggplants and brushed with sweet miso glaze. This vegan appetiser is great to make if you are short on time.
As you start searing eggplants, make sure to brush savoury miso glaze on the top and then bake them for 15 minutes. Your miso eggplant is ready to serve on a bed of rice garnished with pickled vegetables.
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