Everyone has their special list of comfort foods. Dishes that make them feel safe and happy, whether it is a hearty bowl of stew to stave off the winter chill or fragrant fried chicken to distract from a stressful workday. Comfort foods are not an exact science. They can differ between countries and even between people from the same culture, but they are all delicious and sure to bring a feeling of happiness. In that respect, it can only be a good thing to learn about more of them.
Take Japan for instance, a place famous for its fine seafood and exquisitely presented cuisine. Those are all delightfully delicious, but probably too time-consuming and expensive to qualify as comfort food. The good news is that, like any country, Japan also has a wide selection of simple and affordable food to offer, and many fall within the realm of comfort food. After much difficulty and careful deliberation, here is a diverse selection of popular Japanese comfort foods found in many restaurants or convenience stores, or easily made at home.
Japanese curry is a variant of the curry introduced by the British during the Meiji era. It is quite mild compared to other curries, being sweeter and less spicy to better suit the Japanese palate. The most common way of eating Japanese curry is with rice, though it can also be served with noodles or inside bread.
This is essentially fried rice wrapped in an omelette, or with the egg draped over the rice. Simple, but delicious. The omelette is soft and fluffy, and the rice is savory and full of flavor. Ketchup is mixed into the rice and then drizzled on top of the omelette. Other sauces may also be used, such as demi-glace.
These are hot pot dishes that are much loved during winter, shared between friends and family. Many people like to eat nabe on a kotatsu, which is a special heated table with a blanket-like covering so that the heat stays in and the people stay warm. Nabe can be made with strong or light soup bases, the latter of which is usually paired with additional sauces for dipping. Vegetables, fish balls, tofu, and meat are added to the hot pot. Once the soup is boiling, simply put in the ingredients, wait for it to cook, and enjoy!
These are balls of batter filled with octopus, pickled ginger, and green onions, which are quickly cooked so that the insides are still slightly gooey. They are then topped with mayonnaise, takoyaki sauce, and dried bonito flakes. The heat from the freshly cooked takoyaki makes it seem like the bonito flakes are “alive” as they dance and flutter. Osaka is famous for its takoyaki and there are many variations to be found.
Fried chicken is one of the world’s most comforting foods, and Japan has its own mouthwatering version. Karaage actually refers to a Japanese style of cooking where marinated food is coated in seasoned flour and then deep fried, but chicken is such a common choice that karaage has basically come to refer to fried chicken. This dish is especially favored in Japanese pubs.
Similar to Japanese fried chicken, tempura refers to food that has been dipped in batter and deep fried. What makes it unique is that the batter is made with cold water and mixed very briefly so that lumps will form. This causes the tempura to be crisp yet fluffy when cooked. Common ingredients are seafood and vegetables, with shrimp being a very popular choice.
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This is a dish consisting of pan-fried noodles, vegetables, and meat, served with bonito flakes and pickled ginger. This isn’t your average plate of noodles, however; yakisoba is also often eaten with bread. It can be stuffed into rolls or buns, and many convenience stores will sell hot dog buns filled with noodles instead of hot dogs.
Finally, a time-tested Japanese staple to round up the list. Miso soup is a simple, flavorful soup made with dashi and miso paste that accompanies many Japanese meals, whether at a restaurant or at home. Tofu and seaweed are the most familiar ingredients, but other vegetables and seafood may be added to reflect different seasons or achieve a different kind of balance. That wraps up our top ten list of Japanese comfort foods. It was almost impossible to set a limit, as there are so many options out there and chefs are only getting increasingly creative with each passing day. Did your favorites make the list? Is there anything on here you would like to try? Tell us what your top ten are!
Ootoya is a popular Japanese chain specializing in teishoku, or sets that resemble home cooking. From sushi to buckwheat noodles, Ootoya is the place to go. With three locations in New York, don't miss the chance to try their delicious food for yourself!