Traditional Japanese food is so delicious and diverse, you can probably go on for weeks visiting new restaurants and sampling different types of Japanese food. But, if you feel like trying something a little modern and different (yet equally amazing), get ready for our list of Japanese fusion dishes!
Japan didn’t open up their borders until just a couple of hundred years in 1853, which is when Western influence seeped into Japanese culture. Since then, Japan has been adapting and putting their own spin on other cuisines. In fact, many traditional Japanese dishes are actually adaptations of dishes from other countries. For example, ramen is adapted from China and sushi is adapted from Korea. Japan is amazing at taking something and then creating something new and fresh from it.
Recently, more and more Japanese fusion dishes have been popping up: Western dishes with a Japanese twist. This is done in the spirit of innovation but also to create a taste that are more suitable/appealing to Westerners’ tastes. As a result, some traditional Japanese dishes have been modified, ushering in a hybrid of Western-Japanese fusion dishes. Some of them might sound weird, even a bit disgusting, but we assure you, they are definitely worth trying!
I’m sure you’ve seen videos of a perfect omelette laid over rice. Well, that is omurice (derived from the Japanese pronunciation of omelette (omuretto) and rice (raisu)). The rice is usually tomato rice or fried rice, mixed with various ingredients. But, the real challenge of this dish is the omelette: it has to be cooked for just the right amount of time, with the right amount of stirring while it’s in the pan to get its fluffy, runny texture. Omurice is said to have originated in a Western-styled restaurant in Ginza, in the year 1900. While the original omurice (omelette over tomato rice) is delicious, there are other options now as well. In some restaurants, you could have omurice with curry, or with tempura, or even an omu-lasgane. If you like omelettes, especially fluffy ones, then you definitely won’t be disappointed.
2. Japanese pasta
Japanese chefs can be very creative with their pasta and there is a wide range of Japanese-style pasta for you to choose from. As mentioned in our “Here is every Japanese food you must try” blog, natto is one of the healthiest foods in the world, and it’s also one of the most unique and interesting Japanese-style pastas. Seafood is also used a lot in Japanese-style pasta, such as tarako (cod roe), squid, ikura (salmon roe), and all kinds of seaweed. These pasta choices might sound weird, but they are extremely delicious.
3. Japanese pizza
You might be shocked by the many different types of “Japanese pizzas” you can find. Although you can get your typical types of pizzas in Japan, some shops and restaurants add a twist to their pizzas. From teriyaki chicken pizza to seafood pizzas, there’s a wide range of odd pizzas in Japan (And, yes, there is also the famous Japanese corn pizza). Japanese pizzas usually have very thin crusts, but they also have the classic stuffed crust. And, though it’s bizarre, you can even have dessert pizza! Chocolate pizza, apple custard pizza, pizza with ice cream… It might not be authentically Japanese, but they are definitely interesting!
4. Japanese desserts
This is a big one. Japanese people love their sweets and it is not surprising to see Japanese fusion desserts everywhere. The Japanese crepe is probably the most famous. You can’t say you’ve been to Harajuku if you don’t try a crepe from one of their many crepe stores. Japanese crepe is very different from the original European kind. In Japan, you can get the simple crepes, such as sugar or chocolate crepes, but you can also go wild: crepes with a brownies and a mountain of whipped cream; crepes with red beans and green tea ice cream (and again, with a mountain of whipped cream); crepes with cookies and sliced bananas. Other desserts that are popular in Japan are custard puddings, cakes (especially Mont Blanc) and more. If your mouth is watering now, definitely check out our breakdown on all kinds of Japanese sweets you can get in Japan!
5. Taco rice
This is one of the signature dishes in Okinawa, an island prefecture in the south of Japan. Since Okinawa has the biggest U.S. military bases outside of the U.S., it’s been largely influenced by American cuisine, several Okinawan dishes have been tweaked to suit American tastes. Taco rice has basically the same ingredients as the usual taco: taco-flavoured minced meat, shredded lettuce, tomato and cheese. It has everything but the taco. Instead of taco, you get rice. It is a delicious dish that is perfect for the hot weather as it is usually served cool, like a salad.
6. Hamburg steak
Hamburg steak (pronounced hambaagu suteki) is a Japanese take on the Salisbury steak from Germany. It is a patty made with minced meat and is usually a main dish, not a side dish. You can get it usually in family restaurants, or in steak restaurants as a more affordable alternative. Hamburg steak is usually served with a side of vegetables, as well as toppings such as tomato, cheese, avocado and more. All kinds of sauces can accompany the hamburg steak, from gravy to onion sauce, tomato sauce, demi-glace sauce… Hamburg steak is also commonly eaten with rice and it’s a popular meat bento.
Where do we even begin? We’d have to go all the way back to the 1600s, when a Chinese scholar brought it from China to Japan. Japanese people even referred to gyoza with its Chinese name (jiaozi) up until 1868. Since then, Japan has switched up the recipe, ingredients and sauces, and different versions have been invented.. Boiled, grilled, pan-fried, deep-fried, you can get gyoza in all sorts of ways in Japan. In recent years, some restaurants have gone a step further and added even more foreign twists to gyoza by creating coriander gyoza, chilli gyoza, basil sauce gyoza and more.
As mentioned at the beginning of the blog, ramen originated from China. Combined with Japanese styles of cooking, you have what is now the Japanese version of ramen in Japan. However, did you know that ramen can be mixed with all kinds of foreign influences? One famous fusion ramen is cheese ramen. It might sound weird but trust me, it is extremely addictive. There is also ramen with tomato and onion broth, squid ink ramen, tom-yum ramen, curry ramen, ramen with basil-based broth and more. There are new ramen places popping up all the time and, if you haven’t already, check out our blog post on everything you need to know about ramen.
9. Japanese curry
Since being introduced in the late 1800s, Japanese curry has become one of the most popular choices of meals in Japan, both at home and in restaurants. Japanese curry tends to have fewer spices in comparison to South East Asian curries. Onions, carrots and potatoes are usually used in Japanese curries, along with chicken, beef or pork. Omelette curry is also an option that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. Though usually served with rice, you can also get curry udon and curry bread!
Buns are originally from China and although you can get authentic Chinese buns in Japan, you can also get Japanese fusion buns such as pizza buns, curry buns, tom yum buns, black sesame buns, gyoza buns and lots and lots more seasonal options here in Japan. These Japanese fusion buns are unique and you can usually get these buns from convenience stores at a very affordable price (some are just 2 USD). Just go up to the counter, look for the hot-food section and voila. Try each one out!
11. Western sushi
This doesn’t really come as a shock but, to accommodate foreigners’ tastes, many fusion sushi have been added to restaurants’ menus. As mentioned in this blog earlier on, hamburg steak is a Japanese take on the German Salisbury steak, and it’s also used a lot in sushi. You can also get steak sushi, tempura sushi (although both Japanese, tempura was rarely, if ever, eaten on sushi), sushi with canned tuna mayonnaise and so on.
Many foreigners visit Japan and as a result, Japan has created many different versions of foreign cuisines. We’ve listed only a handful; there’s much more to be found and tried in Japan. Most if not all of them are delicious, and they are definitely unique, so keep an eye out for them and try them when you get the chance to!