Confined to our homes throughout most of 2020, Netflix of course, became a gateway for exploration. One our most memorable discoveries is Midnight Diner – a Japanese anthology TV series centred around a late-night izakaya in Tokyo and the stories of its patrons.
Each episode centres around a classic Japanese dish and when writing this article, it was impossible to not reflect on the deceptively simple menu prepared by the deft hands of the master- the mysterious yet sympathetic proprietor of the diner.
Oftentimes big on flavour but light on ingredients, Japanese comfort food makes the perfect weeknight dinner and is what we turn to when we want something nourishing and homey.
Here is a list of five Japanese comfort foods along with suggestions on where you can order them online.
Japanese Curry Rice
Japanese kare-raisu is one of the nation’s most iconic dishes and feels like a hug in a bowl. Consisting of a thick aromatic gravy cooked with an assortment of chunky vegetables (usually carrots, onions and potatoes) and meat served over steamed rice, Japanese curry can trace its origins back to the Meiji restoration period by way of the British Navy.
Once reserved for the wealthy, Japanese curry rice has evolved into a ubiquitous national staple that is whipped up at school lunches, high-end restaurants, home kitchens and more.
A truly regional dish, Japanese curry is often modified to reflect the ingredients and produce of the location it’s based in, but its most popular version is the katsu curry – a hearty combination of deep-fried breaded pork cutlet, curry and rice served with side of pickled ginger to temper the richness of the sauce.
A defining element of Japanese food culture, the rise of ramen has been nothing short of spectacular and it’s clear to see why – very little come close to a bowl of soul-satisfying noodles dunked into piping hot bone broth enriched with toppings ranging from torched chashu to tender bamboo shoots.
Of course you could go the instant ramen route and elevate a packet of Nissin noodles with a few sheets of nori, an egg and some leftover luncheon meat but why settle when you can get the real thing plus a side (or several) of appetisers to ensure a proper stick-to-your-ribs Friday night dinner at home.
For these occasional indulgent weeknights, we love the impressive selection of ramen options at Gyoza no Osho that range from the classic Shoyu Ramen to the more experimental Stamina Ramen which features a chinese cabbage and garlic flavoured broth.
Get your Japanese curry rice and ramen fix from Gyoza No Ohsho HERE.
When we think about comfort food, bowl food is best and donburi or “rice bowl dish” is right up there. A winning combination of fluffy rice, toppings, textures and minimum spillage, donburi is our go-to menu item when we’re in the mood for something accessible, affordable and loaded with wholesome goodness.
For fans of beef, the gyudon (beef bowl) definitely hits the spot while the oyakodon (chicken and egg on rice) is equal parts protein packed and hearty. Want something a little lighter on the tummy? The kaisendon (sashimi on rice) or tekkadon (tuna on rice) will have you sorted.
Because they’re so convenient to eat, donburis can be easily incorporated into your weekly meal plans as both lunch or dinner options. We often order ours from Namino Hana & Kabuke where customers can get a wide variety of rice bowls. Fixtures include the unagi bento, yaki butabara bento and the wagyu hamburger bento from Namino Hana and premium seafood and wagyu dons from Kabuke.
What’s not to love about tempura? Crunchy veggies and fresh seafood encased in a crisp, airy batter and deep fried to golden perfection, we can hardly find a reason to turn down this signature Japanese dish and we rarely do!
Mastering tempura is an artform and the late Japanese tempura restaurateur Isao Yabuki once described the perfect batter as “A flour-like gauze, or a batter so delicate that it resembles a revealing dress.”
On its own as a snack or served with a side of soba noodles, tempura is a quintessential Japanese comfort food and one that we frequently find ourselves craving.
Every culture has its own version of a one-pot meal and oden is Japan’s answer to this. Filling and flavourful but delicate enough so that you don’t feel sluggish right after, oden is a type of nabemono that features a combination of several ingredients such as fish cakes, tofu, konnyaku pieces and veggies simmered in a dashi and soy-based broth. The result? A warming, satisfying stew that is best enjoyed hot.
Our favourite thing about oden? It makes a flexible template for using up leftover ingredients and minimizing food waste. As this meal may fall on the lighter side for bigger eaters, we suggest bulking it up with a few side dishes like edamame or a serving of chicken nanban. Yum!
Order tempura, oden and more izakaya-style signatures at Taan Iza-bar now!