Washoku – Food

Washoku means Japanese cuisine and since December 2013, it is on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage – so far the last of the 22 Japanese items on this list.

There is a lot more to washoku than just sushi, and I will present some of the amazing things Japanese people regularly cook for dinner on this page. Note that I am not a very good cook (yet?), so I will include only dishes that I have prepared myself and that have not ended in a complete culinary disaster. 😉 Also, I will use Japanese ingredients, so you may need to be a bit more creative outside of Japan.
Good luck trying the recipes out yourself – enjoy!



Gyoza are little meat filled dumplings, reminiscent of ravioli. Originally from China, they have been adapted to Japanese tastes – but are still one of the few dishes using lots and lots of garlic and lots of lots of oil.

Japanese GyozaGyoza à la Junko san
(25 pieces)

– 180 g (Chinese) cabbage
Wash the cabbage leaves and cut in smaller pieces. Boil them in hot water until the hard stalks are soft. Wring out thoroughly (use a towel to get all the water out) and chop in very small pieces.

– 30 g thin leek or spring onions
Chop in thin rings.

– 150 g finely minced pork
– 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
– 1 piece of ginger, finely chopped
– salt, pepper, a few drops of soy sauce
Mix all of the above together thoroughly with your hands. Make sure the result is a very smooth paste. Let it rest for 10 minutes or so to enhance the flavour.

– 25 round Gyoza wrappers
Fill each of the gyoza wrappers with about 1 tea spoon of the meat mix. Moisten the edges of the wrappers with a bit of water (special tip: dissolve a little bit of flour in the water for even better results) and close the wrappers, making a half circle. To make sure the gyoza will not open during frying, fold the round edge over itself a few times.

Fry a batch of the gyoza (5-10 depending on the size of the pan) with a little oil in a pan. When one side is nice and crisp, turn them around, add a little water and put a lid on the pan. The gyoza are finished when all the water is gone. To make them extra crispy, turn them around again and fry them a few minutes longer.

For the dipping sauce, mix 1 table spoon of vinegar with 1 table spoon of soy sauce and a few drops of sesame oil.



Donburi is the name of a whole range of rather easy dishes. Essentially, it’s a bowl of rice topped with different types of food, from eggs and meat to vegetables, tempura, fish… At this point, I think that you can probably make anything into a donburi – just put it on top of a bowl of rice and enjoy.
Anyway, here are a few of my favourite donburi recipes:

Avocado Donburi

Avocado Donburi is a typical Japanese summer dish, light and quick to prepare. It can be eaten as quick small lunch during summer heat, or maybe as a starter to a larger menu.Avocado Donburi à la Junko san
(for 2 people)

– 2 bowls of boiled rice, preferrably white

– 2 tea spoons of chirimen sanshou (tiny broiled sardines mixed with Japanese pepper)
– 3 Perilla leaves, cut into thin stripes
Distribute evenly over the two bowls.

– 1 ripe avocado
Cut into 1.5 cm cubes and put 1/2 of the cubes into each rice bowl.

– 6 surimi sticks
Gently tear them apart with your fingers and add on top of the avocado cubes.

Mix some soysauce with wasabi, and pour it over the avocado just before eating.


Soboro Donburi

Soboro Donburi is a quick Japanese dish with lots of rice and a quick and easy to prepare topping. Since it is also made with chicken and eggs, it is often confused with oyako donburi (literally: mother and child donburi), but the latter is made with dashi, whereas the soboro donburi is not. The following recipe is for two people.

Soboro Donburi– 2 bowls of boiled rice, preferably white

– 2 table spoons soy sauce, 2 tea spoons cooking sake, 1 tea spoon sugar, 1 tea spoon mirin.
Mix all together in a small bowl.

– 1 tea spoon sesame oil, 125 g minced chicken
Heat the oil in a pan, and fry the meat until it is just cooked. Add the soy sauce mixture from above and cook until all the liquid is gone. Set aside.

– 2 eggs, 2 tea spoons mirin, 1 tea spoon (sesame) oil
Heat the oil in a pan. Mix the eggs and the mirin, and fry it in the pan until the eggs are done. The result should look like scrambled eggs, but the smaller the pieces are, the better.

– 1 spring onion, sliced into thin strips

Put the rice into a bowl. On top of the rice, spread the chicken on one side of the bowl, the eggs on the other. Garnish with the spring onions.



Katsudon means tonkatsu donburi, and since I learned how to make it, it is one of my favourite dishes. It is very easy to make, and, for you fellow Austrians: an interesting way of polishing off that leftover Schnitzel from yesterday!

katsudonThe following is enough for one person (depeding on the size of the Schnitzel):

– 1 bowl of boiled rice, preferably white

– 1 small onion
– a bit of cooking oil
Cut the onion in half and then in slices. Put the oil into the pan and gently fry the onions.

– 1 tonkatsu (or Schnitzel) fresh or left over, cut in strips
Add to the pan and let it reheat.

– about 100 ml dashi or any kind of soup
– 1 table spoon soy sauce, 1 table spoon cooking sake (* optional, but it adds to the flavour if the soup doesn’t have much.)
Add the soup and soysauce to the pan. The soup should not cover the meat, so you should flip the meat over at some point.

– 1 large egg
Mix the eggs just until the yolks are broken up. Pour them over the meat with the soup and let it set. Ideally, you let the egg cook until it is still a bit slimey, the hot rice in the bowl will do the rest.

Put the rice into a bowl and let the mixture slowly slide out of the pan on top of it. Ideally, the egg is still intact on the rice. (That never happens for me though.) Garnish with spring onions, chives, or pieces of nori seaweed.



Nabe is a Japanese hot pot which, due to the long time it takes to prepare, is often made in the evening for a special occasion with family and guests. Obviously a winter dish, it is similar to European fondue, and although it is made with soup instead of with oil, there are just as many different styles of nabe out there as of fondue. The following is nabe with fish and vegetables, this one was boiled in a single large electrical pot in the middle of the table, but you can also cook it in smaller, individual pots heated by a standard spirit lamp for fondue.Ingredients for NabeNabe à la Junko san
(for 2 people)

– 750 ml water – 1 piece of kelp
Put the water into the pot, add the kelp and start heating the water.

– 1/2 Chinese cabbage
– 2 spring onions
– 1 carrot
– 1 medium sized Japanese white radish
Cut the above in small pieces and add to the pot. Let them boil slowly – at about 160 degrees – for a while.

– 1 pack of konyaku noodles
Add to the pot when the vegetables are about half done.

– 2 medium sized pieces of codfish (any white fish is good since it has no strong taste and does not smell)
– 4 large shrimp
– 1 pack of Tofu
Cut the fish and tofu in smaller pieces, add to the pot when the vegetables are almost done.

When the shrimp have turned red and the fish is cooked, you can start eating. Nabe is usually served with rice, and the vegetables and fish are dipped in ponzu (soysauce mixed with vinegar or lemon juice) before eating, partly as seasoning and partly to cool them off. The noodles are eaten last, together with the soup resulting from the cooking.



Okonomiyaki are a type of Japanese style pancakes, and there are probably as many okonomiyaki recipes out there as there are people who cook them. Essentially there are two styles: Osaka style – put all ingredients into the batter and fry them – and Hiroshima style – the ingredients are carefully cooked layer by layer. As I live in Kyoto, I will probably amass more Osaka style recipes, but in the end, both are delicious anyway!

OkonomiyakiOkonomiyaki à la Tokumura Sensei
(about 15 pieces)

250 g flour (ideally one half wheat flour and one half okonomiyaki flour)
250 ml water
3 eggs
2 teaspoons of salt
– mix together to a batter with a somewhat liquid consistency.

1/2 cabbage
– cut into pieces of roughly 1×1 cm; omit the hardest part of the stem.

150 g of sliced raw pork (some fat is good, think bacon)
– cut into pieces of roughly 3×3 cm and fry them in olive oil with salt and pepper

150 g of raw shrimp
– wash and clean the shrimp, remove the heads and innards

– add the cabbage, fried pork and shrimp to the batter and mix thoroughly
– grease a pan with olive oil and let it get hot- put a ladle full of okonomiyaki mixture into the pan, flatten it a little and fry it like a pancake from both sides until it is done. It takes about 10 minutes for one piece that is 1 cm thick and 10 cm in diameter.
– serve with okonomiyaki sauce and dried tuna flakes (traditional) and/or mayonnaise and parsley (optional)



Tempura is probably the second dish that comes to mind when talking about Japanese cuisine (right after sushi). However, strictly speaking, tempura is not of Japanese origin: It was the Portuguese who brought tempura here, back in the 16th century. Since then, however, it has undergone a transformation and is now considered one of the most iconic Japanese dishes. Tempura seems very easy to make, but there are a few tricks that need to be mastered to make it come out just right.
Tempura can also be served on top of a bowl of rice, making it the popular tempuradon.

TempuraBasic Ingredients

Tentsuyu Tempura Sauce
200 ml water
2-3 table spoons soy sauce
2-3 table spoons mirin
5g bonito flakes (optional)
– mix together and put aside until eating.

Things to fry
Vegetables (bell peppers, eggplant, (sweet) potatoes, pumpkin, mushrooms, carrots…)
fish fillets, squid, or shrimp
– Cut in small, even sized pieces that can be eaten with a bite or two. Seafood should be cleaned and everything inedible, like shells or bones, should be removed.

100 g of flour
200 ml of cold water (the colder the better, the tempura will absorb less oil)
1 egg
Lightly break up the egg and add the water and the flour. Mix together quickly, it is okay (even desired) if there are still some clumps of flour left. Don’t make the batter in advance. It should be the last thing prepared before the frying.

– Heat a large pan with cooking oil. The oil should be at a stable temperature of about 170 degrees throughout the whole process to ensure the best outcome. Temperature for seafood should be about 190 degrees.
– Lightly coat the vegetables or seafood with the batter. Don’t use too much, the result should be crispy
– Fry each piece for about 1 – 2 minutes on each side, then put them on a kitchen towel to drain the oil.
– Eat as hot as possible with salt, lemon or tentsuyu sauce.



The following is a full menu consisting of five different dishes plus dessert. Except for the dessert, which is eaten at the end of the meal, there is no strict order in which to eat the dishes.The rice, however, is considered the main dish.
The following ingredients are for 4 people.Washoku - Japanese Menu IChestnut Rice (kuri gohan)

80 g chestnuts
– peel the chestnuts and soak them in a bowl of slightly salted water

200 g Japanese white rice
60 g sticky rice
– mix and wash the rice

1/2 teaspoon salt
twice as much water as rice (by volume)

– put the rice into a rice cooker- drain the chestnuts and put them on top of the rice. Do not mix them under yet.
– add the water and salt, then cook the rice as usual
– when the rice is cooked, mix the chestnuts into the rice

Grilled Chicken Skewers With Vegetables (Yakitori)

400 g chicken thighs
– cut the chicken into small cubes (3 cm side length)

2 spring onions
– cut the spring onions into 3 cm pieces

salt and pepper

Soy-based Sauce:
2 tablespoons of whole soybean sauce
3 tablespoons of sugar
– mix the soy sauce with the sugar

– coat 300 g of the chicken with the soy-based sauce
– thread the chicken and spring onions alternately onto bamboo skewers,
– thread the remaining chicken onto skewers and sprinkle with salt and pepper
– grill the skewers on a grill or open fire

1 paprika
8 green peppers
8 shiitake mushrooms
– grill the vegetables (or fry them in a pan with oil) and garnish the skewers

Boiled Chrysanthemums With Radish (daikon no hana no oroshiae)

200 g daikon radish
– grate finely and drain

2 blossoms edible chrysanthemums
– take the petals and boil them quickly, then put them in cold water and drain

150 g cucumber
– slice thinly

2 table spoons baby sardines
– pour boiled water over them, then drain and let them cool

Sweetened Vinegar as Dressing:
2 table spoons of vinegar2 table spoons of sugar
1 tea spoon salt
– mix together

– mix all the above ingredients together and dress with the sweetened vinegar

Stir-fried Okinawan Gourd and Bean Curd

1 bitter gourd
– cut in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and slice in 5 mm pieces

1/2 pack deep-fried bean curd
– cut into slices of about 8 mm

1/2 table spoon oil
1 table spoon sugar
1 table spoon miso

– fry the bitter gourds in oil
– when they are softened add the sugar and the miso
– towards the end, put in the bean curd

Japanese Clear Soup

1 litre water
20 g dashi konbu (dried seaweed)
20 g katsuo bushi (dried bonito)
– put the konbu into the water and heat
– just before the water starts boiling, remove the konbu and add the katsuo
– boil for one minute, reduce the heat and wait until the katsuo sinks
– strain the dashi through a wet cloth

1/2 pack tofu
1/2 pack nameko mushrooms
1/2 pack daikon radish sprouts
1 table spoon light colored soy sauce
1 table spoon salt
fragrant garnish (suikuchi)

– prepare the dashi, add salt and soy sauce
– place the tofu into the hot dashi and boil it
– to serve, put the tofu, nameko, daikon, and suikuchi into a soup bowl and pour the dashi over it

Potato Rice Cakes (imo mochi)

100 g sweet potatoes
1 rice cake
80 g red bean jam (anko)
some soybean flour

– peel the potatoes, cut them in 1cm slices and put them in water to eliminate the bitter taste
– put the potatoes on a dish and cook them in the microwave for 5 minutes
– water the rice cake and heat it in the microwave for 1 min
– crush the boiled potatoes in a bowl and mix with the heated rice cake
– put the mixture into a bowl covered with soybean flour, and make four pieces
– divide the anko into four pieces and wrap it with the potato mixture
– lightly sprinkle the finished rice cakes with soybean flour