Japanese Food for Beginners

I'm not an adventurous eater, and unfortunately, picky eating habits are often attributed to a lack of worldliness and refinement. However, I've discovered a way to eat quasi-daringly while sticking to basic food groups. 

Japanese food is one of the most common choices for a night out. Japanese food is great because it's light, relatively healthy and possesses an appealing exoticism in the U.S. Luckily, there are numerous noodle and rice dishes that won't offend most palettes. Here are a few of my recommendations!

Non-sushi is a good place for new foodies to start at.

  • Donburi: Donburi is essentially a bed of rice with your choice meat (chicken, beef or fresh water eel) in teriyaki sauce. It’s a very simple dish to make, so it's rarely made poorly.
  • Zaru soba: This is my favorite Japanese dish, but it can be a turn-off of those unaccustomed to cold entrées. Soba is buckwheat noodles that are served cold with a dipping sauce. Often the noodles are served over ice with shredded seaweed on top. The sauce has a sweet flavor, similar to soy sauce, that most people put wasabi and spring onion in.
  • Tempura: It's not your most nutritious meal, but given most people's affinity for for fried food, it's hard to strike out with tempura. Tempura is fried in a light batter that's not at all like the hard shell on fried chicken or seafood. Vegetables such as sweet potato, squash, broccoli and asparagus are typically available as tempura, as well as shrimp.

I'm not a fan of raw food so when I order sushi, I go for the cooked options. These foods may be "poser sushi", but they're good choices for a picky eater.

  • Unagi: Unagi, my favorite sushi, is freshwater eel. It's cooked and served in a sweet (but not overbearing) sauce over rice or in rolls. Eel may sound gross or unsettling to some people, but it tastes just like fish.
  • Tempura sushi: This is simply shrimp tempura wrapped in rice. These rolls are usually huge and can't be eaten gracefully, but they're a great option for someone who wants to order sushi without actually eating sushi.
  • Tomago sushi: Tomago means "egg", so a tomago roll is basically egg on top of rice.

Japanese food is a good place to take your first steps towards becoming an open-minded eater. Portions are small; if you don't like what you ordered, you won't feel bad about wasting food. Japanese restaurants are also huge fans of combo deals, so you can often order sushi in conjunction with a salad, soup and other bento box options. Don't be afraid to try something new!


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