If you’re asked to think of a typical Japanese food, sushi probably springs to mind. But there are plenty of other traditional Japanese dishes just waiting to be tried.

If you’re heading to Japan anytime soon, make sure not to miss trying out these three well-loved dishes while you’re there.

1. Ramen noodles

Ramen noodles are really popular in Japan. You’ll find a ramen restaurant on almost every street corner.

The basic ramen noodle dish features noodles, vegetables, meat or fish in a clear broth. Often the broth is chicken. It’s an especially good choice on a cold day, as it’s filling, tasty and has that comfort-food factor to it too.

Shoyu Ramen is one of the most common ramen dishes and has a broth that’s flavoured with soy (shoyu) and, alongside the meat and vegetables, you might find hard-boiled egg too.

Eating noodles in a soup may appear a bit of a challenge, but the best advice is to start with the noodles as soon as the dish arrives, as they quickly become fairly soggy – and so harder to pick up with chopsticks. Don’t worry, though, slurping your noodles while holding the bowl close to your face is perfectly acceptable. Although in western eyes ramen wouldn’t be viewed as a fast food, it is in Japan and is often a dish people choose for a quick lunch.

Ramen is actually a dish that has its origins in China, but today you’ll find it all over Japan, and indeed all over the world. Wagamama has been serving Brits ramen noodles for a quarter of a century, but it’s not the only place to get ramen in the UK – check out this list of the top five ramen restaurants in London from Deliveroo.

2. Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is the Japanese version of a pancake; kind of. It’s made of a combination of batter and cabbage and cooked on a griddle. Just like a western savoury pancake or French crepe, toppings and fillings can vary enormously. The name actually means something like ‘to your liking’, meaning diners can customise the basic dish in the way they prefer. Some restaurants in Japan specialise in producing okonomiyaki, with chefs cooking in front of diners, or even customers cooking for themselves using a griddle at the table.

Okonomiyaki is a dish that’s particularly popular in western Japan, in cities such as Osaka and Hiroshima. In Kansai style okonomiyaki (from Osaka), all the ingredients are mixed in with the batter and cooked together, then decorated with okonomiyaki sauce, dried seaweed (aonori) and smoked bonito (dried fish shavings) to taste. The Hiroshima style okonomiyaki, however, has a thin pancake that’s cooked first, and then the cooked ingredients are place on the top, before the sauce and other toppings.

It also comes on a bed of yakisoba noodles, so it’s often a more substantial dish.

3. Soba noodles

Soba is another popular Japanese dish, particular in the Tokyo area. They’ve been eaten for centuries, as far back as the 1600s when they were the Samurai dish of choice. Soba noodles are made of buckwheat flour, but some restaurants add some wheat flour to avoid the soba being too brittle.

There are lots of types of soba dishes, so just like ramen, it’s a very adaptable dish. Mori Soba are eaten cold, with a soy dipping sauce. There’s also Green Tea Soba (matcha), where the buckwheat flour is mixed with matcha powder to alter the colour. A traditional New Year’s Eve dish is Toshikoshi Soba, which is said to bring long life to those who eat it. Soba noodles are often served in a similar way to Ramen, with a bowl of broth that can contain vegetables, meat or fish. You could even make a soba noodle dish at home, using Yutaka noodles which can be bought in supermarkets or online.

Of course, like most foods from most cuisines, you can eat these Japanese dishes in many different countries today. But if you get the chance to try them at the source, they’re going to taste even better!

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