Let’s go! A Summary of Popular Japanese Food and Condiments Part 3 (Donburi and Yoshoku)


2024.04.23

NAVITIME TRAVEL EDITOR

Let’s go! A Summary of Popular Japanese Food and Condiments Part 3 (Donburi and Yoshoku)

Part three of our Japanese food guide introduces donburi and Japanized western dishes, or yoshoku. Dishes introduced in this article includes the following:

[Donburi]

1. Gyudon
2. Katsudon
3. Oyakodon
4. Hokkaidon (salmon oyakodon)
5. Kaisendon
6. Suteikidon
7. Tendon
8. Unadon
9. Ochazuke

[Japanized western dishes}
1. Kare raisu (curry rice)
2. Katsu Kare
3. Hamburger steak
4. Naporitan spaghetti
5. Omu raisu

  • 01

    Rice Bowls with Toppings (donburimono)

    Donburimono: (literally “bowl things”) refers to bowls of rice on which a topping of your choice is added. The English word “rice bowl” has two meanings. One refers to a ceramic “rice bowl”, as in the bowl that holds the food. The other refers to a bowl of food that consists of cooked rice that is topped with various items such as beef and onions, chicken pieces and egg, or pork cutlet and eggs. Below is an an introduction to the most popular food “rice bowls” that are commonly eaten at lunch or dinner, and which are satisfying, delicious, fast, and economical. Katsudon, oyakodon, and other rice-bowl dishes are available at fast-food shops that specialize in donburimono, as well at izakaya at lunch time, soba and udon shops, and family restaurants.

  • 02

    Gyudon

    One of the most popular rice bowls is without a doubt gyudon (beef bowl), which is even popular outside of Japan. This rice bowl is a favorite for diners who like beef. A typical gyudon consists of beef that is thinly sliced and cooked with onions in a sauce containing soy sauce, mirin sweet cooking sake, and dashi fish broth. Beef bowl is basically a mound of simmered-beef topping, somewhat similar to the taste of sukiyaki, which is put on a bowl of steamed rice. The favorite way to eat beef bowl is to first put some red-pickled ginger on top and then sprinkle seven-spice chili powder (shichimi) on top of that, and then eat.

    Beef bowl is so well liked that nowadays there are several chains whose menus are based around beef bowls as the main food. The beef bowl described above is the fundamental beef bowl, upon which several variations of beef bowls are based. If you want more beef, you can order extra portions of only beef. And if you want to try an elevated beef bowl, you can order additional toppings such as grated cheese, sliced green onions. kimchee, or a soft-boiled egg. In addition, another popular food item served in gyudon restaurants is “curry rice”. These gyudon chains now compete amongst themselves to make the best-tasting curry made according to their own, original curry recipes. And what is now a hot-selling item in these beef-bowl restaurants is a bowl of their original curry rice topped with the gyudon simmered beef.

    One thing to note is that before ordering at beef-bowl restaurants, you need to buy food tickets first from vending machines located either outside of the restaurant or just inside at the entrance. Fortunately, most beef-bowl shops’ vending machines will show photos and prices of the items, even if they don’t have the food names in English. And the good news is, nowadays many shops have vending machines with touch screens from where you can choose to see the menu in English.

  • 03

    Katsudon

    Katsudon is a rice bowl featuring tonkatsu, which is a breaded and deep-fried pork cutlet. The deep-fried tonkatsu is cut into about five or six slices, and then cooked in a frying pan together with sliced onions, a beaten egg, and a sauce made of soy sauce, mirin (sweet cooking sake), water, and dashi fish stock. (Kelp and sake are also added to the sauce, depending on the cook.) All of this cooked mixture of pork cutlet is placed on top of a bowl of rice to become katsudon. To give the dish an herb flavor and a bright, green garnish, mitsuba (Japanese parsley) is placed on top. In most restaurants, when the katsudon is served, the beaten egg usually is still very runny. If you prefer to have the egg fully cooked, you need to mention that to the table server when ordering by saying, “Tamago wo yoku yaite kudasai.” If you are lucky, the egg will be cooked to your liking. However, even if you ask to have the egg well cooked, there is no guaranty that your wish will be fulfilled by the cook.

  • 04

    Oyakodon

    Oyakodon automatically refers to “chicken oyakodon”, which has the same ingredients as katsudon, except that small pieces of chicken instead of sliced katsudon are cooked with the onions and sauce. The term “oyako” when literally translated means “parent and child” and refers to the chicken as the parent and the egg as the child. The beaten egg in this dish also might be quite runny if you don’t ask to have the egg fully cooked

  • 05

    Hokkaido or salmon oyakodon

    Based on the same idea as chicken oyakodon having the meaning of parent and child, salmon oyakodon refers to a bowl of rice topped with grilled and flaked salmon (parent) and salmon roe (ikura, the child). Since both the salmon and salmon roe are seasoned with salt and soy sauce, you don’t need to add any other sauce or seasoning before eating it. This donburimono is very popular in Hokkaido especially because salmon and salmon roe are directly sourced from there and therefore they are fresh and delicious. Nevertheless, Hokkaido oyakodon is found in restaurants throughout Japan, more so in restaurants specializing in seafood.

  • 06

    Kaisendon (Seafood donburi)

    As the name implies, this is a bowl of rice topped with all kinds of fish and seafood, most of which is sashimi (meaning it’s not cooked). The variety of ingredients depends on the season and the restaurant. For example, the toppings could include tuna, salmon, yellowtail, seabream, and squid; along with salmon roe, sea urchin, shrimp, eel, and even cucumber slices and a sprinkling of sliced green onion that is added for a little color. This donburi comes with a small saucer of soy sauce with wasabi, which you mix together and pour on top before eating the kaisendon.

  • 07

    Suteikidon (Steak bowl)

    As the name implies, this is a bowl of rice topped with grilled or fried steak, which has been cut into thin slices. The beef is seasoned with variations of sauces, most of which start with soy sauce as the base. Other ingredients, which are added according to the desired taste, can include grated garlic, grated radish, wasabi, thinly sliced aojiso (beefsteak leaf), butter, black pepper, green onions and others depending on the imagination of the chef. Prices for steak bowl vary greatly, depending on the quality and quantity of the beef placed on top. Obviously the more tender, marbled cuts are going to be more expensive than non-marbled, lean-meat cuts. In most cases, the steak is served either rare or medium rare. So, if you prefer to have your steak cooked more, you need to mention that when you order. Steak bowls can be eaten in various types of eating establishments, from fast-food places with counters only, to high-end steak houses with plush furnishings and lighting. Steak bowls tend to be a lunch-time dish, especially at high-end restaurants which serve full-course steak dinners in the evenings.

  • 08

    Tendon (Tempura bowl)

    Any type of deep-fried tempura ingredients can become the ingredients for tendon. Most restaurants offer variations in terms of the ingredients they place on the bowl of rice. The more tempura piled on the rice, the higher the cost. The more gourmet the tempura such as shrimp, prawns, and scallops, the higher the cost.

    Tendon is differentiated from tempura when it comes to the sauce. For example, when eating tempura items “as is”, you dip each one of them in tentsuyu, a sauce that has soy sauce, mirin sweet sake, and dashi fish sauce. Basic tempura sauce (tentsuyu) is lighter in taste and slightly saltier than tendon sauce. On the other hand, tendon sauce is slightly sweeter, richer, and thicker because it has more sugar in proportion to the other ingredients. In addition, it has been slowly reduced in a saucepan over heat. In extremely delicious and famous restaurants specializing in tendon, the sauce is what makes the tendon, rather than the tempura ingredients. While high-end dishes of tendon served in specialty restaurants will be more expensive, the difference in taste between fast-food tendon and beautifully prepared, gourmet tendon with outstanding tendon sauce, is like night and day. If you want to splurge on a delicious lunch, tendon served at a specialty restaurant is a perfect choice.

  • 09

    Unadon

    Unadon

    Unadon

    This is a rice bowl topped with unagi kabayaki, which is freshwater grilled eel seasoned with a special teriyaki-like sauce made especially for eel. The unadon is topped with some condiments depending on which ones you want to add. For example, you can sprinkle on sansho Japanese pepper, thinly sliced green onions, toasted sesame seeds, thinly sliced nori seaweed, or shiso leaves (beefsteak leaves, a Japanese herb that tastes somewhat like a mild mint).

    If unagi is served in a square, lacquerware container over rice, it is called "unaju", an abbreviation of unagi (eel) and jubako (square container or box). On the other hand, unagi served in a deep round bowl is called "unadon", the abbreviation of unagi and donburi. In most cases, unaju, rather than unadon, tends to be the more up-scale version of the two versions. This is because unaju is served mostly at unagi specialty restaurants and comes in bigger portions, albeit at bigger prices.

    Unajyu

    Unajyu

    Unadon is a dish found in many fast-food restaurants, where the unagi is usually lower quality to begin with, and the unagi is served in smaller portions to keep the price low, in order to entice budget-conscious diners. If you are looking to try unagi (especially unaju), but are hesitant to order it because of the high cost, a small-sized unadon makes a great choice for you to try and see how you like it. If unadon suits your tastebuds, you will hardly find any other dish in all of Japan, which will satisfy your tastebuds more. Unagi whether served as undadon or unaju makes a truly memorable meal to savor while eating and even after eating as a lasting memory.

  • 10

    Ochazuke

    This rice-bowl dish differs from all of the others described here because hot tea or broth is poured over the rice, turning it into a soup-like dish. The word “ochazuke” comes from the word “ocha” meaning “tea”, which in most cases refers to “green tea”; and “zuke” meaning to soak, submerge or steep. While ordinary or lower quality green tea (sencha) is the traditional liquid, other kinds of tea can be used, such as genmaicha, (sencha with puffed brown rice for a toasty flavor), and hojicha (smoked sencha with a nutty aroma). In addition, nowadays dashi fish broth can be used. The rice and broth form the foundation of this dish, and the topping defines the main taste. Popular toppings are grilled, salted salmon; umeboshi pickled plums; grilled unagi eel; seabream sashimi, mentaiko (chili-spiced cod roe); and other items according to taste and availability. A small amount of wasabi always accompanies ochazuke, along with one or more scoops of toasted sesame seeds, thin slices of nori seaweed, Japanese parsley (mitsuba), and shiso (beefsteak leaf).

    Ochazuke is commonly the last item people eat at eating-and-drinking get-togethers, and so it is almost always served at izakaya. So if you go to an izakaya, you will usually find a few kinds of ochazuke on the menu to end your meal. It is very tasty but light and not over filling.

    You can buy instant ochazuke seasoning that comes in small packets. They are very economical. By using the instant ochazuke seasoning, you will be able to make a simple bowl of ochazuke very easily. While it’s perfectly fine to pour the dried contents of the packet over rice and hot tea, and eat the instant ochazuke as it is, it will definitely taste much better if you add a small amount of wasabi and a slice of grilled salmon or a few slices of seabream sashimi, for example. These additions elevate the taste to a much higher level, which surprisingly is quite tasty, as well as easy and economical for a satisfying quick lunch or dinner.

  • 11

    Japanized Food based on Western Dishes

    There is a genre of foods known as yoshoku, which are Japanized arrangements of western dishes. Many people are likely to have a favorite yoshoku dish or two, as they are popular family dining choices both for eating out and at home.

  • 12

    Kare raisu (curry rice)

    Some fancy restaurants serve the curry in a  separate sauce pot.

    Some fancy restaurants serve the curry in a separate sauce pot.

    The Japanese call their own version of a dish of curry over rice “curry rice”. It’s a very simple and straight forward name. However, most menus, printed material, and websites in English call it “rice with curry”, “curry with rice”, “curry and rice”, etc. While the Japanese term “curry rice” is not perfect English grammar, it is simple and makes perfect sense. On the other hand, the concocted, long English names for this simple dish sound strange in some respects, and totally ignoring the Japanese feel for the dish. So, while in Japan, be sure to order “curry rice”.

    The origin of “curry sauce” (or “gravy”, as it is referred to in Indian English) originated in the Indian Subcontinent (Indian, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh). The concept and tastes of “curry” nowadays vary from country to country. Japanese curry has its own unique blend of spices and texture. Compared to Indian and Southeast Asian curries, such as those eaten in India, Thailand and Vietnam, for example, Japanese curry tends to be milder. However, extremely spicy Japanese-style curry also can find its way to dining tables in Japan. In addition, Japanese curry traditionally contains a bit of flour to make it thicker and denser compared to curries made in other countries into which flour is not added as an ingredient.

    It’s very interesting that “curry” in Japan is considered to be a western food, rather than an Indian or Southeast Asian food. This seems strange, since curry is definitely not a traditional western food by any means. The rationale for the Japanese to categorize curry as a western food comes not from where, but from who introduced curry into Japan. It was neither introduced by Indians nor came directly from India.

    It was the British Royal Navy who introduced curry into Japan. In the 1800s, the British still ruled India, and the British created a concoction of spices and called it “curry powder”, which simplified the cooking of curry. In other words, adding the curry-powder mixture to make curry, rather than adding each spice individually, makes the cooking of curry faster and easier. At that time in the 1800s, navy sailors on Japanese ships were suffering from a disease called beriberi. The Japanese navy surveyed British ships and found that British naval men where eating curry with beef and flour, which included a lot of thiamine. The Japanese navy, after discovering this fact about English-style beef curry, introduced curry powder, and hence curry rice into the diet of their own soldiers. As a result beriberi was eliminated. So, according to this theory, since curry arrived into Japan via the British, and since it was the British, i.e., westerners who introduced curry to Japan, the Japanese considered curry to be a western food and that idea has never been challenged. Many years have passed since the 1800s and the Japanese over time further altered the British curry recipe to suit their own tastes, making Japanese curry different from Indian curry in terms of its sweeter, thicker, and less spicy qualities.

    True Japanese curry contains a fixed set of vegetables and proteins. For example, only three vegetables are added to Japanese curry: carrots, potatoes, and onions. The directions on every box of Japanese curry roux will say to add these three vegetables. And every restaurant serving “curry rice” will put only these three vegetables in their curry. Then, in addition to the basic vegetables, curries contain one protein among chicken, pork, and beef. The majority of Japanese curry served at restaurants will contain pork or chicken, and to a lesser extent beef. The chicken in curry is either bite-size pieces or individual chicken parts such as the thighs, legs, and breast. Pork and beef used in curry rice can be cut into chunks or thinly sliced. This 3-vegetable, 1-protein curry (with either chicken, pork, or beef) is the standard found all over Japan. These days, however, home cooks may decide to freely add other vegetables such as squash (pumpkin), eggplant, broccoli, green beans, and others to their liking. In addition, some home cooks choose to make lamb, fish, or seafood curry, which are non-traditional ingredients in Japan, but standard proteins added to curries served at Indian restaurants.

    So, where can you try Japanese curry? Being such a popular dish in the country, there are countless places essentially everywhere that serve curry, such as specialty curry restaurants, izakaya, coffee shops, and even noodle shops near stations and shopping areas. Many of these specialty restaurants are franchise stores. Nowadays, beef-bowl (gyudon) restaurants also serve curry, either as plain curry rice “as is”, or as a combination plate of curry with beef-bowl topping or a hamburger steak. At lunch time, many izakaya (Japanese pubs) will serve their own version of curry rice. And then some coffee shops and even noddle shops serve curry rice at lunch, as either a main dish or a side dish along with a bowl of noodles.

    Many curry stores have vending machines either outside the door or just inside, from where you buy tickets before ordering. You give the wait staff your ticket, and in a short while your selected dish of curry will be served to you. Standard condiments eaten with curry are placed in small bowls on counters and tables. The condiments are rakkyo (pickled shallots), beni shoga (red-pickled ginger slices) and fukujinzuke (chunks of seven vegetables such as daikon radish, cucumber, eggplant, and lotus root pickled in a soy-sauce, sugar, ginger, and vinegar solution).

    Some curry specialty stores serve their proprietary, basic curry sauce that is simply a curry-flavored sauce (gravy) that, if you are lucky, might contain minute pieces of protein along with some very small pieces of carrot, onion, and potato. The idea at these places is for you to choose toppings for your curry, and there is a huge selection from which to choose. For example, there is a large selection of toppings that are breaded and deep-fried such as pork, chicken, beef, shrimp, oysters, croquettes, and squid. There might be some toppings that are not deep-fried, such as hamburger steak and grilled chicken. Vegetable toppings include spinach, eggplant, tomato, potato, corn, and even fresh garlic. Then, there are even a few more toppings such as boiled chicken eggs, boiled quail eggs, mushrooms, cheese, and the like.

    Fortunately, most curry-shop vending machines will show photos and prices of the toppings, even though they might not have the food names in English. And nowadays even better, many shops have vending machines with touch screens from where you can choose to see the English menu. When ordering curry at some specialty fast-food shops, you choose the level of heat (from mild to extra super-hot curry), amount of rice (small, regular, large, etc.), and then the toppings.

  • 13

    Katsu Kare (Deep-fried cutlet curry)

    This popular dish can be described by naming its three ingredients, which are (1) curry, (2) rice, and (3) a piece of breaded and deep-fried protein called a katsu, i.e., the Japanese rendition of the English word “cutlet”. The dish itself is a bowl of curry rice on which some types of katsu has been placed on top or at the side of the bowl or dish. The curry served is mainly a very simple curry sauce that might or might not contain any notable ingredients such as vegetables and protein.

    The most popular and common protein used in katsu kare is pork-chop tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet). Also other choices of more upscale cuts of pork-can be ordered, such as tenderloin katsu (hire katsu derived from the word for “fillet”) and rosu katsu (roast katsu) that refers to a pork-loin or rib-eye katsu. In addition, other kinds of “katsu” also are sometimes available such as deep-fried chicken katsu, menchi (minced-meat) katsu, korokke (croquettes), ham katsu, and deep-fried shrimp. Katsu kare is usually always found on the menus of curry shops, so it’s one choice for diners, among the many kinds of curries and toppings served.

  • 14

    Hamburger steak (hambaag) (and not a “hamburger on a bun”)

    One of the most popular western foods in Japan, competing with curry rice as the most popular food among youngsters, is Japanese-style hamburger steak. While not so popular in the west, hamburger steaks have become an obsession in Japan with cooks and their restaurants striving to become known for making the juiciest and most flavorful hamburger steaks in the world. The humble hamburger steak is said to have originated in Hamburg, Germany; or by immigrants to the US who came from that city. In any event, the dish’s name at least comes from Hamburg in Germany. And the Japanese over time have elevated the humble ground-meat paddy into a nation-wide obsession, since both professional and home-cooks alike seem to be obsessed in striving to create the ultimate hamburger steak as a status symbol of their cooking prowess in terms of taste, texture, shape, and juiciness.

    In fact, in Japan hambaag is a popular topic often featured in cookbooks, in magazines, on the Internet, and on TV programs that show the best hands-on techniques and points for making the perfect hambaag. Famous cooks from famous hambaag restaurants, and famous cooking instructors too, give point-to-point demonstrations and techniques on TV to help anyone watching to cook the best hamburger steaks possible at home. The examples that follow next show how much attention the Japanese pay to making the “perfect hambaag”: ratio of fat to lean meat, ratio of beef to pork, amount of tossing the meat from hand to hand to eliminate air pockets and get the right consistency and shape, and amount of warm milk to add to panko. This, of course, is in addition to accurately measuring the right amount of every ingredient. Two specific examples are: (1) First add only salt to the ground meat and mix and stir and continue to mix and stir to the point where the salt has been completely incorporated in to the meat, so that the meat itself becomes sticky and whitish. (2) Be sure to make a dent in the middle of the paddy, which must be the right shape and size and not too shallow and not too deep. That way, the meat has a chance to cook properly and the meaty juices stay trapped inside. The above examples, of which there are more, show the extent to which both professional and home cooks will go, in order to make the ultimate hambaag.

    At the outset, it’s necessary to explain that in Japan a “hamburger steak” is differentiated from a “hamburger on a bun” by pronunciation only. In other words, a hamburger steak is pronounced as “ham-baag” (without the addition of “steak” in the name). A “hamburger on a bun”, on the other hand, is pronounced as “ham-baa-gaa”. So, make no mistake about that. To the Japanese, a “ham-baag” is as different from a “ham-baa-gaa” as toasted bread is different from French toast.

    What differentiates Japanese style hamburger steaks from hamburger steaks in the USA is (1) the addition of a touch of ground nutmeg in the meat mixture, and (2) the deep, rich flavor of the demi-glace sauce poured over the top of the paddy. Besides standard ingredients such as ground meat, chopped onions, salt, pepper, bread crumbs, and eggs that are in basically every form of hamburger steak in the world, nutmeg is always added to Japanese hamburger steaks. While nutmeg finds its way into some hamburger steaks served in Europe, it is usually not added to the meat in the US, where the ground-meat hamburger steak is known also by the name “Salisbury steak”. Another difference is that in the US, meat-stock gravy is poured over hamburger steaks. The closest equivalent to Japanese “hambaag” in the USA is the Hawaiian version called loco moko. While Loco moko is covered with American-style gravy, it always includes a sunny-side-up fried egg placed on top as a final touch. This egg topping is a “must” also on traditional Japanese hambaag.

    Hambaag in Japan are covered with demi-glace sauce instead of a sauce made only from meat-stock like that used in gravy served in the USA. In its simplest form, demi-glace sauce also is made from meat-stock (more traditionally, from a braised-bone-and-vegetable broth), but it also includes tomato sauce and red-wine for deeper flavor. The liquid is left to cook down until the demi-glace sauce becomes thick and rich in taste. Demi-glace sauce forms the liquid base of the delicious and rich beef stew served throughout the country. So, in addition to being used in stew, demi-glace sauce becomes the traditional sauce poured over hambaag and omu raisu. (See below.)

    While a sunny-side-up fried egg is placed on top of standard hambaag, there are variations of hambaag in terms of toppings and sauces. For example, another favorite topping is a slice of cheese. And an itarian hambaag (Italian hamburger steak) is topped with tomato sauce. One more type of hambaag is one that comes with a small pile of grated daikon radish that has a little ponzu sauce poured on it, as well as a sprinkling of chives also, becoming a Japanese-inspired hambaag.

    Since hambaag is so popular, you can find it in many kinds of eating establishments, especially at lunch time. So, in addition to numerous restaurants that specialize in and boast about their famous hambaag, there are coffee shops, family restaurants, beef-bowl shops, hotel coffee shops, and even izakaya at lunch time, serving hambaag. The typical hambaag teishoku (set menu) includes the patty itself, the demi-glace sauce (or other sauce), a sunny-side-up fried egg (or other topping), a bowl/dish of steamed white rice, a bowl of misoshiru soup, a salad or small side-dish vegetable, and a small dish of pickles. This makes for a very satisfying lunch or dinner. And depending on the restaurant, you might be able to choose from among several sizes of hambaag. For example, the standard size is around 150 grams. Bigger sizes range from 200 grams to 300 grams (or more sometimes). Of course, the larger the size, the larger the price.

  • 15

    Naporitan (Neapolitan) spaghetti

    What started in Yokohama, Japan as “ketchup spaghettiNa” in the 1950s, has evolved throughout the years. Since then, naporitan has lost its image as only a “ketchup spaghetti”, as it now includes more options in terms of ingredients depending on the chef. The Japanese chef who named this pasta dish naporitan, named it after Naples, Italy (sort of). Naples is the English name of the city in Italy known as Napoli in Italian and napori (with an “r”) in Japanese. Taking the idea one step further, the chef in closely following the Italian name, created the name naporitan for his simple dish of “ketchup spaghetti”. The true Italian word should correctly be “Napoletano” (masculine) with an “o” or “Napoletana” (feminine) with an “e”. In English the correct word is “Neapolitan” (both masculine and feminine). Basically, one can assume that the chef probably wanted to make the name easier to pronounce for the Japanese, who were already familiar with the city name “napori”. He went a step further and decided to base the name on Napoletano/Napoletana, but making the name four syllables, i.e., “na po ri tan” rather than five syllables “na po ri ta no/na po ri ta na”. Regardless of how the chef decided the name, the word “naporitan” does not exist in either English or Italian or any other language in the world. Naporitan specifically refers to the dish of “ketchup spaghetti” that was invented in Yokohama. Regardless of the name, this simple dish of spaghetti took root in Japan and has been a favorite with the Japanese for years.

    While the number of ingredients for classic naporitan is extremely small (only four not including the spaghetti), they pack a powerful punch of flavor when cooked all together and mixed into a generous serving of boiled spaghetti. So, in addition to the spaghetti itself, naporitan consists of thinly sliced green bell pepper, slices of white onion, and slices of rosu hamu. (The name “rosu hamu”, i.e., “roasted ham”, is basically known as Canadian bacon in other countries.) These ingredients are all cooked in a frying pan with a little oil or butter until tender. Next, the fourth ingredient, ketchup, is stirred into these pan-fried ingredients. Finally, the cooked spaghetti is added and all the ingredients are mixed until well blended. For additional taste, Parmesan cheese can be sprinkled on top along with a few drops of spicy chili sauce.

    More modern versions of naporitan are being made these days. While some amount of ketchup is almost always used, these days a blend of ketchup and tomato sauce or puree is common to reduce the amount of sweetness coming from the ketchup. Some people cook the ingredients in trendy olive oil instead of ordinary vegetable or salad oil. In addition, sliced wieners or hot dogs instead of the rosu hamu are used. Some cooks add one of more of garlic, mushrooms, soy sauce, and tonkatsu sauce (Japanese Worcestershire sauce). Also, a sunny-side-up fried egg can be placed on top for additional flavor and volume.

    Where is naporitan served? While naporitan is spaghetti, surprisingly many restaurants that claim to be “authentic Italian” will not dare to serve it. Regardless, naporitan can be found on the menu at family restaurants, and at some izakaya and coffee shops during lunch time. In addition, many “Japanese-inspired Italian” pasta restaurants serve it. And finally, there are a few restaurants that specialize in making naporitan, offering various toppings such as a fried egg, a few pieces of fried chicken, a hambaag patty, and other toppings.

  • 16

    Omu raisu (omelet rice)

    Omu raisu is ketchup fried rice covered with an omelet

    Omu raisu is ketchup fried rice covered with an omelet

    This is another example of a food with a long name in English for a Japanese dish that has been abbreviated to a shorter name in order to make it easier to say. Omu raisu is a simple dish that involves two parts. 1) the “omu” (omelet) and 2) the “raisu” (ketchup fried rice). Once the fried rice is cooked, it is covered with the omelet and topped with a sauce before being served. The fried rice used in this dish is normally not an Asia version. It is seemingly like a western version of fried rice because ketchup, instead of soy sauce, is used. But “ketchup fried rice” does not exist in the West. The western food closest in appearance to the ketchup fried rice used in omu raisu is “Mexican rice”. However, Mexican rice is savory while ketchup fried rice is a little sweet because it uses ketchup instead of tomatoes or tomato sauce. Also, in ketchup fried rice, bite-size pieces of chicken sometimes are added as protein. In addition, chopped white onion, garlic, wieners, corn, and sliced green bell peppers can be added to the rice.


    The omelet is usually a basic, no-frills omelet without any ingredients added. The finale to an omu raisu is the sauce poured on top. The simplest sauce is nothing more than a decorative squirt of ketchup. More upscale sauces include white (cream) sauce, Bolognese sauce, curry, or even beef stew. Cheese makes a great topping too.

    Like many of these other “Western Japanese foods” described here, omu raisu is available at general family restaurants, hotel coffee-shop restaurants, regular coffee shops, izakaya at lunch time, and even at omu raisu specialty restaurants that offer all kinds of fried-rice versions as well as numerous types of sauces. Omu raisu is a good choice for brunch, lunch, and even dinner. The simpler versions are lighter in taste and volume, while the heartier ones covered with beef stew or chicken cream stew are good for big eaters and anyone who is hungry. This tasty dish is a favorite of kids too because most like all the ingredients such as eggs, chicken, rice, ketchup, and stew.

    Article by Ronald Pompeo

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