Japanese cuisine is renowned not just for its main dishes but also for its diverse array of side dishes or “okazu.” These dishes are a cornerstone of a traditional Japanese meal, bringing a variety of flavors and textures that complement the main course and enrich the dining experience.
From simple pickles to intricate simmered vegetables or deep-fried tofu, Japanese side dishes are meticulously crafted to enhance the main dish. Here are some classic okazu to consider next time you delve into Japanese cuisine:
Tsukemono (Pickled Vegetables)
Tsukemono, a variety of Japanese side dishes, are essential to Japanese dining, offering a refreshing taste that can act as a palate cleanser or add zest to heavier meals. Through various pickling methods, vegetables like cucumbers, carrots, daikon radish, and ginger are seasoned with salt, vinegar, soy sauce, or miso, resulting in a range of pickles from sweet to sour. These Japanese side dishes provide distinct flavors and often a burst of color to the meal.
Edamame is one of the most popular Japanese side dishes, cherished for its simple, delightful taste. These young, podded soybeans are usually steamed and salted, offering a nutritious snack or accompaniment that’s rich in protein, fiber, and vitamins. As a versatile Japanese side dish, edamame is perfect for any dining setting, whether enjoyed on its own or alongside other dishes.
Gyoza (Japanese Dumplings)
Gyoza have earned their place as a beloved side dish with their crispy exterior and flavorful filling of ground pork and cabbage. Pan-fried and served with a soy, vinegar, and chili oil dipping sauce, they strike a perfect flavor balance. Ideal as a snack or appetizer, gyoza is a versatile dish often paired with beer or sake.
Yakitori (Grilled Chicken Skewers)
Yakitori, or grilled chicken skewers, is synonymous with succulent, smoky flavors. Marinated in a blend of soy sauce, sake, and mirin, and grilled to perfection, the chicken is then glazed with a soy-based sauce that enhances its umami taste. A favorite in izakayas, yakitori goes hand in hand with various beverages.
Takikomi Gohan (Mixed Rice)
Takikomi Gohan is a flavorful homage to the harvest, blending vegetables, mushrooms, and aromatic seasonings with the essential Japanese staple—rice. Infused with soy sauce, mirin, and dashi, this mixed rice dish weaves a deeply satisfying flavor profile. More than a side, Takikomi Gohan is a nourishing ensemble of delicate vegetable textures and the hearty comfort of seasoned rice, serving as a complete meal or a complement to other dishes.
Tempura (Deep-Fried Vegetables and Seafood)
Tempura stands as a hallmark of Japanese cuisine, capturing the essence of fresh vegetables and seafood in a light, crisp batter. The careful mix of flour, cornstarch, and cold water creates a thin coating that fries to a perfect golden crisp while preserving the natural flavors. Whether as a snack, a side, or the main event, Tempura is often paired with a dipping sauce that blends soy sauce, mirin, and grated daikon radish for a complementary zest.
Ohitashi (Blanched Vegetables with Soy Sauce Dressing)
Ohitashi celebrates the inherent taste of vegetables like spinach or kale, blanched to maintain their vibrant hue and texture, then elevated with a soy sauce-based dressing. This concoction of soy sauce, mirin, and dashi bestows a savory umami and subtle sweetness, creating a nutritious and palatable dish. As a light side, Ohitashi adds a refined touch to any meal, balancing out richer fare.
Sunomono (Vinegared Salad)
Sunomono is a refreshing salad distinguished by its sweet and sour dressing. Combining ingredients such as cucumber, seaweed, or seafood, it’s unified by a vinegar-based dressing that’s often sweetened and can include a hint of soy sauce. This vibrant dressing envelops the salad elements, providing a palate-cleansing effect that complements and contrasts with the main meal.
Takikomi Gohan, Tempura, Ohitashi, and Sunomono—exemplify the variety and sophistication of Japanese cuisine. They emphasize the use of seasonal produce, meticulous cooking methods, and a harmonious interplay of flavors, reflecting Japan’s culinary ethos: to elevate the natural essence of food. Each dish, from the hearty Takikomi Gohan to the light and crisp Sunomono, plays a critical role in presenting Japan’s deep-rooted and elegant food culture.
Sushi Inc. is a vibrant restaurant that offers what is considered the best sushi in St Pete. Opening its doors in 2013 and becoming a local staple by offering live music, traditional hand-rolled sushi and a friendly atmosphere, our guests always have a top notch experience. Customers love our award-winning, fresh and creative Sushi rolls, Nigiri, and Sashimi. With a larger selection of tempura, non-Sushi, japanese, and teriyaki options, we can accommodate every taste in downtown St Petersburg Fl. Contact us today to set your reservation or if you have any questions. When setting any reservations, please inform us of any allergies you might have and ask for alternative options. Check out our menu and daily specials you won’t be disappointed with our #1 voted and reviewed sushi in the Bay area.