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Are You New to Japanese Food? Here's Everything You Need to Know

Bacon-wrapped shrimp, deep fried octopus tentacles with a soft cream center, and sweet red bean paste in a rice cake.   These are only some of the dishes you’ll find at a Japanese restaurant. You might be wondering how to use chopsticks or what exactly teriyaki chicken is. There’s a lot to learn when it comes to Japanese food!

Here’s everything you need to know about Japanese food: from staple foods to cooking techniques and regional cuisine. Staple Foods in Japan Let’s start off by learning about some popular items found on many menus in Japanese restaurants.


What is sushi? This dish consists of fish, vegetables, or cooked egg on top of rice that has been seasoned with vinegar. It’s most often wrapped in seaweed (nori) and sometimes topped with sesame seeds. Sushi is typically cut into bite-size pieces for easier consumption, but the complete roll is meant to be eaten in one bite. There are many types of sushi you can try! With so many ways to prepare the same ingredient, exploring new options is always fun. Here are some examples:


A slice of raw fish placed over hand-shaped rice balls . The popular varieties are tuna , salmon , shrimp , squid , eel , octopus , and crab .


The term is used for a roll of rice and fillings wrapped in seaweed, which is cut into bite-sized pieces. It typically contains vegetables and is most often rolled with the nori on the outside. Examples include: tuna maki , salmon maki , cucumber maki , etc. 


A cone-shaped hand roll prepared by filling a sheet of nori with rice and ingredients, then wrapping another sheet around all sides to form a cone. Some examples include: yellowtail tuna temaki , shrimp tempura temaki , and avocado and tobiko temaki .


Also known as “thin rolls,” these wraps contain only one ingredient such as cucumber, egg omelet, or pickled radish.


The type of roll with the nori on the inside, with fillings within the rice. Original rolls are inside out because it’s easier to hold and eat. Some examples include: California uramaki , spicy shrimp uramaki , and caterpillar uramaki .


A large, thick sushi roll usually prepared for sharing. It contains multiple ingredients such as tamagoyaki (egg omelet), cucumbers, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, etc.


An ancient preparation style consisting of fish preserved in fermented rice over several months. This is one of the oldest known types of sushi.


A single slice of fish is placed over a mound of pre-made rice.


This traditional Japanese dish is very simple, consisting of fresh raw fish or other seafood sliced into thin pieces and often served with wasabi and soy sauce. There are many types of sashimi as well! Some examples include: salmon , tuna , mackerel , squid ,octopus , etc. 

Curry Rice

It’s not just found at Indian restaurants! Curry was first introduced during the British colonial period in India , slowly spread across Asia, and eventually became one of Japan’s national dishes . Japanese curry rice contains thicker gravy than Indian curries with less spices, giving it a sweeter taste. It can be made with poultry or beef instead of lamb or pork like traditional Indian versions; this has led many to believe it’s similar to Thailand’s red curry because Thai curries contain coconut milk.


Grown all over the world, rice has been a staple food for many countries. It’s important to note that Japan is not the only country where sushi exists, but it is one of the few places where rice is included in their cuisine. Rice actually contains many nutrients and has low levels of fat, making it perfect for a healthy diet. Like other types of carbohydrates, white rice breaks down into glucose which stimulates the release of insulin . However, brown rice also contains fiber which regulates blood sugar levels while also keeping you full longer. So don’t be afraid to try something new! Besides sushi , Japanese dishes can be quite mild so there are no rules when it comes to experimenting with different foods.


7 Things You Should Know About Japanese Food Culture

  • Miso Soup Should Be Treated Like a Drink

Miso soup is a popular dish served at Japanese restaurants. It has a cloudy broth, small pieces of tofu, and seaweed. While it’s normal for most people to eat soup with a spoon, this variety should be sipped right from the bowl. Tofu and seaweed left at the bottom of the bowl should be eaten with chopsticks once the broth is gone.

  • The Dishes Have Significance

In Japan, the dishes are nearly as important as the food they contain. The cooks are careful to choose the right colors and patterns for the meal they’re preparing. Plates and bowls are often seasonal, hand-painted, and have a significant history. The servers and chef often expect people to ask about the dishes before eating.

  • Sushi Rice Shouldn’t Be Dipped in Soy Sauce

The sticky texture of sushi rice is like that for a reason. By dipping a roll of sushi in soy sauce, the rice becomes too soft, losing its important texture. Also, there shouldn’t be any pieces of rice left over in the soy sauce dish. If you want some sauce, make sure to dip the fish part of the roll, not the rice.

  • Leaving a Messy Plate is Rude

After a meal, you shouldn’t crumple up your napkins and leave them on the empty plate. For many Japanese people, this is considered rude and shows a lack of respect for the staff. Instead, diners are expected to neatly fold the napkins and leave them next to their plate, or throw them out if there is a bin available.

  • They Really Care About Table Manners

When eating in Japan, make sure to mind your table manners. Don’t stick your chopsticks straight up in a bowl of rice, or even lay them across your bowl of noodles. Instead, use the chopsticks holder which is usually available on the table. If it isn’t, it’s suggested to fold a napkin into an upright triangle and set your chopsticks on that. 

  • Tipping Is Not Recommended

When dining out in Japan, never tip the staff. This is often considered rude. In most Japanese restaurants, the staff are highly paid and trained. A tip can make the expert sushi chefs  feel degraded.

Are You Looking for Delicious Japanese Food and Some Family-Friendly Entertainment?

You’ve never had food this good! Kimono Restaurant offers a great place to take your family for entertainment, delicious eats, and fun. We start with the highest quality ingredients before grilling them right in front of you on our hibachi grill–the perfect way to get involved by watching as we prepare it just how YOU want it so there will be no surprises at all when they bite into your meal. This experience also gives us an opportunity to show off some amazing tricks which is where being entertained comes into play; our talented chefs will astound you even further by flipping meats around wildly or doing some other intricate, spectacular feats. If you’re looking for the perfect place to take your family for food, fun and entertainment. Kimono Japanese Restaurant in Benicia and Pleasanton, California, can’t be beaten! Join us today and experience the Kimono difference.