The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to go ahead for 2021 in Japan. Why not celebrate the games by sampling and enjoying a variety of Japanese cuisine throughout the duration of the competition. Trust us when we say Japanese food is more than sushi and katsu curry (but we’re not judging if you love the most common types of Japanese food, they’re popular for a reason). However, why not try something a little different and expand your Japanese palette. From Japanese Bento lunch boxes, refreshing summer zaru soba noodles to traditional Japanese style pancakes and classic tempura. In this blog, we’re sharing 7 Japanese foods to celebrate the Tokyo Olympics!
A great and simple way to get into the spirit of celebrating the Olympics in Tokyo is to swap your shop bought or standard packed lunch with a traditional bento box. Bento is an elaborate Japanese style lunch box filled with decorated food made of rice or noodles, paired with fish and/or meat and cooked vegetables. While these boxes are seemingly simple, they are definitely delicious and also nutritious. Bento food boxes can sometimes be decorated more creatively to resemble people, monuments and occasions. The 2021 Tokyo Olympics are a great chance to get creative with children and family to make an activity of decorating bento boxes in the nation of the team you are supporting!
Another great way to celebrate the Olympics in Japan is to take to the BBQ. Why not have a mini celebration and throw some delicious Japanese yakitori skewers on the grill to kick the games off? The word Yakitori translates to ‘grilled chicken’, however, this dish can sometimes be made with pork based skewers too. Yakitori is typically cooked over charcoal heat and served with chilled beer either as street food or at local bars and casual restaurants. These are a great way to infuse some Japanese elements into your BBQ feast without having to go all out!
Almost everyone has heard of Japanese souffle pancakes which have gained popularity over recent years but fewer people are aware of the more traditional okonomiyaki pancakes. Pancakes in Japan date back to as early as the 16th century, with the earliest record of pancakes in Japan originally recognised as funoyaki. Since then, of course, the flavours, techniques and final product of present day Japanese okonomiyaki pancakes is much different.
Okonomiyaki pancakes are savoury pancakes made with a wheat-flour batter that is ‘grilled’ or fried and topped with a variety of meats and vegetables to suit a diner’s preferences. In fact, the name ‘okonomiyaki’ can be translated to ‘cooked how you like’ and that’s what makes this dish a great choice to enjoy in celebration of the Olympics. You can personalise the dish to your palette and top your okonomiyaki with your favourite fresh meats and vegetables!
If you’re looking for lighter and more refreshing Japanese foods to enjoy, then zaru soba is the perfect meal to make. Zaru soba is a chilled Japanese dish made with soba noodles and served with Tsuyu, a soy sauce dipping sauce. This dish is popularly eaten in the summer months in Japan due to the cooling sensation of the noodles (which are served cold). Zaru soba is really easy to make, so it’s a great option to whip up on the whim during the potentially blazing hot days in summer or while you’re watching the Olympics.
Quite different from zaru soba, sukiyaki is Japanese dish traditionally eaten in the winter months as a warming and soothing meal. Sukiyaki is a style of Japanese hot pot cooking and dining. It’s basically a skillet filled with thinly sliced pieces of meat such as beef and an assortment of vegetables, which are simmered and seasoned with a light broth containing soy sauce, sugar and mirin, this can also be made with 'sukiyaki sauce'. Sukiyaki is often enjoyed for New Year as diners can eat communally and celebrate over the hot pot. However, this is also a great way to get the family and friends together to celebrate the Olympic games. Enjoy the competition with a pot filled with typically sukiyaki ingredients such as beef slices, leeks, Chinese cabbage, tofu and shiitake mushrooms!
Depending on who you ask, some might say the Olympics can be considered a festival and as such, Takoyaki is only a fitting food to have on the menu to celebrate the games! Takoyaki, also known as ‘octopus ball’ is a delicious summer street food deliciously in Japan, mostly served at festivals and celebrations. If you’re put off by the word ‘octopus ball’ don’t worry, these delicious treats aren’t necessarily always made from octopus meat, they can also be made with beef as an alternative.
Takoyaki is basically a snack with a wheat-based flour coating and minced octopus or beef filling, pickled ginger, tempura scraps and spring onions then topped with takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise and a sprinkling of bonito flakes. These are usually served as 8 balls per portion or person but they can be eaten alone or shared among peers as light, fluffy and savoury snacks.
Another popular Japanese dish which would be the perfect addition to your Tokyo Olympics food menu is tempura. This dish can be made from fish, seafood or vegetables that are coated in a delicious tempura batter that becomes nice and crispy once deep fried. Seafood, in particular prawns are the most popular type of tempura eaten across the world and understandably because it works well as a main dish or served as a side dish alongside Japanese rice or noodle dishes such as udon or soba.