Guide to Japanese CuisineGuide to Japanese Cuisine


As immensely popular on this little island as it is around the rest of the world, Japanese cuisine has grown to become a near staple for many Singaporeans. If you’re new to the scene and don’t know your sashimi from your nigiri, however, here’s a handy guide to help you wrap your head around the gastronomical sensations that await.

Think of sushi as the fail-safe Japanese option. It comes in more varieties than you can think of and is available all over Singapore - take your pick from quaint sushi bars, wallet-friendly conveyer belt restaurants and even pre-packaged sushi boxes at supermarkets.

Nori rolls are one of the most common (and popular) types of sushi you'll find, stuffed with meat, fish or vegetables and rolled in a sheet of seaweed. Other varieties include nigirizushi, which comprises a rice base with meat or vegetables draped over it, and inarizushi, which is sushi rice wrapped in tofu and deep fried. All sushi has a vinegar-rice base.

Moving on to sashimi: this is the term used for raw meat, usually fish, sliced thinly, served either a-la-carte or sometimes on rice with a side of miso soup. Common Singaporean favourites include the salmon and tuna varieties, as well as octopus and the much-coveted sea urchin. Hint: for an exquisitely curated selection of sashimi, visit Sen of Japan. As with sushi, sashimi is normally served with soy sauce, grated ginger and/or wasabi paste.

Wasabi paste itself is an essential and highly enjoyable part of Japanese cuisine, with a strong, spicy taste similar to English mustard. A type of horseradish, it's commonly served as a paste made from the grated, dried and powdered stem of the wasabi plant.

On to the carbohydrates! Japanese noodle bars are springing up all over Singapore of late and are a prime choice for grabbing a quick but delicious lunch.

One of the best known types of Japanese noodles, ramen, is a favourite both with Singaporeans and with Japanese locals. It's generically served in a large bowl with pork-based soup and topped by a variety of ingredients that include vegetables, meat, seafood and onsen eggs.

Soba and udon noodles are popular as well: soba is the thinner variety of the two and is even used in salads and served cold on occasion, while udon is a thicker-cut type of noodle that is equally tasty served hot or cold.

Then there’s yakitori, which is grilled chicken or beef on skewers, yakiniku, where small pieces of meat are grilled at the bar or at the dining table itself, and teppanyaki, where meat and seafood is prepared in front of customers on a large iron plate called a teppan.

For something a little different, try a hot pot Japanese dinner, where food is prepared in a hot pot at the table itself. Sukiyaki and shabu shabu are two cuisines of this type: both involve cooking thin slices of meat, vegetables, tofu and noodles in a pot at the centre of the table, and eating them with various dipping sauces and seasonings. 

In the mood for something more filling? Give tonkatsu a go. Pork will never taste better than when deep fried, breaded and served with ground sesame seeds and shredded cabbage on the side. Also try one of the many Japanese side dishes and snacks to complement your meal. Edamame, or boiled or steamed soybeans still in the pod; tempura, battered, breaded and fried seafood, chicken or vegetables; and gyoza, a Chinese-influenced dumpling filled with various meats and cooked golden brown.

Whatever your choice of Japanese meal, round it off with a glass or two of sake – a fermented rice alcoholic beverage served chilled or warm. Try The Bar at Waku Ghin for exclusive selections.