Food

7 Easy Japanese Dishes to Cook for Beginners “from Scratch”

Featured Image courtesy of M-Louis

If you can boil water, you are well on your way to mastering these dishes and upping your game with the ladies, dudes, Mr., Ms., to your kids.

Regardless of who you are feeding, even if it is just you, you and anybody else will not look at you the same way (with disdain) after you have produced any one of these seven easy Japanese dishes.

The Easy to the Hard Way of Doing Things

I’m going to take the mystery out of these dishes, so that you can prepare them at home from at minimal cost and ease as possible to doing it the right way (the hard way).

  • The easy way (simple Japanese recipes): not totally from “scratch.”
  • Doing it the hard way: well, it will be hard if you do not cook often, but after you try it, it’ll be easy peasy.

What Makes These Japanese Dishes Easy?

These Are All Dishes I Prepare Myself All the Time

I have prepared these recipes as a line cook to on my own at home, so I know that the vast majority of you will also have no problem preparing these dishes yourself (if the struggle is all too real, just try ordering out for everybody’s sake).

Photo Description: a bowl of miso soup in a black soup bowl. A few diced green onions are sprinkled in the soup. This is the simplest easy Japanese dish to prepare.
Yes, this dish is miso soup which is incredibly easy to prepare.

The Ingredients for Miso Soup

Yea, soup. I thought I would start you out real simple (basically boiling water and putting things into water).

THE EASY WAY

2 INGREDIENTS (1 core ingredient)
Required cooking equipment: saucepan

  1. Hon dashi (instant soup stock)
  2. Miso

THE HARD WAY

4 INGREDIENTS (2 core ingredients)
Required cooking equipment: saucepan

  1. Katsuobushi
  2. Kombu
  3. Miso
  4. Toppings: green onions, tofu, wakame, aburaage, to whatever you want to put into it.

For the full recipe with step-by-step instructions, please go to:


Photo Description: in a white oblong bowl is a mound of rice on one side with a small pool of curry on the left hand side. The brown curry has chunks of meat mixed in.
There’s a reason why this dish is loved by all Japanese. Image by Suri

The Ingredients for Kare Raisu (Japanese Curry and Rice)

The ease and range of variation you can do with curry will make this dish a common menu item once you find out how easy it is.

THE EASY WAY

2 INGREDIENTS (0 core ingredients)
Required cooking equipment: saucepan

  1. Instant curry roux
  2. Rice, potatoes, or udon.

THE HARD WAY

6 INGREDIENTS (0 core ingredients)
Required cooking equipment: saucepan, cutting board, kitchen knife

  1. Instant curry roux
  2. Onion
  3. Meat
  4. Veggies: potato, carrot, to mixed vegetables.
  5. Added flavor: you can add whatever you want from cream, wine, worcestershire, ketchup, honey, apples, to soy sauce.
  6. Toppings: beni shoga, green onions, garlic, to pickled vegetables.

All you need to prepare this dish are the instructions on the packaging.


Photo Description: this picture always makes me hungry because it's a on a rustic Japanese plate that is whitish grey in a rectangular shape. On the plate is a small pool of teriyaki sauce, the semi-translucent sauce glistens on the grilled beef that is cut up into strips.
More Japanese American because when you leave it up to Americans, we have an ability to make something less healthy for you to eat, you’re welcome.

The Ingredients for Teriyaki Sauce

There are two types, the Japanese way (easy, which is a tare) and the Americanized version which is heavier on sugar and other umami flavors. I also do not consider this a 3rd one, but it is more of a hack which is the bare minimum (if you are really hard up for teriyaki sauce).

THE EASIEST (HACK)

4 INGREDIENTS (3 core ingredients)
Required cooking equipment: saucepan

  1. Soy sauce
  2. Mirin
  3. Sugar
  4. Cornstarch

THE JAPANESE WAY (EASY)

4 INGREDIENTS (4 core ingredients)
Required cooking equipment: saucepan

  1. Soy sauce
  2. Mirin
  3. Sake
  4. Sugar

THE AMERICANIZED WAY (EASY)

7 INGREDIENTS (4 core ingredients)
Required cooking equipment: saucepan, cutting board, kitchen knife/microplane.

  1. Soy sauce
  2. Mirin
  3. Sake
  4. White or brown sugar
  5. Ginger
  6. Garlic
  7. Corn starch

For the full recipe with step-by-step instructions, please go to:


Photo Description: a white bowl with a black fringe edge. Udon noodles are in dashi with sliced green onions.
Yea, you can go instant udon, but that won’t give you the satisfaction of pouring 5 ingredients into a pot and making magic happen like Harry Potter. Image by Toshiyuki Imai

The Ingredients for Udon/Soba/Ramen Mentsuyu (Soy Sauce Soup Base)

This is one of those dishes where it’s a toss-up with just going with an instant noodle package to doing it from scratch.

THE EASIEST WAY

2 INGREDIENT (1 CORE INGREDIENT)
Required cooking equipment: saucepan

  1. A packet of instant udon/soba/ramen
  2. Toppings from green onion, meat, egg, to tenkasu or kamaboko.

THE EASY WAY

6+ INGREDIENTS (5 core ingredients)
Required cooking equipment: saucepan

  1. Soy sauce
  2. Hon dashi (instant soup stock)
  3. Mirin
  4. Sake
  5. Salt
  6. Udon to soba (noodles). For ramen, also add in chicken stock.

THE HARD WAY

8+ INGREDIENTS (6 core ingredients)

  1. Soy sauce
  2. Katsuobushi
  3. Kombu
  4. Mirin
  5. Sake
  6. Salt
  7. Udon, soba, ramen (noodles)
  8. For ramen: add chicken stock, toppings: egg, green onions, menma.

For the full recipe with step-by-step instructions, please go to:


Photo Description: I must be hungry because this looks so good. It is a bowl of gyuondon in a thick walled bowl. Think strips of beef that is a light brown in color topped off with togarashi shichimi and beni shoga (pickled ginger).
Pass on Yoshinoya and do it yourself since Yoshinoya is too busy doing Chinese and fusion food in the US. Image by Hajime Nakano

The Ingredients for Gyudon (Beef Bowl)

The hard way is the best because imagine a soy sauce flavored pastrami, and that is what gyudon is (it’s all about getting the right cut of beef). If you have ever had Yoshinoya, you will know why the cut of beef is important.

THE EASY WAY

6 INGREDIENTS (4 core ingredients)
Required cooking equipment: saucepan, cutting board, kitchen knife

  1. Soy sauce
  2. Hon dashi (instant soup stock)
  3. Mirin
  4. Sake
  5. Thinly sliced beef
  6. Onion

THE HARD WAY

11 INGREDIENTS (5 core ingredients)
Required cooking equipment: saucepan, cutting board, kitchen knife

  1. Soy sauce
  2. Katsuobushi
  3. Mirin
  4. Sake
  5. Sugar
  6. Rice
  7. Thinly sliced beef: if you want to take up your recipe a notch, you’ll want brisket, but you’ll want the navel end (the stuff used for pastrami).
  8. Onion
  9. Beni shoga, it’s a must for me.
  10. Shichimi togarashi, if you like spicy
  11. Egg (raw)

For the full recipe with step-by-step instructions, please go to:


Photo Description: a cast iron pot with sukiyaki in it. The rare meat being placed into it, along with tofu and shiitake.
The best family dish during the winter, but I eat it year round.

The Basic Ingredients for Nabe/Sukiyaki (One Pot Cooking)

This is my go-to dish for date nights, to simply wanting to get in my daily diet of vegetables.

THE EASY WAY

7+ INGREDIENTS (5 core ingredients)
Required cooking equipment: saucepan, cutting board, kitchen knife

  1. Soy sauce
  2. Hon dashi (instant soup stock)
  3. Mirin
  4. Sake
  5. Sugar
  6. Vegetables: spinach, enoki, shungiku, shiitake, bean sprouts, to tofu.
  7. Meat: thinly sliced beef

THE HARD WAY

11+ INGREDIENTS (6 core ingredients)
Required cooking equipment: saucepan/donabe, cutting board, kitchen knife

  1. Soy sauce
  2. Katsuobushi (optional)
  3. Kombu
  4. Mirin
  5. Sake
  6. Sugar
  7. Lard (beef fat)
  8. Vegetables: shungiku, spinach, tofu, onion, to green onions
  9. Meat: thinly slice and a marbled beef cut is great (like a ribeye)
  10. Noodles: shirataki
  11. Egg (raw for dipping in)
  12. Donabe/Cast iron pan

For the full recipe with step-by-step instructions, please go to:


Photo Description: temaki sushi hand roll. This one has what looks like fake crab along with a big sliver of real crab meat.
This is a great dish for the entire family where everybody can make their own hand roll with whatever they like. Image by Ron Dollete with one of the best Flickr names of SauceSupreme.

The Basic Ingredients for a Temaki (Sushi Hand Roll)

If you can do a gyro, a burrito, or any other wrap, you can do a handroll, and the best part is that you can have a variety of ingredients laid out for everybody to build their own hand roll.

THE EASY WAY

6 INGREDIENTS (1 core ingredient)
Required cooking equipment: mixing bowl

  1. Sushi vinegar
  2. Rice
  3. Nori
  4. Soy sauce
  5. Fillings: fake crab meat/kewpie mayo, tuna, to whatever you can handle.
  6. Wasabi

THE HARD WAY

11+ INGREDIENTS (4 core ingredients)
Required cooking equipment: frying pan to toast nori, rice cooker, hangiri and shamoji, cutting board, kitchen knife

  1. Rice vinegar
  2. Kombu
  3. Sugar
  4. Salt
  5. Rice
  6. Hangiri and shamoji to mix the rice (kitchen equipment).
  7. Nori (you will want to toast the nori/seaweed)
  8. Soy sauce
  9. Fillings: cucumber, fake crab meat/kewpie mayo, raw tuna, yellowtail, green onions, avocado, English cucumber, salmon skin, to whatever you want.
  10. If you’re feeling fancy, you can do salmon skin which requires a broiler and salt.
  11. Wasabi

For the full recipe with step-by-step instructions, please go to:

Why Am I Only Promoting/Listing ‘Just One Cookbook’?

In the age of the internet, every wannabe influencer wants to tout themselves as a cook/chef, but unfortunately, the vast majority of their recipes are nothing like what Japanese eat or want. Instead, they produce recipes at the level of their understanding of the cuisine which is typically a fusion of Chinese, Japanese, look at these, mixed in with a few copy-paste recipes off of Just One Cookbook or any other legitimate source.

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