Winter in Japan can be quite harsh, so it is quite common to eat hearty meals like stews and fondues. Also, some foods are only eaten during certain seasons. Find out in this article what Japanese people eat in winter:
- Fish and shellfish
- Japanese winter dishes
- Japanese winter desserts
- Winter fruits in Japan
- Winter vegetables in Japan
Fish and shellfish
Anko あんこう fish, or anglerfish
Except for the head and bones, all parts of anko fish can be eaten. The flesh and skin are used in nabemono (hotpot), called anko-nabe.
Fugu 河豚, deadly Japanese fish
Fugu is also a winter fish. It is eaten in the form of nabemono (Japanese fondue) called chiri-nabe, with hakusai (Chinese cabbage), tofu etc. Its fin is soaked in hot sake to make a warming drink called hire-zake. Only cooks licensed to prepare fugu are allowed to prepare this fish in Japan, as it contains a deadly poison.
Kaki 牡蠣, Japanese oysters
Persimmons (oysters) should be eaten raw or simply cooked to preserve their unique and delicate flavor. One of the cooking methods is matsumaé yaki, in which oysters are placed on a large sheet of konbu (seaweed) and grilled over small portable Japanese stoves.
Tarabagani たらば蟹, the crab of Hokkaido
Tarabagani is not only delicious, but also visually stunning when fresh king crab legs are served to the table in their full version. In Japan, you can enjoy crab in all its forms. It will be found in traditional Japanese dishes, in sashimi, in sushi, in tempura, in soup, with japanese rice… If you are visiting Hokkaido, we recommend you to try their crabs and seafood in general which are delicious.
Japanese winter dishes
Nabemono 鍋物, Japanese fondue
Japanese fondue is a comfort food in Japan, where meat and vegetables are cooked in a large pot placed in the middle of the table on a stove. The most popular Japanese fondues are sukiyaki and shabu-shabu, which have become famous around the world. Each guest serves himself or herself from the large pot, where the ingredients are sparsely seasoned to enhance their natural taste.
Oden おでん, Japan’s favorite fondue
Oden is a winter favorite, made with a variety of ingredients such as hard-boiled eggs, konjac and gumbo daikon, konjac and processed fish cakes, stewed in a light broth, flavored with dashi broth, flavored with soybean. You can find them in combini, yatai or in specialized restaurants.
Nikujaga 肉じゃが, a beef stew
The Nikujaga is one of the most traditional dishes you can prepare when the weather starts to get cold in Japan: a beef stew made of meat, rice, eggs and potato. It’s delicious!
Osechi ryori 御節料理, traditional dishes for the new year
In Japan, the end of the year is known as a good time for cooking. Osechi ryori (お節料理), or japanese cuisine for the New Year’s Eve, is a traditional Japanese dish that emphasizes seasonal ingredients and is eaten over several days.
Nikuman 肉まん, delicious bun
During the cold and snowy winter months in Japan, a Nikuman (steamed bun) is a delicious, warm and comforting snack that is very pleasant in winter compared to onigiri (rice balls). Alongside them you can find pizza man. Steamed buns filled with a pizza filling. Particularly comforting!
Soba そば, buckwheat paste
Even if the soba are eaten all year round in Japan, it is also a festive meal for December 31st! We eat toshikoshi-soba, very long soba, to keep health and longevity.
Ramen ラーメン, Japanese noodle soup
As winter approaches, the stalls and stands of ramen as winter approaches, stalls and food stalls begin to line the streets, serving bowls of pork-based broth flavored with ginger, miso or soy sauce. The steaming bowls overflow with wheat noodles, fresh seafood, thinly sliced pork belly, soft eggs and bamboo shoots… Ramen is best enjoyed in winter!
Japanese winter desserts
Zenzai 善哉, hot sweet soup
Looking for a delectable dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth? Look no further than zenzai! This dessert is served on New Year’s Eve and other celebrations. It is often made with azuki beans and dumplings like mochi or dango.
Yakiimo 焼き芋, roasted sweet potato
Here is another popular snack in the winter in Japan, it is Japanese sweet potato satsumaimo 薩摩芋, roasted for several hours in the oven. This variety is much sweeter than our sweet potatoes, caramelizes and oozes sugar on the outside when baked and has a subtle nutty flavor. This sweet potato is often described as having a chestnut-like texture and flavor. We will find a lot of desserts based on sweet potato, such as ice cream, pocky .. japanese kat kit, pocky… A comforting snack!
Strawberry shortcake イチゴのショートケーキ
When you think of “a Christmas dessert”, you probably don’t think of the strawberry shortcake. In fact, it is the dessert of Christmas in Japan this dessert is made of a light sponge cake, a layer of whipped cream and mountains of strawberry pieces. A greedy cake but light in the mouth!
Winter fruits in Japan
Yuzu 柚子, Asian citrus fruit
Japan is a country rich in agricultural culture and when it is winter in Japan, it is the season of yuzu. Yuzu is an Asian citrus fruit that can be eaten and enjoyed at any time of the year. With its deliciously lemony taste, it is refreshing. Yuzu is used in many Japanese dishes, sauces, and desserts, but also in baths or in beauty products. Indeed, it is not so rare to find onsen with yuzu floating on the surface
Mikan みかん, sweet mandarin orange called satsuma
Mikan tangerine, native to Japan, is a soft and sweet citrus fruit. Easy to peel, they are juicy and store well in the refrigerator. They are especially used for making juices, delicious desserts or fresh fruit salads for breakfast.
In Japan, winter is synonymous with persimmons of which there are many varieties. They are easy to obtain and are one of the tastiest fruits you can find. This smooth-textured fruit is very popular in Japanese cuisine and its taste adds a deliciously sweet note to dishes. It has a deep orange hue and very fine yellow flesh.
Ichigo, strawberry 苺
In Japan, fruit stalls are colored in yellow, orange and also red with many pretty strawberries! Strawberries are grown in the winter in Japan, even though it is a very expensive fruit, it is still very popular! You will also find a completely white version!
Winter vegetables in Japan
Daikon 大根, long Japanese radish
Daikon (Japanese radish) loses its summer pungency when winter arrives, becoming softer and sweeter. It is grated or shredded and used as a garnish for sashimi (raw fish). It is also used in a typical winter dish, daikon furofuki. This is sliced daikon boiled and covered with neri-miso, a thick and sweet miso sauce thick, sweet mixture of miso, sugar, sake and broth.
Hakusai 白菜, Chinese cabbage
The simple taste of hakusai (Chinese cabbage) makes it suitable for almost any dish. It is added to almost all nabemono (Japanese fondues). It is also the main vegetable in the delicious Mille-Feuille Nabe ミルフィーユ鍋 and is also the most common form of tsukemono (vegetable macerations) when preserved in salt.
Spinach Horenso ほうれん草
A well-known horenso dish is horenso no goma-ae (spinach with sesame dressing), which involves blanching horenso and then mixing it with a sweet dressing, soy sauce and sesame. Horenso is also used as a garnish and ingredient in soups.
Turnip kabu 蕪
Kabu is almost always boiled and served in Japanese soups or fondues. It is a common ingredient in miso soup and is also often used to make tsukemono.
Kabocha カボチャ, Japanese pumpkin
Kabocha is often eaten in tempura or boiled in sugar and soy sauce, resulting in a soft and sweet dish. Recently, with the importation of Halloween, kabocha has become a popular ingredient around the October 31 holiday, for example in kabocha purin, a sweet pumpkin pudding.
We hope that this overview of Japanese cuisine in winter will make you want to try some less popular dishes for tourists. These traditional dishes are mostly delicious and very comforting.
Feel free to have a look at Japanese cuisine in summer or the dishes that Japanese people eat in autumn as well