What is This Uniquely Japanese “Yoshoku”?

Yoshoku is Japanese-style western cuisine that was developed to go well with rice. What exactly is this unique cuisine? Here are some dishes that best represent it.

What is Yoshoku?

Yoshoku is a style of cuisine where Western dishes are modified with Japanese elements. Though Western cuisine was introduced in Japan as early as after the Meiji Restoration*, it was initially served only at banquets for foreign and Japanese dignitaries, and was therefore not available to most people. However, during the period from the end of the Meiji Period through the Taisho Period (1910–1920), chefs developed and introduced a variety of Japanese-style Western dishes, thus popularizing the cuisine among the general public.

*Refers to the extensive political and social reformation that took place in Japan between 1830 and 1890. It is a key event in Japanese history. During this time, the Edo Bakufu system was dismantled and both a centralized government and capitalist economy was established.

1. Omurice (Omelet Rice)

Omurice, which is extremely popular – especially among children – is fried rice that has been flavored with ketchup and other seasonings and wrapped in egg. It is said that the name is a combination of the French “omelet” and English “rice”. There are many variations: The sauce can be ketchup or brown sauce; the egg can be a thin layer wrapped around rice, an omelet placed on top of rice, or a creamy half-cooked omelet that covers the rice when cut into.

2. Hambagu (Hamburger Steak)

This is an iconic Yoshoku meat dish. It appears to have its roots in tartar steak, which was popular in Hamburg, Germany, but there are no clear records of how and when it made its way into Japan. A hambagu is made by mixing ground beef with bread crumbs, sautéed chopped onions, egg, salt and pepper, forming them into oval patties and frying them. There are different variations, such as one served with ketchup mixed with Worcester sauce, another served with a Japanese-style sauce consisting of grated radish and soy sauce, and yet another that has tofu mixed into the patty.

3. Curry Rice

Curry, which is known around the world, is popular in Japan as "curry rice". It is said that it came to Japan via the UK during the Meiji Period (1850–1910). The standard way to cook it is by frying meats and vegetables, then simmering the mixture with curry powder to create a sauce that is poured over rice. It can be arranged in various ways, such as curry powder sprinkled on fried ground meat, as well as soupy curries. Unique curries are available in restaurants all around Japan.

4. Hayashi Rice

Hayashi Rice, which was introduced during the Meiji period, was inspired by Western "hashed beef" and "rice". Thin slices of meat are stir-fried with vegetables such as onions and potatoes, then simmered with a brown sauce or tomato puree and flour and served on rice. There is also a version called Omuhayashi, which is Hayashi Rice sauce over the previously introduced Omurice.

5. Korokke (Croquette)

This is a Japanese arrangement of the deep-fried French dish, croquette, that arrived in Japan from the West. Meat and fish are mixed together into a paste with boiled potatoes, then rolled in flour, egg and breadcrumbs and deep-fried. There are many versions of this dish, such as the popular Kani Cream Korokke, which has béchamel sauce and crabs inside. You can find korokke in restaurants. They are also available for takeout at local butcher shops and other stores.

6. Wafu Spaghetti

Pasta dishes, which originate from Italy, have also evolved and developed in Japan. One particular type of spaghetti, “wafu” (Japanese-style), is made mostly with healthy ingredients, such as seafood, nori, mushrooms, scallions, grated radish, and shiso (perilla leaves). Most wafu spaghetti dishes have a light flavor and are seasoned with soy sauce.

You can find all of these dishes in restaurants, cafes, and specialty stores around Japan!

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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