Rice is a staple in most Asian countries, especially in Japanese cuisine. It is so important in Japan that locals consider it the “essence of Japanese food culture.”
Rice is always found in the menu of Japanese restaurants already included in the dishes or which you can order as a side. It is a versatile ingredient that you can find in many of thebest Japanese food in Abu Dhabi served by restaurants that specialize in authentic, modern, or fusion Japanese cuisine.
Must-Try Japanese Rice Dishes
Due to its versatility and nutritious content, rice can often be enjoyed in various ways from starter to dessert when you dine at a Japanese restaurant.
Below are the top six rice dishes you have to order the next time you eat at a Japanese restaurant:
Without a doubt, the most popular rice-based Japanese dish is sushi. This is true not only in Japan but all over the world as well.
The base of sushi is specially-prepared rice. Vinegar, salt, and pepper are added to the cooked rice to give it flavor. The sushi is then topped with a slice of raw seafood.
Meat, egg, and tofu are also added to modern versions of sushi. Fresh vegetables and fruits can also accompany sushi and, as such, are perfect for vegetarians.
Sushi comes in different forms. The most well-known are:
- Kansai-style oshizushi or traditional pressed sushi
- Makizushi or rolled sushi
- Temaki or hand-rolled, cone-shaped sushi
If you want a truly filling rice dish, you won’t go wrong with ordering donburi.
Donburi is a bowl of steamed rice topped with a variety of ingredients that include meat, vegetables, and other toppings.
Some of the most popular toppings which inspire a particular type of donburi are:
- Beef (gyudon)
- Pork (butadon)
- Tempura (tendon)
- Sashimi or raw seafood (kaisendon)
Many restaurants serve donburi as part of a Japanese set meal which also includes miso soup and a side dish. Additionally, a dipping sauce made of soy sauce and mirin accompanies the rice bowl meal.
3. Takikomi gohan
This traditional Japanese rice dish consists of rice, meat, seafood, vegetables, and a variety of seasonings including dashi, mirin, and soy sauce.
Takikomi gohan is similar to another Japanese rice dish called mazegohan or mixed rice. However, unlike mazegohan where the ingredients are added to the precooked rice, with takikomi gohan, seasonings and other savory elements are combined with the uncooked rice and cooked together. The flavor is then fused deeply into the rice thus making the dish more savory and truly tasty.
Some of the usual meat and vegetables added to this rice dish are chicken, crab, mushroom, and carrots.
Chaha is Japan’s version of fried rice.
Precooked rice is dried then fried with oil. While the rice is being fried, the vegetables and seasonings are added.
Aside from vegetables, meat, prawns, tofu, and egg can also be added to this rice dish. Chaha is also sometimes garnished with shredded Japanese basil, nori, or sliced green onions.
Also called omusubi, these traditional Japanese rice balls can be enjoyed as a snack or meal accompaniment.
Onigiri is a type of rice ball with a filling or ingredient added to the rice. The rice is then shaped into balls by hand.
Typical onigiri fillings include flaked salmon, spiced tuna, crumbled prawn, seasoned seaweed, and pickled Japanese plum. The rice ball can be served plain or topped with a sprinkling of seasonings such as sesame seeds or red shishi powder.
Onigiri can be eaten as it is, grilled, or wrapped in nori seaweed.
Lastly, you can end your meal at a Japanese restaurant on a sweet note with mochi, a delectable rice treat.
Mochi is a chewy and sticky rice cake made from pounded glutinous rice. They are typically eaten with red bean paste.
As a dessert, this sweet treat comes in various versions which include:
- Chi chi dango mochi or bite-sized coconut mocha
- Zenzai or toasted mocha served in sweet red bean soup
- Ichigo daifuku or mochi with a sweet fresh strawberry filling
As a parting tip, while at a Japanese restaurant, don’t forget to order a rice-based drink: sake.
Just like wine which pairs well with steaks, order sake with your appetizer or main meal since it is an excellent accompaniment to most Japanese dishes. You can also enjoy sake by itself as you wait for your meal.
Chiara Bisignani is the F&B Marketing Executive at Saadiyat Beach Club. She oversees website maintenance, PR requests, marketing initiatives and all general guests’ enquiries for the company’s destinations of KOI Restaurant & Lounge, Boa Steakhouse, and Caramel Restaurant and Lounge in Abu Dhabi.