Eating local has become all too familiar with life in Southeast Asia. Because of this I have found myself reaching out to things new and unfamiliar. In doing so I inflicted myself with a Japanese Food Fetish. A desperation to learn more about an alien culture through food. Each bite opens a tiny window to the vast new world of Japanese food. Being a complete novice this is more of a beginner’s guide to Japanese food in Bangkok but expect it to grow. Here are my some local Japanese Restaurants in Bangkok which feed my Japanese Food Fetish. My Top 5 Japanese Food.
1. Ramen (ラーメン Rāmen)
A Ramen dish consists of three parts; the noodles (Ramen), the broth and the topping. While the noodles stay the same you can play around with broth and topping. To change noodles (often to Soba or Udon) the dish will no longer be Ramen.
My favourite bowl comes with a thick pork bone broth (tonkotsu) and is topped with roast pork belly (chashu-men). Near on par with Ramen of Japan but in Bangkok it is a whole lot cheaper. Bankara Ramen is my local favourite but there are many more restaurants which feed my Japanese Food Fetish.
2. Curry (カレー, Karē)
Japanese Curry consists of a curry powder sauce mix served on rice. Not so different to the British ‘Chinese’ Curry due to its original introduction to Japan by the British (via India). Since then a Nippon twist perfected it. Curry (Kare) is found on most Japanese Restaurant menus in Bangkok the most common dish being Katsu Curry (Katsu-karē) with a deep-fried pork cutlet.
Ever tried a creamed mushroom omelette curry? No? Then you haven’t lived. Looks terrifying but tastes delicious. A crowd-pleaser at Coco Ichibanya Curry House which are found in many of Bangkok’s malls. An embarrassing Japanese Food Fetish but I find it hard to beat the lure of delicious curry aromas.
3. Japanese Barbecue (焼き肉, Yakiniku)
Similar to popular Korean Barbecues but distinctly Japanese. Yakiniku translates loosely as “grilled meats” which in Japanese Barbecue restaurants are prepared at charcoal grills built into diner’s tables. Yakiniku grills are not necessarily all meat and generally include seafood, veg, eringi etc. The main differences between Japanese and Korean barbecues are in the marinades and dips. Yakiniku meats are rarely marinated and come with a Japanese soy and sake dip; optional garlic, ginger and chilies to mix.
My regular haunt for Yakiniku in Bangkok is Hajime Robot Restaurant. At Hajime not only is the food delicious but it is served by a robot. Every man’s dream since Rocky 4. Dining comes as an all-you-can-eat buffet and includes popular Japanese sides (incl. tempura, gyoza, sushi), drinks and desserts. You’ll soon be building tower upon tower of empty plates.
4. Sake (日本酒, Nihonshu)
The word ‘Sake’ translates as ‘alcoholic beverage’. What we know in the West as Sake is in fact known in Japan as ‘Nihonshu’. Nihonshu translates as Japanese wine and it holds similar alcohol content as grape wines (14%). If you want something with a bit more kick order Shochu (焼酎, Shōchū) which is less fruity and more alcoholy (25%). When drinking sake you are given the option of warm (atsu-kan) or chilled (rei-shu). Warm sake is meant for cold (winter) climates and heating loses flavour. To drink warm sake in Bangkok is a little odd. Never stopped me.
Sake is likely sold in every Japanese Restaurant in Bangkok. Generally a “house sake” and a couple more. To learn a bit about sake tasting we called in at our local Sha-Raku Japanese Sake Bar where tasting offers either 3 small sake or 3 small sho-chu at decent. Also an impressive sake selection with house sake which comes accompanied by sushi and all the usual Izakaya sides.
5. Sushi (すし, Sushi)
Curry isn’t Chinese, sake means alcoholic beverage and sushi is not raw fish. Learning a lot since my move to Bangkok. Sushi is “cooked vinegared rice topped with ingredients” and the origins of sushi are traced back to Southeast Asia (Mekong River). Apparently more local than I had realised. I remember my introduction to Japanese food through sushi; a small pack from Tesco. Took the first bite of raw ginger and threw the pack in the bin. Probably should have started with the sushi but I was clueless.
It’s hard to enjoy food if unsure of what you are eating. As I learn more about sushi it slowly climbs to number one on my Japanese Food Fetish list. I continue to stick with familiar western sushi, maki rolls etc. with a dip of soy and wasabi. Something new next time. A great place to test your taste for sushi is Oishi Grand Buffet which packs trays of all sorts – sushi, sashimi (raw fish), and Japanese treats. All-you-can-eat so get in there and stuff your pie hole.