Yoshoku: Japan’s Delicious Twists On Western Cuisine

Any foodie’s itinerary for a trip to Japan will rightfully include classics like sushi, sashimi, and ramen, but one would be remiss to not explore the delectable offerings of 洋食 yōshoku dishes. The term “yoshoku” literally means “Western food” in Japanese, and refers to a category of Japanese cuisine that is influenced by Western-cooking and recipes. Yoshoku dishes are usually adaptations of Western recipes that are modified to suit Japanese tastes and ingredients. These delicious fusion dishes provide some new and tasty twists on beloved eats, as well as a taste of the familiar for those looking to shake up the menu of their travels in Japan.

What Is Yoshoku?

A typical yoshoku mixed plate, featuring hamburger steak, fried shrimp, Napolitan pasta, with fries and vegetables as sides..

Yoshoku is essentially a style of Western-influenced cooking in Japan. Rather than simply a term to refer to Western dishes made in Japan, yoshoku is more or less a category for adaptations and twists on Western cuisine that have grown independently in Japan. While many yoshoku dishes have roots overseas, they often feature ingredients and preparation that make them stand out as Japanese dishes in their own right.

Where To Get Yoshoku

Yoshoku dishes can be found at Western-style restaurants, cafes, and family-style eateries all throughout Japan. Many yoshoku dishes are also popular main courses for bento, and are commonly found at convenience stores and supermarkets. You can also find many as a la carte options and individually packaged at delis in department stores.

Types Of Yoshoku

Japan’s menu of yoshoku dishes is as vast as it is tantalizing, including many dishes. We’ve covered several in detail, including Japanese pasta, curry rice, and fried food snacks. For the purpose of this article, we’ll be covering popular yoshoku dishes not covered in other articles.

The classic hamburg steak is served on a sizzling platter with a rich demi-glace sauce.

ハンバーグ hambāgu (hamburger steak): Also called hamburg steaks, these are ground meat (usually beef) patties mixed with onions, breadcrumbs, seasonings, and are one of the most popular yoshoku dishes in Japan. Hamburg steaks are often served with a side of vegetables and rice or bread in set meals. There are several variations of toppings for the dish, but two of most common are a coating of rich demi-glace sauce, and a “Japanese-style” topping of grated daikon radish.

A “Japanese-style” hamburg steak option tops the meat with grated daikon radish, which is then drizzled with ponzu sauce.

オムライス Omu-raisu (omelet rice): Omurice is another highly popular yoshoku dish. It features a particularly fluffy egg omelet wrapped around seasoned fried rice, which is typically topped with ketchup or demi-glace sauce. Although it is often found in kid’s meals, it’s very much enjoyed by adults as well.

Whether it’s topped with ketchup or demi-glace sauce, the key to omurice is a perfectly cooked egg.

ナポリタン naporitan (Napolitan pasta): Napolitan pasta is a type of Japanese pasta that consists of spaghetti pan-fried in ketchup. Along with the noodles, the dish usually includes sliced sausages, ham, mushrooms, onions, and bell peppers. Considered a nostalgic dish in Japan, Napolitan pasta is often served with grated cheese or a side of hot sauce to use you your liking.

Napolitan pasta is the go-to for pasta lovers trying out yoshoku.

ハヤシライス hayashi raisu (hashed beef rice): Hayashi rice is a rice dish served with thick, savory stew made from beef, onions, mushrooms, and a demi-glace sauce.

Hayashi rice provides a stew-like alternative to curry rice.

ドリア doria: Doria is a gratin-style dish that consists of a rice casserole topped with a creamy bechamel sauce, cheese, and other ingredients like chicken, seafood, or vegetables.

Those looking for a creamy comfort dish among yoshoku will likely be a fan of doria.

クリームシチュー kurīmu shichū (cream stew): Japanese cream stew is, as its name suggests, a creamy and velvety stew made with a variety of vegetables, meat, and a rich sauce made from white roux.

Japanese cream stew is a piping hot comfort food that pairs perfectly with bread.

Most yoshoku dishes are reasonably priced in the 800 JPY to 1,500 JPY range, as they are widely available at casual and mid-range restaurants. Certain high-end restaurants may offer gourmet versions of dishes that surpass the 1,500 JPY range, however. Bento versions at convenience stores and supermarkets sit in the 300 JPY to 400 JPY range, while a la carte options at supermarkets can be found in the 300 JPY to 500 JPY range, depending on the size of the dish.

Tips For Enjoying Yoshoku

Yoshoku is available at many different types of restaurants around Japan, so you’ll have no problem tracking them down during your visit to the country. If you really want to get a feel for as many yoshoku dishes as possible, you may want to order a “mixed grill” set like the one pictured at the top of this article, which features a number of yoshoku treats on one hot plate. It’s also recommended to try the different versions of each dish, such as omurice with both ketchup and demi-glace sauce, or hamburg steak with different toppings like grated daikon radish, sauce, or with melted cheese.

You could also test out different types of yoshoku in a bento lunch, so you can figure out what dish you prefer the most and then order it at a restaurant.

A bento box or plate is a great way to sample different types of yoshoku in one meal.

In short, yoshoku is a great fusion of dishes that may feel familiar to home cooking for travelers, but with distinct and tasty Japanese culinary twists that distinguish each dish as their own unique menu item. If you’re looking to explore a taste of Japan’s “non-traditional traditional” cuisine, be sure to keep an eye out for delicious yoshoku meals while you make food memories in Japan.