They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And in Japan, you can expect to get a delicious hearty breakfast, though maybe with some dishes you didn’t expect.
Ichiju Sansai (One Soup, Three Dishes)
In Japanese cooking, washoku (traditional Japanese cuisine) follows a pattern called ichiju sansai: one soup and three dishes. This usually means a soup, a protein, a vegetable, and maybe pickles. This also includes rice, though it is not included as one of the three dishes.
The accompanying soup is usually miso soup with wakame seaweed, scallions, and tofu, or a combination of these with seasonal ingredients. Depending on the season, you could even get something more hearty like a tonjiru (pork and vegetable miso soup).
For protein, you'll often find grilled fish with shiozake, or salted salmon, being the most common. Salmon filets are simply dry brined with salt, then rinsed with sake and mirin before being cooking.
Next is some kind of vegetable side. Depending on what is seasonal, some popular mainstays are hijiki seaweed simmered in soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and dashi with other ingredients such as fried tofu strips, carrots, and soybeans.
Alternatively, kinpira gobo is a hearty root vegetable side dish that is both sweet , spicy and crunchy. Julienne carrots and burdock root and simmer in oil, soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar until the liquids reduce completely. It's then topped with red pepper flakes and sesame seeds.
Finally, the last side dish served with breakfast is a small dish of tsukemono (pickles). These are usually whatever is fresh and seasonal, and serve to cut through the seasoning of the other dishes and refresh your palette.
Other Popular Japanese Breakfast
One of the more iconic dishes is tamago kake gohan, better known as TKG. TKG is a relatively simple dish of gohan (rice), furikake (rice toppings), and tamago (egg). A raw egg is cracked into a bowl of freshly-made hot rice, seasoned with soy sauce or salt, mixed together with chopsticks, then topped with furikake.
About the author:
Michael is originally from Chicago, IL in the United States, but has lived in Japan for seven years in Niigata and Hokkaido. He is an avid home chef, baker, and coffee enthusiast, but his one true love is ramen. Ever in pursuit of the perfect bowl of noodles, you can always find him by listening for the tell-tale slurp of ramen being enjoyed!