If you happen to be hankering for Japanese food in Malaysia, have no fear, because there are plenty of Japanese eateries to choose from, especially in the Klang Valley. In fact, Japanese cuisine has become so popular in Malaysia in the past decade, that most major malls have quite a few Japanese restaurants to choose from. From casual kaiten belt establishments, to all you can eat buffets, as well as upscale restaurants, there is a Japanese spread to suit all tastes and budgets.
Usually, the first thing that springs to mind when Japanese food is mentioned, is sushi. These bite-sized morsels of vinegared rice, combined with a savoury topping or filling, makes for a light, but satisfying meal. There are countless varieties of sushi, including inari (sweetened fried tofu), ebi (cooked prawn), unagi (teriyaki-roasted freshwater eel), tamago (sweet egg), tsubukko (fish roe), chukka chinmi (seasoned scallop) and chukka iidako (seasoned baby octopus). Then there’s temaki, which is cone-shaped sushi rice and filling wrapped in nori (dry seaweed), as well as the California roll, which is an inside-out sushi. Another favourite is nigiri sushi, which is sushi rice served with a slice of raw fish or seafood.
Speaking of raw fish, a Japanese meal simply won’t be complete without sashimi, which is fresh raw meat or fish sliced into thin pieces. When dipped into a mixture of shoyu (soy sauce) and wasabi paste, its delicate taste and texture is simply heavenly! The most popular types of sashimi in Malaysia are sake (salmon), maguro (tuna) and tako (octopus), but ika (cuttlefish), hotate (scallop), and tamachi (yellowtail) are well-loved too. To cleanse your palette in between morsels of food, it is customary to sample gari (pickled young ginger).
Besides sushi restaurants, there are also Japanese eateries that specialise in serving teppanyaki, which is food cooked on an iron griddle and served with rice. Apart from the delicious dishes, teppanyaki restaurants are known for the theatrics of the chef, who would put on a show as he cooks up a meal for restaurant patrons. There are also restaurants that specialise in serving shabu-shabu or sukiyaki, both of which are Japanese steamboats. The main difference between the two, is the broth. Shabu-shabu broth is more savoury, while sukiyaki tends to be sweeter.
If you’re in for a hearty meal, opt for a rice dish, served with side dishes. One of the most popular is the lunch box-styled bento, which features steamed short-grained rice with fish or meat, tsukemono (pickles) and a bowl of miso soup. To add extra crunch to your meal, you could order up a side of agemono (deep-fried dishes), tempura (batter-fried prawn or vegetables) or fried soft-shell crab. For a one-bowl meal, nothing beats donburi, which consists of a bowl of rice, topped with fish or meat and vegetables. A wonderful accompaniment to any rice dish is a warm cup of chawanmushi (savoury egg custard) or yakimono (grilled or pan-fried dishes).
Besides rice, noodle-based Japanese dishes are also very popular amongst Malaysians. There are three types of noodles to choose from – udon (thick wheat noodle), ramen (Chinese-styled dry wheat noodle) or soba (buckwheat noodle). While ramen is usually served in a broth, udon can also be stir-fried or served in Japanese curry, while soba is typically served cold. If you just need a light snack, then go for edamame (steamed green soybeans), gyoza (fried dumplings), mochi (rice cake), yakitori (skewered grilled meat), takoyaki (savoury ball-shaped snack) or okonomiyaki (savoury pancake snack). The best thing to wash it all down with is a cup of hot or chilled matcha (green tea).
So why do Malaysians find Japanese food so addictive? It’s all thanks to the soothing flavours, dazzling variety and artful presentation that we’ve all come to know and love!
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