These Japanese recipes make home style Japanese comfort food that is hearty and home-cooked. It’s Japanese food that feels like a hug because we all need food that’s restorative and nourishing right now. And the best thing is that it’s Japanese food that you can make at home, from Japanese potato salad to crunchy tonkatsu and comforting donburi bowls.
While most people dream of sushi when they think of Japanese food and Japan – and don’t get us wrong, we adore sushi, but we’re really missing the hearty home style comfort food that Tokyo workers eat every day, the kind of food that’s cooked in Japanese homes.
Which is why we’ve been testing and sharing Japanese recipes for the kind of home cooked food that you’d get to try if you’re invited to stay with friends in Japan and find in simpler everyday restaurants where workers eat lunch or grab dinner on the way home from the office.
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Japanese Recipes for Home Style Japanese Comfort Food That Is Hearty and Home Cooked
Japanese Potato Salad Recipe
One of our favourite Japanese recipes for home-style Japanese food is this Japanese potato salad recipe, which is not only one of our favourite potato salad recipes it’s one of the most versatile potato salads you can make.
If you’ve travelled in Japan you may have come across this creamy potato salad on the menus at Japanese izakayas (drinking taverns that serve small plates of food), discovered a small perfect mound of the salad in the bento box you bought on the bullet train, or enjoyed it as a side served with moist, tender tonkatsu (see below).
This salad is also made at home and while it typically comprises partly-mashed diced potatoes, finely sliced cucumbers and carrots, corn kernels, boiled eggs, ham, and Japanese mayonnaise, you can really do as most Japanese home cooks do and use it as an opportunity to use up any wilted leafy green or leftover veggies in the fridge.
So what sets this Japanese potato salad apart from other potato salads? Firstly, it’s part potato salad and part potato mash, thanks to the use of starchy rather than waxy potatoes. It must also be made with Japanese mayonnaise, such as Kewpie mayonnaise, and Japanese rice vinegar.
Another key feature is the very finely sliced carrots and cucumbers which you can slice with your sharpest kitchen knife or you can use a mandoline. All of the other ingredients should be diced to the same size, as uniformity is key in Japanese cooking – even home-cooking.
Japanese Rolled Omelette Recipe for Tamagoyaki for a Tamago Sando
This Japanese rolled omelette recipe for tamagoyaki makes a soft, fluffy, rolled omelette that we love to eat between thick slices of Japanese bread to make a tamago sando or Japanese egg sandwich, and it’s another one of our favourite Japanese recipes for home style Japanese comfort food.
Japanese rolled omelettes are eaten everywhere in Japan, from izakayas to high-end sushi restaurants, but home-cooked tamagoyaki has a special place in the hearts of Japanese, as well as our own hearts and stomachs.
This Japanese rolled omelette recipe was created for our Weekend Eggs series on quintessential breakfast egg dishes around the world, but this makes a great brunch, lunch, snack or light casual dinner at home.
You will need a tamagoyaki pan before attempting this dish. While there are so many tamagoyaki pans out there that Amazon even has a page explaining the types of Tamagoyaki pans on the market, we’re old-school so we recommend something like this cast iron tamagoyaki pans with wooden handles.
We have a small tamagoyaki pan we found in a Japanese second-hand shop here in Siem Reap that’s perfect for a one-person omelette measuring 10 cm wide x 15 cm long. It’s still listed on the Amazon Japan shop, but, really, it’s too small for me, even though I continue to use it.
If you’re buying your first Japanese rolled omelette pan, we suggest buying a pan that is in an entire tamagoyaki kit with a brush for the oil for the pan and – most importantly – a silicone spatula with which to roll the omelette. Traditionalists will be shaking their heads because ‘real’ Japanese chefs use a pair of cooking chopsticks – even to brush the oil on the pan with a wet kitchen towel.
Easy Oyakodon Recipe for a Japanese Chicken and Egg Rice Bowl
Our easy oyakodon recipe makes a Japanese chicken and egg rice bowl that consists of silky soft scrambled eggs with sweet spring onions and tender chicken simmered in dashi and served atop a bowlful of steamed Japanese rice, and it’s one of our favourite Japanese recipes for comfort food Japan-style.
It’s incredibly delicious, comforting, and filling dish, oyakodon – which means ‘parent and child bowl’; ‘parent’ being the chicken and ‘child’ the egg – is both a home-cooked meal and fast-food eaten for lunch, dinner, breakfast, and brunch.
Oyakodon is a popular donburi dish – donburi meaning a ‘rice bowl’ meal – where a generous topping is placed on a bed of rice in a bowl. In Japan, donburi is an affordable fast-food lunch or dinner for students and workers, as much as a comforting home-cooked meal and perhaps the most quintessential of Japanese comfort foods.
Togarashi, which is sprinkled over the top of this dish – as well as some udon noodle dishes – is a blend of seven spices and has chilli as a base. The most common brand of togarashi you’ll find on the shelves is S&B brand.
Tonkatsu Recipe for the Most Tender Japanese Deep Fried Pork Cutlet Ever
Our tonkatsu recipe makes the most tender, melt-in-your-mouth, Japanese deep-fried pork cutlet that you’ll ever taste. This simple but revered deep-fried Japanese pork dish has an amazing crunch from the golden panko crust, melt-in-your-mouth moist pork, and the tangy taste of the tonkatsu sauce.
We first realised what a great dish tonkatsu could be on our second trip to Tokyo twelve years ago, almost mid-way through the year-long global grand tour that launched this website. At a very tranquil tonkatsu place at sleek Roppongi Hills we ate our perfectly deep-fried, breaded pork cutlet in silence. How could such a simple dish be so incredible we wondered?
Well, it’s the combination of the golden panko crunch, moist tender pork, the punch of the brown tonkatsu sauce, and refreshing cabbage side ‘salad’ that makes a great tonkatsu. While it is essentially just deep-fried crumbed pork, tonkatsu is an easy dish to get wrong.
Take your attention away from the deep-fryer and it will overcook. Get the temperature of your oil wrong and it will be a soggy mess. Don’t prepare the pork correctly and it will be dry and unable to be saved by the tonkatsu sauce.
But follow our tonkatsu recipe below and you will make the best tonkatsu ever, as good as any made in a tonkatsu restaurant or cooked in a home. Note that while store-bought tonkatsu sauces can be just fine, many brands tend to be very expensive, and this tonkatsu sauce recipe can be made with ingredients that you’ll probably have at home.
Katsudon Recipe for a Japanese Pork Cutlet and Egg Rice Bowl
This katsudon recipe makes a crunchy tonkatsu, a Japanese pork cutlet cooked in eggs and spring onions, served atop a bowl of rice and sprinkled with slices of scallions. It’s another one of those great home-style Japanese recipes if you’re after Japanese comfort food.
Katsudon is a donburi, a rice bowl meal. Like oyakodon above, katsudon is a delicious, comforting and filling dish that can be eaten out at specialised restaurants or cooked at home and eaten for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.
The name ‘katsudon’ is derived from ‘katsu’, which means ‘cutlet’ – a breaded piece of pounded meat dipped in flour, egg and bread crumbs (in Japanese cooking, it’s panko breadcrumbs) before being fried – in this case, ‘tonkatsu’ (pork cutlet), and ‘don’ from ‘donburi’, Japanese rice bowl.
Firstly, we make a bowl of steamed Japanese rice, then we make a pork cutlet with panko-breaded boneless pork chops, always deep fried (katsudon is never shallow fried).
Next we make an egg mixture, sometimes with onions, nearly always with spring onions or scallions, that is mixed with stock. That stock is generally a dashi–based stock, but sometimes chicken stock is used.
Lastly, the sliced pork cutlet is placed on top of the rice and the half-set egg mixture is poured over the pork cutlet. It’s so delicious and so filling, yet completely addictive.
Tonkatsu Fried Rice with Onsen Eggs Recipe for a Rice Leftovers Dish You’ll Want to Plan
This tonkatsu fried rice with onsen eggs recipe combines a few of the things we love – fried rice, eggs and tonkatsu, the succulent Japanese pork cutlet breaded in panko crumbs and deep-fried. It’s another one of our favourite Japanese recipes for home style Japanese comfort food.
Like the original Chinese fried rice that was invented to use leftover rice, this tonkatsu fried rice with onsen eggs recipe is the result of combining leftovers – we had a couple of pieces of tonkatsu, the deep-fried Japanese breaded pork cutlets, and some steamed rice in the fridge – and a little experimentation. Terence had been testing onsen eggs.
The biggest change to the classic fried rice recipe is the use of tonkatsu sauce instead of the traditional blend of light soy sauce, dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil. Terence decided why not go all in on the tonkatsu theme and use the homemade tonkatsu sauce, which is a blend of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, light soy sauce, mirin, sugar, Dijon mustard, and garlic powder.
Another tip: if you make fried rice often and don’t yet have a carbon steel wok, it should be your next investment. Once seasoned, the wok heats fast and has great heat distribution, so when it’s on really high you get that lovely smoky aroma in your final dish. You’ll need the tonkatsu recipe, above, to make your tonkatsu and tonkatsu sauce first
Chicken Katsu Burger Recipe for Crunchy Tender Chicken Cutlets with Spicy Slaw
This chicken katsu burger recipe places a crunchy tender chicken cutlet, prepared using the classic Japanese katsu method of panko-breaded and deep-fried chicken (above), between spicy Asian slaw, tangy Japanese-style barbecue sauce, and soft burger buns. Serve with hand-cut fries and you’ll be in chicken katsu burger heaven and will understand why this is another one of our favourite Japanese recipes for home style Japanese comfort food.
While we love Japanese pork tonkatsu in sandwiches, tender chicken thighs fried with panko crumbs give the kind of crunch we love about the Belles Hot Chicken burger, where the super soft bun contrasts perfectly with the crispy breaded deep-fried chicken skin. With this burger, it’s the panko breadcrumbs that offer that crunch that we love so much.
A Japanese tonkatsu burger has the kind of elegance and precision of a dainty afternoon tea burger served on a tiered silver tray while Vivaldi’s Four Seasons plays imperceptibly in the background. By comparison, Terence’s chicken katsu burger would be served on a wooden board with hand-cut fries, a crafted pale ale, and Led Zeppelin blasting in the background of a noisy Izakaya bar.
While you could use store-bought tonkatsu sauce for this chicken katsu burger recipe, homemade sauce is infinitely better and is simple to make. This tonkatsu sauce recipe can be made with ingredients that you’ll probably have at home if you make Asian food, except perhaps Worcestershire sauce. The recipe is on the tonkatsu link above.
Most importantly, note that you cannot substitute any other breadcrumbs for panko breadcrumbs when deep-frying katsu. You can pick panko crumbs up from a local Asian grocer or order through Amazon.
Butaniku No Kakuni Recipe for a Japanese Slow Simmered Pork Belly Dish
This Butaniku no kakuni recipe makes the Japanese slow simmered pork belly dish. While Terence had been making a simpler version of this for years, this unctuous iteration comes from Japanophile Jane Lawson’s cookbook Zenbu Zen – Finding Food, Culture and Balance in Kyoto. It’s another one of our favourite Japanese recipes for home style Japanese comfort food.
The first time we sampled Butaniku no kakuni at a little Japanese izakaya joint, we called the waitress over and said “One more portion, please!” and we have to admit we’ve been a little obsessed with this Japanese dish — and the regional variations across Asia — ever since.
Butaniku no kakuni is a slow-simmered pork belly dish and Terence has been making a very simple version of it since that first tasting at a Japanese izayaka. But it wasn’t until he began his Year of Asian Cookbooks project some years ago and Jane Lawson sent us a copy of her cookbook that we found what must be the definitive Butaniku no kakuni recipe.
With this butaniku no kakuni recipe, there are leeks used in the stock, so we like to also serve some leeks as a side dish, steamed or blanched, and then doused with a little sesame oil.
The snow-peas are a must too, as are the boiled eggs. The pork is so rich and unctuous that you only need a couple — okay, a few — small pieces of pork per person, served with some plain rice.
Please do let us know in the comments below if you make our katsudon recipe for a Japanese pork cutlet and egg rice bowl, as we’d love to know how it turns out for you.