Around the World in 12 Plates: Japan

Around the World in 12 Plates: Japan was one I was looking forward to a lot. The flavours of Asia are becoming my favourite profile, so this month I wanted to do something typically Japanese, but lesser known in North America. Sushi and ramen were out, so an izakaya-style dinner was the perfect way to spend an evening. While I haven’t visited Japan, I’ve eaten at several izakayas in Toronto and had a blast! Izakayas represent a more casual dining experience, serving up small plates similar to the Spanish-style tapas. Izakaya translates to “stay-in liquor shop” so these Japanese pubs have loud crowds, plentiful beer and sake, and food that is salty and greasy.

Around the World in 12 Plates: Japan

ATW12P Japan Overhead.The Food Girl in Town

I invited my sister Maggie and her boyfriend Sean to come over for an evening of izakaya fun, and we prepared five dishes. Of course there was lots of Sapporo going around too:


Edamame in the shell is a typical snack food in many  establishments, but I had trouble finding them in the grocery store, so I settled for shelled. I simply cooked the frozen veg as per the packaging instructions and tossed them in sesame oil and lots (and lots) of Maldon salt. We snacked on these during meal prep and throughout the meal.

ATW12P Japan Edamame.The Food Girl in Town

Karaage Chicken

Popularly known as JFC or Japanese Fried Chicken, karaage chicken is a widely popular dish in izakayas. Karaage is actually a cooking technique, which means “Chinese fried,” and has a batter flavoured with ginger and garlic. We used the recipe for karaage from Just One Cookbook which is full of delicious Japanese recipes. The skinless, boneless thighs are marinated for an hour and double deep fried, making for juicy and crispy chicken. I actually cannot believe I made fried chicken this good at home. This is dangerous knowledge to have — I’ll probably make it every weekend now.

ATW12P Japan Karaage.The Food Girl in Town


Okonomiyaki translates to “as you like it” meaning these cabbage pancakes are a wild card in Japanese cuisine. You can choose the fillings and the toppings you prefer, but we went with the recipe for okonomiyaki on Budget Bytes. Basically, the pancake batter is seasoned with soy and garlic, and fried up with shredded cabbage and carrot. Simple and shockingly delicious. There were more than a dozen pancakes and we ate them all without a blink.

ATW12P Japan Okonomiyaki.The Food Girl in Town


Tsukune are chicken meatballs served yakitori style, meaning they are coasted in sweet yakitori tare sauce. Adam grilled them up on the BBQ so they blackened up nicely. This tsukune is another recipe from Just One Cookbook because I just love this website. These little nuggets of deliciousness reminded me a lot of the pork patties we made in the bun cha for Around the World in 12 Plates: Vietnam and were equally inhaled by our hungry cooks.

ATW12P Japan Tsukune.The Food Girl in Town

Asian Cucumber Salad

This is a riff on a namasu-style cucumber salad and it’s not really Japanese, but I wanted to include greens. Because healthy is good, I guess. This recipe is from Joyful Healthy Eats and while this salad was more than palatable, it was the only dish that had leftovers. Salad just can’t beat fried chicken, no matter how good it is.

ATW12P Japan Salad Overhead.The Food Girl in Town

Around the World in 12 Plates: Japan’s challengers

Here are the other awesome bloggers pumping out delicious Japanese food this month!

Sugar Loves Spices:

Dish ‘n’ the Kitchen:

6 thoughts on “Around the World in 12 Plates: Japan”

  • Mmmmm I love Izakaya style dining! There are a few really good restaurants here, one in particular that is as authentic as it can get here in Alberta. Each part of the chicken is grilled yakitori style over binchotan. They don’t have a lot of veggies either, some marinated grilled eggplant and potato salad. Not many people know the there’s so much more to Japanese cuisine than sushi and ramen! That karaage chicken looks fab too…we found the same website it seems.

    • I miss izakaya dining so much! I wish we had one here in St. John’s, but at least we have a ramen place now!! I wanted to make sure I didn’t do ramen or sushi especially because people always go right to it when they think of Japanese food. The karaage chicken was actually really easy to make as well, you should definitely try it for sure!

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