Japanese Food in US Cuisine: 5 Favorites and Rising Stars

Jul 20, 2021 09:53 AM EDT | By Patrick Jones (patrick@easynative.com)

Japanese Food in US Cuisine: 5 Favorites and Rising Stars

(Photo : Unsplash)

Multiculturalism in cuisine has always been part of the US's approach to food. Small wonder, since its population hails from every corner of the globe. With California and Hawaii being home to a significant number of Japanese-Americans, east-meets-west fusions are seeing a steady rise in popularity. Here's a quick run-down of the old favourites and rising stars that are making their way into restaurants and home kitchens around the USA.

1. Wagyu Beef

When eating steak, most of us wouldn't pause to consider the breed of cattle from which it came, but Wagyu beef is seeing a rise in popularity around the US. So, next time you're digging in to a New York Strip, take a closer look at the menu. If it specifies "Wagyu," you can have the pleasure of knowing that you're enjoying meat from a breed known for the quality of its meat and a better health profile than that of beef from the more familiar, Western cattle breeds.

2. Miso

If you aren't enjoying the savory flavor profile of Miso in your cuisine yet, it's time you got started. The paste, made from fermented soybeans blended with a variety of other ingredients. There's more than one type of miso, but all of them blend well with a variety of foods. Add it to dressing, meat marinades, or use it as a primary flavoring ingredient for fish or veggie stir fries. That's just a start. Once you've got the hang of it, you'll find yourself getting creative. Enjoy!

3. Shiitake Mushrooms

These world-famous Japanese mushrooms have long enjoyed worldwide popularity and are so at home in the US that they're included in many more dishes than the Japanese ever used them in. For example, scattering them over nachos isn't unusual. The flavor and texture of shiitake mushrooms differs from that of common button mushrooms. It's much stronger and earthier, and the meaty texture makes for a slightly longer cooking time. Use them anywhere you'd use regular mushrooms and expect a more "mushroomy" flavor than you may be accustomed to.

4. Shiso

Related to mint and perilla, but not quite the same, shiso is gaining popularity in the USA. A traditional ingredient of miso soup and fried rice dishes, it's surprisingly versatile thanks to its pleasing, cirussy flavor. As you'd expect, it goes very well with fish dishes and adapts well to use in western-style salads too. Although we see Shiso as being Japanese, it is actually a fairly recent import that gained popularity in the 1960s and is now firmly entrenched in Japanese cuisine. Now, western chefs are discovering it too.

5. Tofu

No list of Japanese foods enthusiastically adopted and adapted in the western world would be complete without tofu. Since its use is now well entrenched, you'll find tofu featuring on most vegetarian menus as an ingredient in everything from pies to salads.  It's also enjoyed fried, baked or even as an ingredient in stews. Needless to say, everyone who has tried tofu has adapted it to suit their own cooking styles, and that will doubtless be the future of many more healthy eastern foods now being adopted in the west.

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