In a Japanese household, you’ll often find colorful side dishes being served in small plates at the family dinner. These side dishes play an equal role as the main dish in providing sustenance and making the meal more appetizing. In addition, they also refresh the palate to counter heavier or greasy food on the table.
What do you look for when choosing a side dish? I follow these simple rules: consider varying colors, textures, flavors and nutrients that round up a meal. Here you’ll find 15 easy Japanese side dishes that go well with a wide variety of Japanese meals. From the tried-and-true classics to western-inspired dishes, each of them is easy to prepare and can be enjoyed on their own. You can even use the leftovers for your bento lunch the next day!
15 Easy Japanese Side Dishes
This Japanese Spinach Salad applies a simple method called the Ohitashi to infuse vegetables with umami and subtle flavor. It’s one of the common techniques Japanese use to prepare vegetable dishes. I love that it helps preserve the nutrients of vegetables at its best. And double yes when you can pair this salad with everything you cook!
Crispy on the bite, yet delicately soft, this pan-fried Teriyaki Tofu is incredibly flavorful. This Japanese tofu side dish can turn any tofu skeptics into a convert.
Easy steamed chicken mixed with cucumber and dressed in a chili oil (La-yu) marinade. The contrasting texture makes it a perfect way to start a meal.
Broccoli is probably the most universal vegetable side dish anyone can count on! To keep it fresh and tasty, the trick is to blanch the broccoli with salt and sesame oil. It’s easy, healthy and so versatile! You could also change up the flavor by drizzling in some hot sesame oil or top it with some of your favorite sauce the next day.
5. Ramen Egg
Trust me, this dreamiest Ramen egg (Ajitsuke Tamago) is not just for ramen!! It is absolutely delicious as a side for your braised pork belly (kakuni) or bento lunch box. I love preparing the eggs in advance, so my family gets to enjoy the egg dish for extra protein in their meal any day of the week.
The hiyayakko is usually topped with katsuobushi, green onions, grated ginger and season with a little bit of soy sauce. be creative with toppings and seasonings to enjoy chilled tofu. You can create any hiyayakko recipe you like. It can also be vegetarian if you omit katsuobushi and use vegetarian condiments like sweet corn, wakame, chopped tomatoes, green onions or wakame.
3 Ingredients. Teba Shio is so easy to make. The key is to soak the chicken wings in sake for 15 minutes. If you like it spicy, sprinkle Shichimi Togarashi (Japanese seven spice). After broiling the chicken, the skin gets so crispy and they are addicting and simply amazing!
Marinated in dashi-infused vinegar, these Japanese-style Pickled Tomatoes make a refreshing side or appetizer to serve with your meal!
Brined in salt, kombu and chili flakes, this palate-cleansing Pickled Cabbage (tsukemono) makes a perfect accompaniment to a traditional Japanese meal.
10. Ham Katsu
Crispy panko on the outside and delicious black forest ham on the inside, Ham Katsu is the simplest cutlet you can make with easy-to-get ingredients. Inspired by the Japanese drama – Midnight Diner.
Cooked in savory dashi broth seasoned with soy sauce and sake, this classic Japanese Simmered Kabocha Squash makes a great healthy side dish that is chock-full of nutrients.
Dressed in spicy sesame oil based sauce, this Spicy Bean Sprout Salad is delicious as an appetizer or as a ramen topping.
13. Miso Dengaku
Among the four Miso Dengaku dishes I share today, this is my favorite. Sweet miso glaze caramelized under the oven, the tender eggplant and flavorful miso is a match in heaven! When eggplants are cooked, they absorb and trap all the delicious flavors!
This salad can be served with Western meal or Asian meal. The dressing is made of mayonnaise and Ponzu. If you haven’t tried this combination, I hope you give it a try. It’s refreshing and delicious!
Shiraae (白和え) is a way of cooking – mixing lightly-cooked vegetables with crumbled tofu, miso, and sesame seeds. Spinach and green beans are commonly used for Shiraae dish. Enjoy eating vegetables!