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Not only have traditional Japanese ingredients and flavors been shaped over centuries of history, but they also align with the way consumers want to eat today.
In foodservice, the influence of Japanese cuisine can be seen from quick service restaurants all the way to Michelin-starred fine dining establishments. One casual dining operator in the US is seeking to make sushi more accessible, serving aburi (torched sushi) in a relaxed environment.
A U.S. casual dining chain is seeing success with its digital brand that offers online orders of gyoza, hamachi atop crispy rice, sushi rolls, edamame and more. And in Austin, TX, a small chain focused on Asian comfort food with a Southern twist utilizes ingredients such as aonori, miso, ube, and togarashi salt in everything from their appetizers to their drink menu.
In Peru, the Nikkei cooking style applies Japanese techniques to Peruvian ingredients, resulting in such dishes as Paracas scallops with green beans and miso, or lucuma ice cream topped with soy sauce. And a global burger chain is bringing a Japanese favorite to the masses, serving up fried shrimp tempura sandwiches in Taiwan.
From a protein perspective, Japanese flavors are commonly used to enhance seafood, with items like cod in miso-yuzu butter sauce and ginger-miso-glazed salmon found on Canadian and American retail shelves. German grocers are stocked with chicken karaage, deep fried with a soy, ginger and spice batter. Even plant-based protein like cedar-smoked tofu can be found in France, prepared using traditional Japanese techniques.
Umami-packed sauces heighten traditional proteins such as a fish sauce vinaigrette or dark soy sauce. Plant-based products are also making appearances in sushi and other dishes. “Waygu” is a vegan alternative made in Japan that utilizes Japanese cooking techniques and ingredients in its development in order to best replicate wagyu. Waygu is being distributed to 4,000 restaurants across the US to be used as an alternative to beef in Japanese dishes.1
As food costs continue to rise, take a cue from the hallmarks of Japanese cuisine: capitalize on smaller, more curated portions and focus on bright, umami-forward flavors and unique textures.
With proteins trending towards plant-based alternatives, foodservice operations will look for ways to remain true to cuisines such as Japanese barbecue and sushi while offering meatless versions.
Operators will expand their flavor repertoire beyond soy, wasabi and miso with ingredients such as karashi, furikake and yuzu.
With Japanese cuisine proliferating around the globe, foodservice operators will create fusion dishes that combine local culture with Japanese flavors.
By experimenting with plant-based Japanese meat alternatives, small plates and traditional cooking techniques, operators are exciting patrons and creating fusion dishes with authentic Japanese inspiration.
Japanese cuisines has become popular on C&U campuses and in healthcare foodservice with offerings ranging from freshly-rolled sushi to teppanyaki dishes. The ingredients and tastes of this fare align with the flavor-forward, health-minded, and adventure-seeking diners found on these non-commercial sites.
Japanese formats and flavors are making appearances in meal kit options such as Yakitori-Style Steak Skewers with a sweet soy glaze and Mushroom and Miso Soup. The Sushify subscription even brings the full sushi rolling experience to the home kitchen.
Simple yet elegant composition is one of the hallmarks of Japanese cuisine. Watch Chef Jaime Mestan create Skewered Chicken Tsukune, richly seasoned chicken meatballs brushed with a mouthwatering yakitori glaze featuring soy, mirin, sake and sugar.
The interplay of health, wellness and sustainability can be seen throughout Japanese cuisine. Traditional dishes are based on a one-soup, three-course meal focused on fish and vegetables, with very little meat. Rice, soybeans and seaweed are featured prominently as well. Techniques such as fermentation (used in miso, mirin, tsukemono, natto, etc.) and aging (for some sushi and sashimi) are seen throughout Japanese cuisine as sustainable methods to extend the life of ingredients.
In recent years, as Japanese cuisine has grown in popularity, so has the consumption of tuna—making sustainable seafood more important than ever. Companies are taking on the challenge of fully farming tuna while chefs focus on fish certified by such non-profit organizations as the Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council. Restaurants are also incorporating different types of fish of the menu (along with a wider array of cuts/parts) to reduce food waste.
–Chef Mark Serice, Vice President Global Culinary, Griffith Foods*
Get inspired by these on-trend concepts to create innovative offerings using Custom Culinary® products.
A deliciously reimagined Japanese-inspired "French Dip". Crusty French bread is smeared with gochujang lemongrass aioli, stuffed with tonkotsu broth braised pulled pork, pickled vegetables, fresh mint; then grilled. Served with Tonkotsu dipping broth.
Featuring: Custom Culinary® Tonkotsu Ramen Style Pork Broth
Char-grilled whole corn cobs brushed with a buttery soy mirin glaze.
Chefs are embracing and exploring the culinary methods and benefits of the Japanese diet. Pickled, fermented ingredients that deliver new layers of flavors and more important nutritional benefits. The Japanese diet is traditionally high in soy, vegetables, and fish which health studies suggest may also play a significant role in reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. The Japanese also have the lowest rates of obesity among men and women as well as long life expectancy. All great reasons to experiment and share these techniques with your guests.
- Chef Scott Gilbert, CEC, AAC, HGT
Arborio Rice and aromatic vegetables simmered with a rich pork broth paired with crispy chasu pork belly, soft boiled egg, and scallions, topped with toasted ramen noodles and nori.
Featuring: Custom Culinary® Tonkotsu Ramen Style Pork Broth
Light and fluffy egg salad with jalapenos between two slices of Pullman bread.
Featuring: Custom Culinary® Jalapeno Relish
Japanese cuisine may be most well-known for seafood dishes because of its geographical location, but like many East Asian cuisines, is just as heavily influenced by plant-based choices. You could focus on one ingredient like the humble soybean and take your flavor exploration to great heights. Light and delicate, tofu takes on the flavor of anything you pair with it and is full of protein.
On the other side of the flavor spectrum, the soybean is transformed into miso and soy sauce with its signature fermented umami flavor profiles. Miso and soy could easily be the signature flavors of the Japanese culinary tradition, as its addition will bring Japan to any dish.
The real magic happens when you thoughtfully combine some of the classic Japanese flavors like soy sauce and miso with your favorite plant-based dishes. Your guests will likely be craving them time and time again.
- Chef Michael Manno
© 2022 Griffith Foods. All rights reserved.
*Custom Culinary® is part of the Griffith Foods family of companies.
1 Mintel, 2022 FlavorIQ® Global Trends and Insights Report, January 2022
2 These images were AI-created by DALL-E. Learn more at https://labs.openai.com/