Discover Teishoku: Origins, Types, Common Dishes & Where to Dine

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Do you want a GREAT way to try various dishes next time you sit down for lunch or dinner?

The word “Teishoku” means “set meal” in Japanese. If translated literally, it’s a meal that has already been decided. It usually includes a protein dish, a side dish, and rice. Common protein dishes include chicken katsu, pork katsu, and sushi. Common side dishes include miso soup, salad, and pickled vegetables.

So, let’s look at everything that makes up a Teishoku meal in more detail.


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What is Teishoku?

The Traditional Japanese Set Meal

Teishoku is a traditional Japanese set meal that has been perfected over years of culinary practice. It’s a work of art, carefully crafted by the chef with ingredients that are selected to bring out the best flavor. Teishoku can be found all over Japan, from the north of Hokkaido to the south of Okinawa, and it can be enjoyed as a celebratory dinner, an everyday lunch or a home-cooked meal.

A Seasonal Delight

Teishoku is a seasonal delight, with ingredients changing depending on the time of year. During apple harvest, you might find a slice of apple shaped into bunny ears, or in autumn you might find flavourful pumpkin cooked in dashi. No matter the season, Teishoku is sure to tantalize your taste buds.

A Meal for Everyone

Teishoku is a meal for everyone – from the family home to novelty restaurants. It’s versatile, delicious and unique to the chef that cooks it. So why not give it a try and experience the traditional Japanese set meal for yourself?

What Makes Teishoku Special?

Teishoku is special because it’s based on traditional Japanese recipes that have been passed down through generations. The dishes vary depending on the region and the cook, so you’ll get a unique taste wherever you go. Plus, the cold dishes help to take away the heaviness of the meal, so you don’t feel weighed down after eating.

What’s In a Teishoku Meal?

A teishoku meal typically includes:

  • One main dish
  • A portion of rice
  • Soup
  • A variety of side dishes, such as seasonal vegetables pickled in miso or vinegar
  • A slightly boiled egg
  • Tempura

So if you’re looking for something new and exciting, but with a traditional twist, teishoku is the way to go!

What’s for Dinner? A Guide to Teishoku Meals

The Main Event

Are you looking for a delicious dinner that won’t break the bank? Look no further than teishoku meals! Teishoku meals offer a range of dishes for the main course, from deep-fried goodies to healthier fish options. Here’s a rundown of some of the delicious dishes you can expect to find:

  • Tonkatsu: A breaded and deep-fried pork cutlet that’s sure to satisfy your cravings.
  • Kara-age: Fried chicken that’s sure to be a hit with the whole family.
  • Tempura: Battered and fried to perfection, tempura is a classic.
  • Ebi furai: A fried prawn dish that’s similar to tempura, but with a breaded coating.
  • Donburi: A bowl of rice topped with a braised or stewed dish. Try oyako-don (chicken and egg stewed in a sweet soy sauce and dashi broth) or gyu-don (thinly sliced beef simmered in sweet soy sauce and dashi with onions).
  • Udon and soba: Noodle dishes that can be served hot or cold.
  • Fish: Grilled, broiled, and stewed fish dishes make for a healthy teishoku meal. Try sanma shioyaki (salt grilled Pacific saury) or saba no misoni (mackerel braised in a miso sauce).
  • Sashimi: A splurge-worthy teishoku meal that’s healthy and delicious.
  • Yakiniku, gyoza, and nabe: Other main dishes you may find in a teishoku meal.

Side Dishes

Teishoku meals come with a variety of side dishes, giving you the chance to enjoy a range of flavors and textures. Here are some of the sides you can expect to find:

  • Salads: Shiro-ae (mashed tofu salad), carrot and daikon radish, kinpira gobo (burdock root salad), and hijiki seaweed salad.
  • Tsukemono: Japanese pickles made from cucumber, radish, cabbage, and other vegetables.
  • Tamagoyaki: A sweet and savory Japanese rolled omelet.
  • Agedashi tofu: Deep fried tofu in a dashi broth.

The Soup Course

No teishoku meal is complete without miso soup! Made from dashi broth and miso soybean paste, miso soup can also include ingredients like tofu and wakame seaweed. It’s a great way to get your probiotics and it pairs perfectly with rice. You may also find other soups like tonjiru (with pork) or asari no miso-jiru (with clams).

The Staple

Rice is the heart of Japanese food and it’s essential to any teishoku meal. You’ll find short-grained white rice, such as koshihikari, as well as hatsugamai (sprouted rice) and zakkoku gohan (assorted grain rice). So fill up your bowl and dig in!

The History of Teishoku

The Traditional Japanese Meal

If you’re looking for a meal that’s healthy, balanced, and full of flavor, then look no further than the traditional Japanese meal of teishoku! This dish has its roots in the ancient dish of ichijuissai, which translates to “one soup and one side dish”. This meal was commonly found in temples and has been refined and adapted over the years to become the delicious dish we know and love today.

The Benefits of Teishoku

Teishoku is a great way to get your daily dose of nutrients and vitamins. It’s packed with fermented foods like natto and pickles, which are great for digestion. Plus, it’s full of veggies, so you get a good balance of sodium and potassium. And with all the different colors of food, you can enjoy a variety of flavors without getting too full.

The Perfect Meal

If you’re looking for a meal that’s healthy, balanced, and delicious, then teishoku is the way to go! It’s got all the nutrients and vitamins you need, plus it’s portioned out perfectly so you can try a bit of everything without overdoing it. So next time you’re looking for a meal that’s good for your body and your taste buds, give teishoku a try!

What’s On the Teishoku Tray?

Tonkatsu Teishoku

If you’re looking for a tasty meal that won’t break the bank, then look no further than the Tonkatsu Teishoku! This tray of deliciousness comes with a juicy pork cutlet, a bowl of steaming white rice, a bowl of miso soup, and a variety of side dishes known as souzai. You’ll be sure to leave feeling full and satisfied!

Yakizakana Teishoku

For those looking for something a bit more on the fishy side, the Yakizakana Teishoku is the perfect choice! This tray comes with a freshly grilled fish, a bowl of fluffy white rice, a bowl of miso soup, and a selection of souzai. So if you’re in the mood for some seafood, this is the meal for you!

Tempura Teishoku

If you’re looking for something a bit more crunchy, then the Tempura Teishoku is the way to go! This tray comes with a selection of deep-fried battered fish and vegetables, a bowl of steaming white rice, a bowl of miso soup, and a variety of souzai. So if you’re in the mood for some crunch, this is the meal for you!

Special Teishoku Sets

Sometimes Japanese restaurants will offer special teishoku sets on their menu or as a daily special. These sets will usually be named after the main dish, so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting! You might even find a special seasonal rice or a rice ball with other ingredients in the middle instead of plain white rice. And the best part? All of this deliciousness will only cost you around 500 to 1,000 yen!

What’s on the Menu? A Guide to Teishoku Dishes

Main Dishes

When it comes to teishoku, you’ve got a lot of options! From fried fish to pork cutlets to tempura, there’s something for everyone. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most popular dishes you’ll find in a teishoku set:

  • Yakizakana: Fried fish – a classic!
  • Tonkatsu: Breaded and fried pork cutlet – a crowd-pleaser.
  • Chicken: A reliable option for those who don’t eat pork.
  • Tempura: Deep-fried veggies and shrimp – a crunchy treat.


Rice is a staple of teishoku, but it doesn’t have to be boring! You can choose between plain white rice or a mix of grains, seeds, and beans for extra nutrition. Here are some of the most popular kinds of mixed rice you’ll find:

  • Zakkoku rice: White rice mixed with grains, seeds, and beans.
  • Takikomi rice: White rice cooked in soy sauce and dashi with veggies mixed in.
  • Kurokome: White rice mixed with black rice and beans – a colorful option!

Miso Soup

Miso soup is a must-have for any teishoku set. It’s made with miso (fermented soybeans), dashi (soup stock), and a variety of vegetables, wakame, and tofu. You’ll find three different types of miso in a Japanese supermarket: shiro (white), aka (red), and shinshu (yellow). Plus, each prefecture in Japan has its own unique miso soup, so you can try something new every time!

Side Dishes

Teishoku sets come with a variety of side dishes, from salads and pickles to boiled veggies and small desserts. Pickled radish, cucumber, and lettuce are common, but you can also find pickled veggies like carrots and eggplant. For a unique twist, some restaurants offer tororo (grated yam) with every meal – a great way to add some flavor and help with digestion!

Where Can I Find Delicious Teishoku?

Cheap Eats

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly meal, you’re in luck! Japan has plenty of fast food chains like Sukiya and Matsuya that offer teishoku. All you have to do is head to the ticket machine, make your selection, and voila! You’ve got yourself a delicious meal.

Family-Oriented Restaurants

For those just starting to learn Japanese, Ootoya is the perfect spot. You’ll find plastic food displays that show you exactly what’s on offer. Plus, there are plenty of other options like family-owned teishoku restaurants, independent eateries, and even cafeterias and food halls.

Upscale Teishoku

If you’re looking for a more upscale teishoku experience, you can find one with a quick search of washoku (Japanese food) or by entering “teishoku” into Google Maps.

Traditional Ryokan

If you’re staying in a traditional ryokan (Japanese Inn), you might be lucky enough to get teishoku for breakfast or dinner. It’s a great way to get a taste of the homemade feel. Plus, the pattern of rice, soup, a main, and sides is always the same, so you know what to expect.

A Guide to Teishoku Dining

Ordering Your Meal

If you’re looking to enjoy a delicious teishoku meal, you’ll need to know how to order it. Here’s a quick guide to help you out:

  • When you arrive at a family restaurant, you’ll be asked what main dish you’d like and what size you’d like it in. Most places offer a regular size, called “nami”, and a large size, called “oomori”.
  • You’ll also be asked what kind of rice you’d like. Depending on the restaurant, you may be able to get a small, medium, or large serving, and you may even be able to get a refill if you’re feeling extra hungry.
  • If you’re at a cafeteria, you’ll be able to pick and choose your sides from the various options available. If you’re at a restaurant, the sides will usually come predetermined. But don’t worry, you can always order extra sides for a small fee.
  • Some teishoku meals may also come with a drink or dessert, so don’t forget to ask about those too!

Enjoying Your Meal

Once you’ve ordered your meal, it’s time to enjoy it! Here are some tips for getting the most out of your teishoku experience:

  • Take your time and savor each bite. Teishoku meals are meant to be enjoyed slowly and deliberately.
  • Don’t be afraid to mix and match flavors. Try combining different sides and sauces to create unique flavor combinations.
  • Don’t forget to ask for extra sides if you’re still hungry. Most restaurants will be happy to accommodate your request.
  • And last but not least, don’t forget to leave room for dessert! Teishoku meals are often served with a sweet treat, so make sure to save some room for it.

Can I Customize My Teishoku Meal?

Accommodating Dietary Restrictions

Teishoku is a great way for families with various dietary restrictions to experience authentic Japanese cuisine. With its variety of small dishes, it’s easy to customize a meal to fit everyone’s needs.

Swapping Out Dishes

If you’re looking to avoid a particular dish or swap it out, some chain restaurants like Sukiya or Matsuya let you order the individual components of teishoku separately. This way, you can create your own set meal!

Checking Allergy Information

Before you head to the restaurant, you can always check the menu for allergy information. Most places will provide an allergy chart, so you can make sure your meal is safe for everyone.


Teishoku Vs Bento

Teishoku and bento are two very different meals, even though they may look similar. Teishoku is a set menu item with a bowl of rice, a main meat dish, a bowl of soup, and one to two side dishes. It’s usually served on a tray and you can enjoy everything with a variety of sauces. On the other hand, bento is more like a packed lunch with a small box of rice and another box filled with various food items, like meat, vegetables, and tofu. It’s usually sold at grocery stores or convenience stores and is a take-out version of teishoku. So if you’re looking for a traditional Japanese meal, teishoku is the way to go. But if you’re looking for something quick and easy, bento is the perfect choice.


Teishoku is a Japanese set meal that can be found almost ANYWHERE in the country. It’s a great way to experience the culture, it’s delicious, and there’s something for everyone.

So, don’t be afraid to “doko demo issho ni itadakimasu!” (wherever you are, join us in saying “let’s eat!”).

Check out our new cookbook

Bitemybun's family recipes with complete meal planner and recipe guide.

Try it out for free with Kindle Unlimited:

Read for free

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.