Exploring Yōshoku: A Japanese Take on Western-Style Cuisine

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Yōshoku is the Japanese version of Western-style food. It’s a cuisine developed from a mix of Western ingredients and local Japanese ones. Yōshoku is also known as “Yoshoku”.

It includes dishes such as fried chicken, beef stew, and croquettes.

What is Yōshoku

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The Origin Story of Yoshoku

The Early Days

Back in the day, when Japan was only trading with the Netherlands and Portugal (circa 1863), there was a Japanese chef on Dejima-island in Nagasaki, the land of trade. This chef had the unique opportunity to learn how to cook Western food while working as a dishwasher at the Dutch Trading Post. After mastering the art of Western cuisine, he opened up his own restaurant and served up the first-ever Western-style dishes in Japan.

A Luxury Food for the Elite

Western food was initially only available to the upper-class, as it was considered a luxury. But eventually, it became more widely available to the general public. The only problem was that the ingredients used in Western food were hard to come by, so substitutes were often used.

The Birth of Yoshoku

That’s when Japanese chefs stepped in and added their own unique touches to suit the Japanese taste. And that’s how Yoshoku, the Japanese style of Western food, was born!

So, if you’re ever in the mood for some delicious Western-style dishes with a Japanese twist, you know where to go!

Taste the West: Japanese-Style Western Dishes

Curry Rice

This classic Japanese dish is a combination of two of the world’s most beloved cuisines: Indian and English. It all started when the English invented curry powder and brought it to Japan through trade. Then, English and American missionaries brought cookbooks with recipes for “curry and rice” in the 1860s. The Japanese referred to it as “rice curry” and eventually it became known as “curry rice.”

Curry sauce is cooked with diced potatoes, carrots, meat, and sliced onion. Restaurants and home cooks let the curry sit overnight so the umami of the ingredients can mix with the sauce and create a richer flavor. Curry rice is often served with pickled white radish called Fukujin-zuké 福神漬け, which is pickled in soy sauce and has a sweet-and-sour taste and crunchiness.

Curry rice is a favorite among kids and men, and it’s often cooked at home.

Om-Rice

Om-rice is a fusion of French omelet and rice, and chicken stir-fried with ketchup. It looks and tastes different depending on who’s making it, but most people envision ketchup-rice covered with a thin layer of egg and topped with ketchup or demi glace sauce. It’s easy to make and a favorite among kids, so it’s often cooked at home.

Korokké

Korokké is a Japanese version of the Western croquette. It was introduced to Japan after the 1870s when Japan was trying to learn from advanced Western civilizations. Korokké is made by deep-frying breaded mashed potatoes, onion, and minced beef. It’s crisp on the outside and soft on the inside.

There are many variations of Korokké, including:

  • Menchi katsu: Breaded minced beef and onion
  • Cheese iri menchi katsu: Menchi katsu with cheese in the center
  • Kani Cream Korokké: Breaded white sauce with crab meat
  • Kabocha Korokké: The basic Korokké but using mashed pumpkin instead of mashed potatoes
  • Curry Korokké: Breaded mashed potato and curry
  • Guratan Korokké: Breaded white-sauce macaroni usually with shrimp

Korokké is a popular side dish or snack and can be found in almost any supermarket. Local butchers also tend to sell it as a snack.

Hamburg

Hamburg, or “Hamburg steak”, is a dish that originated in the port city of Hamburg, Germany. It was brought to America by German immigrants and eventually made its way to Japan after the country opened up for international trade in the 1850s. Hamburg is made to go well with rice, so it doesn’t have a bun.

Hamburg is a popular dish among kids and is often cooked at home. It’s usually served with boiled or grilled vegetables and seasoned with one of the many sauces available.

Tasty Yōshoku Dishes

What is Yōshoku?

Yōshoku is a type of Japanese cuisine that combines Western cooking techniques with traditional Japanese ingredients. It’s a unique and delicious way to enjoy some of the best of both worlds!

Tantalizing Yōshoku Dishes

Yōshoku dishes are sure to tantalize your taste buds! Here are some of the most popular dishes:

  • Korokke: deep-fried croquettes made with mashed potatoes, ground beef, and vegetables
  • Cream stew: a creamy stew made with vegetables, chicken, and potatoes
  • Tarako Spaghetti: Japanese tarako (cod roe) spaghetti
  • Tonkatsu: deep-fried pork cutlet
  • Hayashi rice: a Japanese-style beef and onion stew served over rice
  • Chicken nanban: fried chicken seasoned with vinegar and tartar sauce
  • Piroshiki: deep-fried buns filled with beef and vegetables
  • Deep-fried oysters: a classic Japanese dish
  • Fried prawn: a delicious way to enjoy seafood
  • Beefsteak: steak with Japanese-style sauce
  • Naporitan: ketchup spaghetti with sausage and vegetables
  • Japanese mushroom spaghetti: Japanese style soy sauce and mushroom spaghetti
  • Ankake spaghetti: a spicy sticky sauce-covered spaghetti dish from Nagoya
  • Nattō spaghetti: spaghetti with a unique fermented soybean flavor
  • Edible wild plants spaghetti: a unique and flavorful dish
  • Tuna spaghetti: a classic Japanese dish
  • Mizore spaghetti: mizore had come from the name of the Japanese wet snow
  • Fried chicken (chicken katsu): a popular dish
  • Beef cutlet (beef katsu): a delicious way to enjoy beef
  • Menchi katsu: deep-fried ground beef and pork patties
  • Turkish rice (torukorice): pilaf flavored with curry, naporitan spaghetti, and tonkatsu with Demi-glace sauce
  • Mikkusu sando: assorted sandwiches, especially egg salad, ham, and cutlet
  • Gratin: a creamy and cheesy dish
  • Doria: roasted pilaf with béchamel sauce and cheese

Yōshoku dishes are sure to please everyone at the table! Whether you’re looking for something comforting and familiar or something new and exciting, Yōshoku has something for everyone. So why not give it a try today?

Essential Tools for Making Delicious Yoshoku Dishes

What You Already Have

If you’re looking to whip up some yoshoku dishes, you’re in luck! You probably already have most of the ingredients you need in your kitchen. All you need is a little ketchup, some worcestershire sauce, and a frying pan and you’re good to go!

Tools to Take Your Dishes to the Next Level

If you’re looking to take your yoshoku dishes to the next level, there are a few extra tools you’ll want to have on hand. Here’s a list of must-haves for any aspiring yoshoku chef:

  • Omurice Mold: This nifty tool helps you create the perfect omelette-rice combo.
  • Frying Pan: A must-have for any yoshoku dish.
  • Ketchup: A key ingredient in many yoshoku dishes.
  • Worcestershire Sauce: Another essential for any yoshoku dish.

The Forbidden Meat: A History of Yoshoku

The Meiji Era: A Time of Change

The Meiji era (1868-1912) was a time of major change in Japan. After Commodore Matthew Perry sailed into Kurihama in 1853, Japan began to modernize rapidly. This meant a lot of changes, including the food culture. Before this time, there was a social taboo against eating meat, due to the introduction of Buddhism and Shintoism, as well as Emperor Tenmu’s decree banning the killing and eating of meat during certain times of the year (675 AD).

The Forbidden Becomes the Popular

But all that changed in 1872 when the Meiji emperor started eating beef and mutton. Suddenly, beef and pork were everywhere! Restaurants started popping up all over the country, serving up delicious dishes like Sukiyaki (gyunabe 牛鍋). People couldn’t get enough of this forbidden food.

Yoshoku: A New Way of Eating

But the Meiji era also brought something else: Yoshoku. This new way of eating combined traditional Japanese ingredients with Western cooking techniques. Dishes like omurice (omelette rice), hayashi rice (beef and onion stew over rice) and korokke (croquettes) were born. These dishes were so popular that they’re still eaten today! So the next time you’re in Japan, don’t forget to try some Yoshoku. You won’t regret it.

A Guide to Yoshoku Dishes: 5 Classics You Need to Try

Curry Rice

This is the dish that started it all! Curry was first brought to Japan by officers of the British Royal Navy at the end of the 19th century. It was a hit with the Imperial Japanese Navy, who were facing a beriberi epidemic due to a vitamin B deficiency. To combat this, they mixed wheat into the curry, and voila! The beriberi epidemic was eradicated.

But that’s not all – potatoes, carrots, and onions were added to the mix by the American professor William Clark of the Sapporo Agricultural College. This was a great way to bulk up the dish during a rice shortage.

Today, Japanese curry is served every Friday in the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force, and each ship has its own secret recipe. Here are some recipes to get you started:

  • Chicken Curry
  • Pressure Cooker Seafood Curry
  • How to Make Curry Roux

Doria

Doria is a baked casserole, featuring rice topped with white sauce, cheese, and various ingredients. It was invented in the 1930s by Saly Weil, the first head chef at the Hotel New Grand in Yokohama.

The story goes that a Swiss banker staying at the hotel got sick and requested something easy to digest. So, the chef combined pilaf (rice cooked in broth and vegetables) and shrimp cooked in cream sauce, then baked it in the oven until golden brown.

Here are some other recipes to try:

  • Curry Doria
  • Meat Doria

Napolitan (Ketchup Pasta)

This is a uniquely Japanese dish, featuring udon-soft spaghetti stir-fried with vegetables and meat, and seasoned with ketchup. It was created during the postwar era at the New Grand Hotel in Yokohama, where the U.S. military was based.

With limited produce to work with, the head chef drew inspiration from the American military personnel eating spaghetti and ketchup. He swapped the ketchup for tomato puree, added sautéed onions, ham, and mushrooms, and voila! The dish became known outside of the hotel and caught the eyes of the Japanese.

The key to this dish is the noodles – they’re boiled way past al dente, to udon consistency. This gives the dish that soft texture.

Tonkatsu

Tonkatsu is composed of “Ton” = pork and “Katsu” = cotelette (the French word for a thinly cut slice of veal, pork, or mutton that’s breaded and deep fried). This iconic dish dates back to 1899, at Rengatei (煉瓦亭) in Ginza.

Back then, they served customers “Pork Cutlet” (豚肉のカツレツ), which was pork slices sautéed in butter, then baked in the oven. The dish was always accompanied by a side of steamed vegetables.

But during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), there was a severe labor shortage. So, the head chef decided to coat the meat in a batter similar to tempura, then deep fry it. The steamed vegetables were later replaced with shredded cabbage, which was favored for its quick preparation and availability year-round.

Here are some other recipes to try:

  • Baked Tonkatsu
  • Gluten-Free Tonkatsu

The Birth of Yōshoku: A Tale of Westernization

The Meiji Era: A Time of Change

The Meiji era was a time of great change for Japan. The country was looking to the West for inspiration on how to modernize, and the government was encouraging the consumption of meat as a symbol of an enlightened society. This was a big shift from the traditional Buddhist diet, which had forbidden the killing of animals for food.

The Rise of Yōshoku

The Western-style cuisine that was becoming popular in Japan was initially only accessible to the privileged class. But word of the delicious dishes spread to the plebeian culture of Asakusa, and soon restaurants in the area were offering yōshoku dishes. People were eager to try the new cuisine, and they could now enjoy it with traditional Japanese offerings like sake, rice, and miso soup.

The Yōshoku Craze

The yōshoku craze was in full swing, and it was even popular among the English, who were known for their love of beef. Kobe beef and Yonezawa beef were becoming household names, and people were flocking to the restaurants to get a taste of the tender, marbled meat. It was a time of great change, and the yōshoku craze was a big part of it.

Conclusion

Yōshoku is a unique style of Japanese cuisine that combines traditional Japanese ingredients with Western cooking techniques. It’s a great way to experience the best of both worlds, and it’s a great way to try something new and exciting. Whether you’re looking for a delicious dinner or a unique way to impress your friends, yōshoku is the way to go! Just remember to brush up on your chopstick skills and don’t be afraid to try something new – you never know what culinary masterpiece you might find! And don’t forget to have a good time – after all, Yōshoku is all about having FUNdamental flavors!

Check out our new cookbook

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

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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.