Japanese rice

Eating Japanese food for the first time

tempura teishoku

We were out for dinner with a couple of friends in a Japanese restaurant. One of them has not tried Japanese food before and was very intimidated (but very curious and eager to try!). I know in her mind there are a lot of questions:

What will I order?

Will all the food be raw?

How on Earth will I be able to eat with a chopstick?

Why is the rice bowl so small?

First, there is a reason why Japanese cuisine is popular all over the world. There are a lot of options actually ‘edible’ to foreign tongue. For first timers, I won’t recommend jumping into sushi, sashimi or anything raw (unless you’re really that adventurous) – you can stick to global favorites like Chicken Teriyaki, tempura, tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlets), sukiyaki, ramen (egg noodle soup) or curry rice.

Extra reading: 100 Dishes from Japan

See? There are so many food options that is NOT raw. You can also ask for spoon and fork in all restaurants. Nobody will kill you for not using a chopstick.

Our friend is from India – a place so different from Japan, from culture to food to eating customs. The rice they eat look like this (they eat this with their hands):

Photo credit

She was really curious how to eat the rice using chopstick, not knowing that there is a reason: the rice in Japan is sticky, unlike the long grain Basmati variety that tends to ‘scatter’. You can easily pick up clumps of Japanese rice with the chopstick when you eat it. You can never eat Basmati rice with chopsticks otherwise it might take you forever to finish one small bowl!

Japanese rice

Photo credit

That said, the short grain Japanese rice is firm and very filling than the Basmati counterpart (my opinion as well as others who have tried both), our Indian friend couldn’t believe she was already full with only a small bowl of Japanese rice!

All in all, she was delighted with her first taste of Japanese food and said she’ll come again to the restaurant with her family. I think Japan gained another fan.

Do you like Japanese food? What is your favorite?

Simmered Pork Spare Ribs with Daikon

The Japanese giant white radish is commonly known as daikon, “dai” meaning large and “kon” meaning root. Daikon is radish or Japanese turnip is a popular root crop in Japan especially in winter.

I used to not like daikon in my early years in Japan but alas, everything is an acquired taste and have become one of my favorites later on. The husband loves it so I cook it often during winter in Japan. I saw a big daikon in the supermarket here in Dubai (even if it’s not winter!) a few days ago and remembered how he loved it and decided to cook this dish.

It has been a hit.


  • 750 grams pork spare ribs
  • 1 medium sized radish
  • 2 Tbsp oil (I used 1 Tbsp sesame and 1 Tbsp vegetable oil)
  • slices of ginger
  • water

Optional: 1 Tbsp Kikkoman Soy Sauce and 1 Tbsp Mirin

For the sauce, mix together:

1. Cut the spare ribs into bite sizes.

2. Wash, peel and slice the radish into rounds then to halves.

3.  Slice the ginger.

4. Heat oil in fry pan, add ginger slices and braise the spare ribs until a bit brown. No need to cook through.

5.  Add the sliced daikon.

6. Transfer into pressure cooker and add the sauce mix and water until just submerged.

7. Cover the pressure cooker and cook for 15 minutes.

Note: If you don’t have pressure cooker, you can still simmer it the traditional way with a deep pot.

8.  Turn off the fire and let the pressure cooker settle.

9. Open the cooker lid and check if the meat is already tender. If not, remove the daikon, close again and pressure cook for another 5 minutes. Removing the daikon while making the meat tender prevents it from becoming too soft and crumbling.

10. Just before serving, taste the soup. I added 1 Tbsp of soy sauce and 1 Tbsp of mirin just to add a little oomph. The final taste is totally up to you because I think as is, it already had that great mild taste.

The daikon will be more tasty the next day as it absorbs all the good flavors of the soup. The tender spare rib meat will make you melt.


UAE/Dubai residents can get various Japanese ingredients from the Japanese store, Dean’s Fujiya located near Lamcy Plaza in Bur Dubai. Telephone: 04-337-0401.