A traditional Japanese breakfast consists of staple food (rice), proteins (eggs, fish, natto)，fermented food (miso soup, pickles, soy sauce, natto), vegetable (seaweed) and so on.
Let’s have a look what does a traditional breakfast include and their health benefits.
Plain rice is the essential staple food to eat with the side dishes of breakfast. It is also an important main food for lunch and dinner.
Plain rice in Japan is made with Japanese rice. Japanese rice is a short-grain variety of Japonica rice. It is often mistaken that Japanese rice is a glutinous rice because of its sticky texture but it is actually an ordinary rice. It has a sticky and clingy texture due to its higher content in starch and moisture. Japanese rice is also used to make sushi.
Eggs 卵 (Tamago)
Japanese love to eat eggs very much. According to the statistics of 2018, Japan was ranked the first among the countries that consume the most eggs. Each year, in average, a Japanese consumes 320 eggs.
Tamagoyaki is a Japanese rolled omelet made with soysauce, dashi, salt, sugar and water. It tastes both sweet and savoury. It is a popular dish that can be eaten hot or cold. It is not only for breakfast but can be eaten anytime during the day.
Raw Eggs 生卵 (Nama Tamago)
Egg over rice is a common dish for traditional Japanese breakfast. It is a dish which raw egg and soy sauce is served on a bowl of hot rice.
The custom of eating raw eggs is very common in Japan food cultures, there are other Japanese dishes that use raw eggs such as gyudon (beef rice), sukiyaki (hotpot beef dish) and so on.
Raw eggs are prone to salmonella food poisoning, so eggs that are domestically produced in Japan are based on the “hygiene management guidelines” established by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan to make sure they are safe to be eaten. And the best-before date for eggs in Japan is about two weeks.
Grilled fish 焼き魚 (Yakizakana)
Yakizakana means grilled or broiled fish. It is a typical Japanese dish. The common fish used for yakizakana includes mackerel, salmon, cod and so on.
Fish and seafood play a very important part in Japanese cuisine. Fish is a good source of protein which contains various types of nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Studies show that fish helps lower risk in heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, cancer and so on. It can also improve eye health, lower cholesterol and boost metabolism.
There are a few fermented foods in Japanese food that are believed to be good for the body such as miso, soy sauce, natto, pickles. It is said that fermented food helps with digestive system.
Natto a classic dish for a traditional Japanese breakfast. Natto is a fermented food made by adding natto starter to boiled soybeans and fermenting them. It has a sticky texture with a unique smell and taste, which might be difficult for some to accept.
However, natto is very beneficial for health. It can improve blood circulation, reduce bad cholesterol, prevent constipation and it is good for brain.
Pickles 漬物 (Tsukemono)
Japanese pickles are made with various kinds of fruits and vegetables. Some classic ones include umeboshi (梅干しplum pickles), white cabbage pickles and fukujinzuke (pickles made with a mix of chopped daikon, eggplant, lotus root and cucumber). However, unlike Kimchi (Korean cabbage pickles), Japanese pickles are generally not spicy.
Pickles are full of probiotics, which is a good bacteria important for health. Pickles can boost immune system, boost the intake of antioxidants, improves digestion and so on.
Miso Soup 味噌汁 (Miso Shiru)
Miso is a fermented soybean paste made from soybeans, steamed rice or barley, salt and koji (fermentation starter). Miso soup is a traditional Japanese soup made with miso paste in a dashi broth (a broth made with kombu and bonito flakes), it also consists of optional ingredients such as tofu, dried seaweed, mushroom and it is usually garnished with spring onions.
Miso can suppress the rise in blood cholesterol and prevent aging. It is also said to be effective in preventing cancer.
Soy sauce 醬油 (Shoyu)
Soy sauce is an essential seasoning in Japanese food. It is used in many Japanese dishes. Soy sauce acts as a dipping sauce or seasoning ingredient in cooking.
Soy sauce is said to be effective in controlling blood pressure and blood sugar levels .
Seaweed 海苔 (Nori)
Nori means seaweed. Nori plays an irreplaceable role in Japanese food cultures. It is used to wrap sushi, rice balls (おにぎりonigiri) and as a topping on rice, ramen, porridge and so on.
Nori has high contents of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants. It is said that nori is helpful for thyroid function, diabetes, gut, weight loss, heart and so on.
Other Popular Side Dishes
Yam とろろ (Tororo)
Tororo is a dish made from grating yam and is mixed with dashi (a broth made with kombu and bonito flakes). The texture is sticky and runny. Tororo can also be topped with raw egg or hot spring egg (温泉卵 onsen tamago).
The yam used to make tororo is rich in enzyme, vitamin B1, vitamin C, calcium and potassium.
Boiled Okra オクラ (Okura)
Boiled okra is also a popular side dish for Japanese breakfast and meals.
Okra is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. It also contains lectin, which is a type of protein.
Stir-fried Konnyaku 蒟蒻
Stir-fried konnyaku is a tasty yet healthy dish. Konnyaku is made from a plant konjac, which is from yam family. It tastes like a chewy jelly. Konnyaku is a popular choice among Japanese women because it is filling yet almost zero calories. It is good for weight loss, skin health, digestive system, controlling blood sugar level and so on.
Japanese Traditional Breakfast