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Popular side dishes that Japanese people love!

Popular side dishes that Japanese people love!
10/02/2021 Nao Polman Ishizaka
In Column

Souzai (惣菜)

Souzai is the collective name for a large number of side dishes in Japan. These dishes are usually home-cooked and are eaten next to steamed rice.

It is no secret that Japanese people love steamed rice, it is the nation’s staple food source for as long as we can remember. Over the years various small, mostly salty, side dishes were developed to create a harmony of textures and flavors if combined with the subtle taste and fluffiness of a bowl of steamed rice. Unlike European and American food cultures where one or two ‘sides’ will be the limit to a meal, it is common in japan to see three or four of these small dishes being served next to rice.

I have grown accustomed to eating plenty of souzai and I would love to show you some of my favorites.


Kiriboshi daikon

The name translates to ‘dried radish’ and that’s what it is. Julienne sliced sun dried Japanese radish. Like most dried fruits and veggies the flavor is condensed, bursting with nutrients. (but don’t get discouraged by the strong aroma, the sweet flavor will more than make up for it). The radish is mixed with dried tofu and sliced carrot and simmered in soy sauce and mirin.

Dried daikon can be purchased in organic stores (the brand name is Terasana) and Asian surpermarkets.



It basically is a deep-fried tofu fritter. The tofu is mashed to make a rough ‘dough’. To this you can add various vegetables (think crunchy like carrot, lotus root etc.) and sea vegetables like hijiki. Typically served with a thick sweet soy-based sauce.


Kinpira gobo

Gobo or in English Burdock (or in Dutch Kliswortel) once was regularly eaten in Europe but can nowadays be counted to the ‘forgotten vegetables’-category. It is a long, hardy root-vegetable, full of dietary fiber and a unique flavor. In appearance quite similar to salsify or ‘schorseneer’ in Dutch.

The Japanese word kinpira means ‘chopped and cooked in sugar and soy sauce’ and that is how this dish is prepared. Commonly sprinkled with sesame seeds before serving.

In season you might find gobo in organic markets and shops, but year-round in Asian supermarkets.

As you can see from the three examples of souzai, they all have some things in common. Crunchy textures, bold sweet and salty flavors; ideal partners to the warm hug that is a fresh bowl of steamed rice!

Ganmodoki en Kinpira (met wortel en pastinaak) recepten vind je in dit boek! Dit is een fijn kookboek met relatief simpele gerechten. Ingrediënten voor veel van de recepten in dit boek zijn verkrijgbaar bij supermarkten. Basisboek Japan is verkrijgbaar op onze winkel!