Sushi is 1 of my favourite things to order at Japanese restaurants, but it's quite easy to make at home too. If you're having a sushi night party and not sure what to prepare, here are the best Japanese side dishes to serve with sushi
As sushi is pretty much a complete meal in itself- it has rice (carbs) and protein (usually fish, sometimes egg)- lighter sushi side dishes would work better than heavy foods such as ham katsu curry, soba or udon.
Of course, feel free to serve those if you wish, but I'm focusing on more delicate and easier to digest sushi sides below.
Note: if you love sushi and Japanese cuisine like I do, but can't get sushi rice where you are, you can use risotto rice which is what my Japanese friends and I did when we lived in a teeny town in Scotland. Alternatively, here are some of the best sushi rice substitutes! And if you have leftovers, here are some ideas on what to do with extra sushi rice!
A traditional Japanese soup that is part of a typical Japanese meal- there are instant packet versions but homemade miso soup is a simple side dish that is actually very easy to make.
Or go off the beaten track with this delicious and popular Japanese seafood clear soup, usually served in a teapot (dobin)! You usually get some matsutake mushrooms, some shrimp, some chicken and maybe some imitation crab meat in it.
Tip: don't forget the lime- it's very important for the acidity it adds to the soup!
These green beans are an easy side dish for sushi. In addition, they're super simple to grow at home and are 1 of the most popular accompaniments to sushi, especially for less adventurous guests.
If you don't have a green thumb, you can buy them frozen and simply bring them to the boil then serve.
Click here for more Asian edible garden recipes.
This delicious salad has mango, cucumber, sometimes corn, crabsticks and Kewpie Mayonnaise, a delicious combination! You can add sriracha to the Japanese style mayo to give the kani salad a kick or mix it with ponzu and soy sauce instead. It's a great side dish for a family dinner on a hot summer day.
Tip: if you only have regular mayo, add some chicken stock powder and sugar to mimic the Kewpie flavour.
Cucumber Sesame Salad
Also known as sunomono, you only need cucumbers, rice vinegar, sugar, salt and soy to make the basic version of this light and refreshing veggie dish.
Add some crabsticks to make crab cucumber kani salad.
Tip: Don't forget to sprinkle some toasted white sesame seeds over your Japanese cucumber salad!
Japanese Spinach Salad
I have to confess that this is not my favorite Japanese side dish! However, spinach salad is a very light and healthy side that goes very well with sushi!
Thanks to the sesame sauce, it's not bland even though the veggies are blanched.
This bright green Japanese seaweed salad is sold seasoned with sugar and sesame oil, so it's quite sweet and doesn't have a briny flavour at all. You can buy it ready to eat, or frozen.
Some frozen versions will be too salty and will need washing before eating, whilst others are ready to serve after defrosting. It's a great side dish for sushi when you're entertaining as it doesn't require any prep work!
Note: If you are using dried seaweed and making your own seaweed salad, you'll need to rehydrate it and dress it with seasoning.
Or grill some asparagus and serve with an easy to make but simply scrumptious sesame dressing (goma dare.)
When you order Japanese food, it often comes with preserved vegetables (tsukumono) such as baby ginger. Sushi ginger, or gari, has a bright pink hue because this pickled ginger is made from young ginger.
Other pickles include the bright yellow radish (which is found in some sushi rolls), cucumber or the fuchsia gherkins (shiba zuke.)
This traditional Japanese dish is light and delicious- the tofu is coated with potato starch to create a crispy coating but it's so light it pretty much melts in your mouth.
Tip: If you find it too challenging to make, you can do something simpler, like teriyaki tofu. Alternatively, pan fry tofu and serve with a ponzu dipping sauce.
This may sound intimidating to prepare, but you can buy the jellyfish pre-cooked (either ready to eat or frozen) so all you have to do is plate them! You can also mix them with some cubed cucumbers to add some fibre to your meal. (Jellyfish is typically eaten cold.)
I love jellyfish for its crunchy texture but the slippery feel may be a bit much for less-adventurous eaters!
As with the jellyfish, these tiny marinated octopi are sold ready to eat at many Japanese and even Asian supermarkets.
They're tiny- about the size of a thumb- and you're meant to eat everything, including the head!
Like the jellyfish, these are usually served cold but unlike the jellyfish, which has more of a sweet flavor, the octopus have more of a savory flavor.
For those who prefer their side dishes hot, why not a side of tempura? Serve a variety- fried prawns, white fish, kabocha, kinoko mushrooms, shiso leaves and sweet potato- and don't forget the all important dipping sauce!
The batter is typically made from egg, flour and cold water, but you can also find tempura pre-mixes in Asian supermarkets.
Fun fact: did you know that the Japanese adapted tempura from a Portuguese dish in the 1600s in Nagasaki?
If you're adventurous enough to try raw fish, I highly recommend a side of sashimi to go with your sushi.
These are available in pre-sliced most Japanese supermarkets (the way the raw fish is cut affects the flavor of the sashimi) and are 1 of the best sides to go with that California Roll or Nigiri Sushi.
Japanese Potato Salad
This looks like American potato salad but tastes so much better thanks to the cucumbers, carrots and sometimes apples (I love the sweetness they add to the potato dish!)
Don't forget to add the mustard for some oomph!
These Japanese dumplings can be made in advance and frozen for whenever you want to eat them, making them 1 of the best side dishes.
Sprinkle some spring onion and sesame seeds on top to wow guests with your presentation.
Like sushi, onigiri is quite a filling dish as they're basically rice balls- sometimes filled, sometimes plain.
If you've not made sushi before, making onigiri is actually a good introduction as it helps you get used to the stickiness of the rice but you don't have to fiddle about with the bamboo roll!
For Japanese chicken wings, grill the meat (or bake them) then top with teriyaki sauce and maybe some red pepper flakes.
For some non-Japanese sides, click here for more Asian-inspired chicken wing recipes.
Fried Chicken Karaage
These crispy fried chicken bits are a popular dish at Japanese restaurants.
Fun fact: whilst we're most familiar with chicken, some karaage dishes use other proteins such as blowfish!
This golden rolled Japanese omelette is really easy to cook- simply beat your egg, and mix in some dashi stock, mirin and light soy then cook and roll.
Tastes great both hot and cold.
Shocker: The ubiquitous green paste seen at sushi restaurants isn't actually wasabi!
Unless you're at a very pricey Japanese joint, real wasabi is usually too expensive for them to serve and what you get is usually horseradish that's been dyed green.
Note: outside of Japan, people serve sushi with soy sauce but, in Japan, the soy sauce has usually been applied to the fish before it's been pressed onto the sushi rice, so a platter of soy sauce by the side isn't necessary.
A traditional Japanese street snack in which rice dumplings- 3 types of rice flour are usually used!- are slathered with a sweet soy sauce.
The round balls are typically served on a skewered go well with green tea or matcha.
Matcha Ice Cream
If you want to serve something more unusual, skip the green tea ice cream and try black sesame ice cream with red beans! Or if you're looking for a different kind of matcha dessert, try Hojicha muffins.
To make the party more fun, serve taiyaki or Japanese fish ice cream! You can find this Japanese street food in most Asian grocery stores.
A hot cup of green tea is great for washing down a heavy meal.
In summer, barley tea, also known as mugicha, is very popular as it's super cooling and refreshing. Great thing is, it's super easy to make at home!
Or why not try some Japanese sake?
You can get some Choya plum wine or, even better, make your own Umeshu. It's actually super easy to DIY and plum wine is great for your digestion after all that sushi!
What are your favourite Sushi Side Dishes? Let me know if I've missed something important out in this list of best Japanese side dishes!