Tempura, shrimp, mushroom
Photo: Zheng Bin/Dreamstime

Learn how to make classic Japanese dishes with these cooking videos

From tempura and onigiri to sweet desserts, these recipes make more sense when you have videos to guide you through them

Written by
Jessica Thompson
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With the current Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, staying in is the new going out, so we've put together some of our favourite Japanese cooking videos to help you recreate classic dishes in the comfort of your own kitchen. After all, while you're hunkering down at home, why not add some new recipes and skills to your repertoire? 

We've skipped dishes like sushi and A5-grade wagyu yakiniku and instead, opted for recipes you can easily make with what you have on hand. These YouTube cooking videos are all authentically Japanese, and are as entertaining as they are informative –  there’s one narrated by a poodle called Francis. So even if you don’t end up actually cooking any of the recipes below, just watching these videos is like a nice little brain massage.

RECOMMENDED: Experience Japan from the comfort of your home

Tempura

You’ll want to fill your dining table with light and crisp tempura once you’ve mastered the little tricks in this video. Plus, the possibilities of what you can turn into tempura are almost endless, so it’s a great way to use up odds and ends like leftover herbs and vegetable stems.

Why we love this video: Japanese cook Rie McClenny is a producer at the super-popular online food network Tasty. Her top hacks include tips like making sure the batter ingredients are chilled and using chopsticks to mix the batter. No whisking – you want some chunks left in your batter to add texture, whereas using chopsticks prevents you from overmixing .

Potato salad

Potato salad might not sound authentically Japanese, but you’ll find it everywhere from izakaya menus and bento boxes to lunch sets and Japanese home meals. What makes it so special? Watch this video to find out.

Why we love this video: Tabieats is run by Shinichi and Satoshi; the duo is part Japan travel guide, part-cooking show. This episode features Shinichi’s mum, who shares her recipe with some simple tricks: boil the eggs and potatoes together (a big time-saver), salt the cucumbers, squeeze out the excess moisture and use them as the seasoning agent.

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Omurice (Omelette with fried rice)

Omurice has a cult following both in and outside Japan, which could be attributed to the popular Netflix series Midnight Diner, nostalgia for 20th-century kissaten (retro-vintage Japanese cafés), or just because of its addictive combination of fried rice, ketchup and a fluffy omelette.

Why we love this video: Jun’s videos include his adorable cat (or sometimes, cats) as a cooking companion who helps him procure ingredients and supervises the whole cooking process. Jun’s nifty pan work is impressive, and the colourful comments on his videos will also keep you entertained.

Tsukemono (Pickles)

Japan’s long affinity with pickles (called tsukemono, ‘soaked things’) comes from its cold winters and propensity for natural disasters, meaning people have always needed ways to make food last. Pickles are served with just about every meal in Japan as both a palate cleanser and a digestive.

Why we love this video: Originally from Yokohama, but now living in California, Just One Cookbook host Nami Chen has an extremely popular cooking blog of the same name. Like her website, her videos are well-produced, easy to follow, and include a little cultural background on the food being made.

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Onigiri (Rice balls)

A well-made onigiri is a thing of beauty. To achieve it, rice must be cooked to perfection and shaped with care – not pressed too tightly, not pressed too loose. Onigiri is a handy recipe to have up your sleeve because you can fill them with just about anything: tuna and mayonnaise, grilled salmon, boiled egg, cream cheese mixed with pickles, etc.

Why we love this video: Kitchen Princess Bamboo demonstrates how to make eight different types of onigiri. Her instructions are clear and easy to follow, and her videos are dotted with insights into Japanese culture as well as useful tips. Did you know you can water your plants with the cloudy water left over from washing rice? Apparently it’s full of beneficial nutrients for the plants.

Dorayaki

Finally, something to do with those packets of dried red beans! Dorayaki is a traditional Japanese sweet treat made of two castella pancakes pressed together and filled, most commonly, with red bean paste.

Why we love this video: Cooking with Dog is a bit of a phenomenon amongst Japanese foodies. And what’s not to love about a cooking video narrated by a coiffed poodle? The canine, called Francis, introduces dorayaki and gives instructional cues while his owner demonstrates the cooking process.

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