Japanese Party Food: 8 Appetizing Ways to Eat, Drink & Be Merry
Everyone loves a good party—especially in Japan—where people often gather around a favorite dish and chow down together. Japanese parties are slightly different than what you might expect at Western parties. Home parties tend to be smaller and more intimate affairs with family and close friends due to the smaller size of the average Japanese residence. More often though, parties in Japan are held at specialty restaurants and izakaya (Japanese gastropubs) or enjoyed outside at a picnic or barbecue. Wherever you plan to have your Japanese-style dinner party, amazing food that gets everyone involved in the making is a must. Read on for eight mouth-watering Japanese party food list of ideas for your next gastronomical get-together.
Gyoza are pan-fried dumplings filled with finely minced pork and leek. The dish originated in China but found its way to Japan where it was adjusted for the Japanese palate. Gyoza can be found at chuka ryori (Japanese-style Chinese food) restaurants, ramen shops, and specialty gyoza shops. You can also buy prepared gyoza at Japanese supermarkets for home frying, and for the adventurous, dumpling wrappers to make your own gyoza from scratch. The fun thing about making gyoza at home parties is that you can customize the fillings with the ingredients you like, which is especially useful for vegetarians and those who don’t eat pork. If you’re throwing a gyoza party, why not try some non-traditional fillings like cheese and avocado, or kimchi and wasabi for those who like spicy foods? Gyoza party-goers can make the process into a game to see who makes theirs the fastest, best looking, or tastiest.
Read: Your Guide to Japanese Gyoza
Takoyaki is another popular Japanese party food, originating as a street cuisine from Osaka in Japan’s western Kansai region. It consists of bits of octopus cooked in batter that’s fried into the shape of a perfectly round ball and topped with a sweet and savory sauce, mayonnaise, and dried bonito fish flakes. Many Japanese people enjoy making takoyaki at home, thanks to affordable takoyaki pans designed for easy home-use, and it’s is a favorite food for Japanese home parties. Beyond the traditional recipe, you can have a blast experimenting with different ingredients and toppings with your guests, like kimchi and cheese for Korean-style takoyaki, ground beef and taco spices with a salsa topping for a mouthwatering Tex Mex-style takoyaki, and sweet fillings topped with whipped cream for dessert-style takoyaki.
Read: Recipe Ideas for your Takoyaki Pan
Nabe is a traditional hot pot dish of meat or seafood and hearty vegetables simmered in a flavorful broth. Because nabe is typically cooked tableside in a communal clay or metal pot, it’s the perfect dish for sharing whether you’re enjoying a group meal at an izakaya or having a nabe party at home. Numerous regional varieties exist across Japan, from Hokkaido’s ishikari nabe made with salmon and miso bean paste to Fukuoka’s mizutaki nabe made with native jidori chicken from the Kyushu region.
Read: 11 Ways to Make Nabe
Sukiyaki is a style of hot pot that’s made with a sweet soy sauce broth and tender slices of marbled wagyu,or Japanese beef, cooked in a shallow cast iron pot. The simmered beef is then dipped in raw beaten egg, which gives it an even creamier texture. While nabe is a typical home-style dish in Japan, sukiyaki is somewhat more luxurious than other kinds of hot pot due to the price of premium Japanese beef. Though typically eaten in groups at sukiyaki restaurants, the dish can also be made at home as a savory treat for special occasions. If you’re looking for a satisfying meal to splurge on, try a sukiyaki party!
Read: How to Make Great Sukiyaki
Shabu-shabu is another popular style of hot pot party food that consists of meat and vegetables swished lightly in boiling water and eaten with dipping sauces. The ingredients are cut into bite-size pieces and cooked one-by-one in a communal nabe pot over the course of the meal rather than all at once, making for a lively and hands-on group dining experience. You can make it at home or go to a specialty shabu-shabu restaurant offering a vegetable buffet or all-you-can eat courses.
Read: Shabu-shabu 101
Okonomiyaki is another popular street food from Osaka, made with grilled pork belly and sliced cabbage cooked in a savory pancake batter over a hot iron plate. The dish is topped with condiments similar to takoyaki and can be customized with almost anything you like, from seafood to cheese and mochi rice dumplings. Each party-goer can use his or her favorite ingredients and have fun stirring, flipping, and sharing with the rest of the group. You can try your hand making okonomiyaki at home with a large skillet or griddle; and if you’re living in Japan, many okonomiyaki restaurants will also let you cook it yourself tableside on a special cooktop built into the table.
Read: Okonomiyaki and Other Delicious Kansai Dishes
Temaki-zushi, or “hand roll” sushi, is a style of sushi that consists of a small sheet of nori topped with seasoned sushi rice and fillings rolled into a simple waffle cone shape. Because temaki-zushi is so easy to make and doesn’t require any special tools, it’s perfect for a “roll your own” sushi party. You can set out a variety of fish and non-seafood fillings for guests to make sushi rolls according to their own personal tastes. This is a popular Japanese party food for special occasions and celebrations; and because it’s so easy to set up and clean up, you can stress less on prep, and concentrate more on having fun.
Read: 11 Popular Types of Sushi
Japanese Barbeque Party
Japanese barbecue parties are usually held by a river or at a barbecue-friendly park offering rental units and grilling equipment. As most Japanese city homes have little or no yards, backyard barbecues are a rare sight, making the more spacious barbeque parks a popular choice. The menus at these venues also differ from western-style barbecue parties. Japanese barbeque food is meant to be eaten with chopsticks, so instead of thick steaks and burgers, you’ll find bite-size, juicy pieces of meat like thinly sliced pork belly, chicken skewers, and sausage wieners. Sliced vegetables are plentiful, like bell peppers, onion, eggplant, kabocha pumpkin, and sweet potato as well as foil-wrapped potatoes served with generous amounts of butter. It’s also popular to serve yakisoba fried noodles that are cooked on a thin metal sheet placed over the grill top.
Read: The Essential Guide to Japanese Grills & Grilled Food
Japanese Party Food Side Dishes
Whatever the group event in Japan, you can usually expect a few classic side dishes to be served. These include crispy karaage (Japanese fried chicken), edamame (fresh, boiled soybeans), sashimi (thinly sliced raw fish), french fries, a healthy variety of salads, and more.
Japanese Party Foods Are Huge Crowd Pleasers No Matter Where You Are
There’s no need to wait for an invitation to enjoy these popular Japanese party foods. Throw your own soiree or check out Gurunavi's restaurant listings for eateries across Japan serving up party food for large groups. Itadakimasu!