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How to find Authentic Japanese Restaurants in Dubai and Abu Dhabi?

on 14th Sep, 2017
Japanese cuisine is full of flavour, and encompasses unique traditions, but not every Japanese restaurant actually offers authentic dishes. Many food establishments have altered the traditional recipes to fit local tastes or put a creative spin on the dishes, at times fusing them with flavours often seen in the cuisine of another country.

These adapted recipes leave some wondering whether you can find authentic Japanese restaurants in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. To help you determine which Japanese restaurants offer a traditional experience and which have modernized these foods based on emerging trends, here are some tips for identifying authenticity.

Steamed Rice

In Japan, steamed rice is a major component of almost every dish. Sushi restaurants rely on sticky rice to help bind ingredients together and create a satiating meal while other dishes include it as a side. In most cases, short grain rice is the most authentic version, as well as sushi rice or Japonica rice. Other variants aren’t as commonly used in traditional Japanese cuisine and may indicate that a restaurant is taking their dishes in a less authentic direction.

Green Tea

Many authentic Japanese restaurants in Dubai and abu Dhabi offer green tea. Matcha, a powdered green tea, is traditionally associated with Japanese tea ceremonies, a performance that is said to be highly influenced by Zen Buddhist traditions.

The presence or lack of green tea in a restaurant’s menu does not guarantee authenticity. However, adding this beverage to your meal can make the experience feel more authentic.

Even though tea was originally produced in China, it has been a large part of the Japanese culture for hundreds of years, with the first documented reference dating back to the 9th century. The long history associated with its use in Japan typically makes it a traditional part of Japanese dining and culture.

Tempura

Fried fish, shrimp, and vegetables are also common in traditional Japanese cooking, but how they are prepared can give you hints regarding the authenticity. Most Japanese restaurants in Dubai and Abu Dhabi will use the traditional tempura batter, which produces a light, crispy exterior. Panko breadcrumbs are also frequently used. The batter uses only flour, eggs, and water, and the limited mixing helps avoid the stickiness that can be associated with other doughs since the wheat gluten isn’t activated during the process.

If a restaurant creates these seafood or vegetable components using other batters or frying methods, it likely isn’t to be very authentic, though the flavour and texture can still be quite enjoyable.

It is important to note that tempura was technically developed in Portugal, but was popularized by the Japanese. It was integrated into Japanese cuisine in the 16th century, hence why it is considered part of traditional Japanese food.

Ramen

A popular Japanese noodle dish, ramen features boiled noodles served in various broths and with differing toppings. Chefs in Japan actually go through a significant amount of training to create a high-quality ramen dish.

Authentic ramen will include freshly made noodles and broths, as well as ingredients that were commonly used in Japanese cuisine. However, updated variants are plentiful, and some Japanese restaurants in Dubai and Abu Dhabi don’t make their noodles in house, choosing to use dried options similar to those you find prepackaged in grocery stores.

To see if you are purchasing a traditional ramen dish, you may want to inquire as to whether the noodles are freshly made and examine the ingredients to see if they are authentic. Often, the broth will be soy, vegetable, meat or fish based and flavoured with soy sauce or miso, and the soup will include vegetables and meat, though vegetarian options are available. Some common vegetables include kelp, onions, and shiitake mushrooms, which the meats can be fish, beef, or chicken. Eggs and tofu are also regularly used, and butter may be included.

It is important to note that miso is actually a relatively recent creation as it didn’t reach prominence until approximately 1965. However, it was developed in Japan, so is typically considered authentic.

Sushi and Sashimi

Traditional sushi is actually incredibly simple. It features a small piece of raw seafood that is placed on top of a ball of rice that has been flavoured with vinegar. Other authentic options feature cucumber, pickled daikon, or even egg.

Sashimi refers to slices of raw fish. These are meant to be eaten alone, often with a side of soy sauce for dipping.

Rolls and the sushi burrito, a new food trend taking the country by storm, are actually adapted or modernized takes on sushi. The rolls have been around for some time, so they are still considered highly authentic depending on the components used. However, updated offerings don’t reflect traditional Japanese culture.

For example, the California roll, which features crab, avocado, and cucumber. This updated take on authentic Japanese cuisine is credited with increasing the popularity of sushi throughout the world. However, it is said to potentially have been invented by Ichiro Mashita, a sushi chef at Tokyo Kaikan in Los Angeles, in the 1960s or Hidekazu Tojo, a Japanese chef who migrated to Vancouver, Canada, in the 1970s.

Similarly, many sushi restaurants include house creations on their menus. While they may contain traditional ingredients, like salmon, tuna, and cucumber, they aren’t technically authentic and may include items that wouldn’t be found in classic Japanese cuisine.

Can You Find Authentic Japanese Restaurants in the UAE?

For those who prefer a traditional experience, you’ll be happy to know that authentic Japanese cuisine is available in the UAE. Some restaurants will specialize in more traditional dishes and cooking methods while others will combine classic options with more modern takes on the food.

Sushi restaurants are often a great example a combined authentic and updated experience, as traditional options are readily available and classic flavours are used in modern variants, like sushi burritos. You’ll also find modernized ingredient combinations, such as those featuring avocado, or fusion dishes that combine Japanese cuisine with flavours typically associated with other regions. If you’re hoping for an authentic meal, make sure to read the menu to see what items are included and which cooking techniques are used, following some of the tips above. That way, you can get the authentic Japanese eating experience you’re hoping to find.

How to find Authentic Japanese Restaurants in Dubai and Abu Dhabi?

Japanese cuisine is full of flavour, and encompasses unique traditions, but not every Japanese restaurant actually offers authentic dishes. Many food establishments have altered the traditional recipes to fit local tastes or put a creative spin on the dishes, at times fusing them with flavours often seen in the cuisine...