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Exploring Japanese Flavors in Abu Dhabi

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Appetizing cuts of raw fished artistically rolled with or laid on bite-sized morsels of rice. Heartwarming noodles with melt in your mouth meat for toppings. Perfectly fried seafood and vegetables in a light batter. 

Sushi, ramen, and tempura are Japan’s gastronomic pride, and they have overtaken the world. 

This is why, if you find yourself in Abu Dhabi, and you love Japanese food, you are in for a treat. The city is home to the best Japanese restaurants, and it is where you can enjoy expertly made sushi and other traditional Japanese foods that are not only a feast for the eyes but also a complete delight for the palate, with their delectable depth of flavor.

Not only that, complementing the satisfying experience of eating Japanese food is the lovely interior design of the restaurants. You will find that the best places to treat yourself to sushi, ramen, and other Nippon treats, make sure that dining is a full-bodied experience by providing an elegant ambiance to go with their expertly-prepared cuisine.

So, if you suddenly have a hankering for the lovely flavors of Japanese food while exploring Abu Dhabi, taking a detour for gastronomic purposes will not be a problem. And to make your Japanese food experience in the capital more meaningful, shared below is a list of interesting facts about your all-time favorite Japanese fare.

1. Sushi rice is called shari.

The Japanese call the steamed Japonica rice blended with vinegar that is used for sushi “shari.” The vinegar used for shari is not just meant to add flavor; it also serves as an antibacterial agent for the sushi.

2. It takes training just to prepare the shari.

Skill and experience are necessary for preparing the rice for sushi. There is a special way of mixing the rice with a paddle to make sure that the grain does not break and become mushy. 

Also, fanning is crucial not only to cool down the rice but also to control the moisture, which creates the shiny appearance and chewy consistency of the rice.

3. There is a big difference between machine-assembled sushi and handmade sushi.

The main difference between machine-assembled sushi and a handmade one is how packed the shari is. The former’s rice is all squished together, which alters the texture and flavor of the sushi. 

Meanwhile, the sushi created by a true sushi master has air pockets, and not a single grain is broken. Therefore, every bite is more delightful.

4. Tuna is considered the best fish for sushi.

Although this is a debatable claim, most sushi experts agree that tuna is the perfect fish for sushi because of its medium-fatty composition, which is similar to the marbling on beef.

This composition creates that melt-in-your-mouth experience that a lot of people love in sushi.

5. For ramen, it’s the broth that really determines the flavor.

Ramen used to be just a late-night snack in Japan, but nowadays, it’s considered a complete meal in itself and is enjoyed everywhere as so. 

The broth is responsible for the different flavors of ramen. For traditional Japanese ramen, the broths are often made using flavorful bones, or fresh, dried, or frozen seafood.

6. Authentic Japanese ramen makes use of seasonal ingredients.

To achieve the best flavors for any noodle dish, it is essential for authentic Japanese restaurants to capitalize on seasonal local ingredients. This is believed to be the best way to create the most distinct and satisfying flavors.

For example, summer vegetables in Japan typically include edamame, eggplant, shiso or perilla, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Vegetables that are abundant during winter include turnips, daikon radish, cabbage, renkon (lotus root), and Chinese cabbage.  

7. Tempura preserves the natural flavors of the ingredients underneath the batter.

Not much is done to the ingredients coated by the tempura batter. The most seasoning for tempura is just a bit of salt, which is not that common a practice in most Japanese restaurants. 

According to history, tempura is a fusion of Japanese and Western fried foods, and it became popular in Japan during the 18th century. Tempura is popular the world over because everybody enjoys the crisp coating and the soft and moist ingredient inside.

Enjoy your culinary journey

As a cultural melting pot, Abu Dhabi offers the authentic flavors of the world to foodies, which basically means that the Japanese food scene in the capital is never a disappointment. 

There’s something for everybody. 

Apart from traditional Nippon fare, the best Japanese restaurants also offer exciting fusion fare and innovative recipes rooted in traditional Japanese cooking. Plus, there is a large selection of vegan options for non-meat and non-dairy consumers as well.


Chiara Bisignani is the F&B Marketing Executive at Saadiyat Beach Club. She oversees website maintenance, PR requests, marketing initiatives and all general guests’ enquiries for the company’s destinations of KOI Restaurant & Lounge, Boa Steakhouse and Caramel Restaurant and Lounge in Abu Dhabi.