Japanese cuisine often carries a halo of clean eating – especially when compared to other foods in the region. Where people may associate breaded meats and sweet sticky sauces with Chinese takeout, Japanese food conjures imagines of seafood, vegetables, and light broths that leave you feeling satisfied but not weighed down. That image may be changing as chefs are starting to highlight some of Japan’s more indulgent dishes. This year, look for these meal trends with Japanese roots.

Takoyaki

Takoyaki are a quintessential Japanese street food. The pan fried octopus fritters, that originated in Osaka, are becoming more popular on menus in the United States. Traditionally served with takoyaki sauce (think Japanese Worcestershire sauce) and mayonnaise, these little dumplings are perfect for a chef to show off his or her creativity in the sauce department.

Okonomiyaki

Another street food making its way to US menus is okonomiyaki – Japanese savory pancakes. The name of the game here is customization, taking a pretty neutral pancake base and dressing it up with a wide range of toppings. I’ll take pork belly, cauliflower, and a generous drizzle of mayonnaise but the sky is really the limit on this dish.

Ramen

Ramen shops seem to have popped up all over the place in the past few years and we could not be more thrilled. Gone are the days of salty instant broth prepared in dorm room microwaves (c’mon, you remember those days), ramen is now all about comfort in a bowl. Rich thick broths served with fatty pork, soft boiled eggs, and noodles make welcome meals for all occasions.

Katsu Curry

The ultimate rib-sticking comfort dish, katsu curry is a flavorful sauce loaded with fruits and vegetables served over meat. This curry is often made with apples and potatoes, and dished up with a deep fried pork cutlet. Katsu curry is salty, sweet, and meaty – and about as far from healthful eating as you can get.

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