Transform your sushi into an unforgettable meal with these 12 Japanese-inspired side dishes. From tempura and miso soup to gyoza dumplings and matcha ice cream, these sides are sure to delight.
Whether it’s with sake, ahi, ebi, kani, or unagi, these sides are so good, they will surely take you to sushi heaven.
When it comes to Japanese food, my mind instantly thinks of sushi. There are a few varieties of sushi, such as maki (sushi rolls), temaki (sushi cones), nigiri (oblong-shaped sushi), and chirashi (sushi bowl). But whatever shape or form it may take, I don’t care, I just want it all in my belly!
If you think about it, the dish is simple – it’s vinegared rice rolled in nori (seaweed) and topped with (typically raw) seafood and vegetables. But somehow, it’s just so darn good.
It has just the right balance of savory and sour; and because it makes use of only fresh and healthy ingredients, you know it’s good for you!
To be honest, I don’t mind eating sushi on its own (with soy sauce and a little bit of wasabi, of course). But, considering that there are a plethora of foods that go well with sushi, why not add them to your meal?
As the star of the meal, though, you want simple sides that will complement, instead of overpower. To help you out, I’ve gathered some of the best sides, desserts, and drinks that will transform your sushi into an unforgettable meal.
1. Miso Soup
Japanese meals always have soup in it, so this is a must if you’re eating sushi. There are two basic types of Japanese soup: suimono or clear soup, and miso soup.
Miso is made of dashi stock and miso paste. It has two main solid ingredients with contrasting flavors: tofu and negi or spring onion.
2. Gari or Pickled Ginger
Fun fact: Gari or pickled ginger is not a side dish, but it’s often served with sushi to serve as a palate cleanser in between bites.
And do you know why it has that bright pink hue? Authentic pickled ginger makes use of baby ginger for its milder flavor and softer consistency. And it happens to have a pink tip, hence the color.
Baby ginger is difficult to find, though, so a lot of Japanese restaurants use regular ginger and add food coloring instead.
Oh, how I love this Japanese dish! It’s so easy to make and boy is it addictive. Whether it’s shrimp or vegetable tempura, I’m down. Whenever I go to a Japanese restaurant, the two things I order are: sushi and tempura. To me, it’s a classic combo.
Want to make tempura at home? Here’s the secret to that crisp and fluffy batter (nope, it’s not panko breadcrumbs) – combine wheat flour with iced water, then mix it in small batches with chopsticks.
As for that delicious dip, just combine boiled water, dashi, soy sauce, and mirin.
Edamame are soybeans in the pod. They give a nice crunchy contrast to your soft sushi, making it a great side! To prepare edamame, blanch the beans in 4% salt water. And then just boil or steam them until cooked.
Gyoza is Japanese half-moon shaped dumplings with minced pork filling. For sushi, though, I like to use vegetable filling to complement its seafood topping.
To make the filling, combine shiitake mushrooms, cabbage, carrots, onion, garlic chives, and minced ginger. Then wrap that gorgeous filling in dumpling wrappers.
To cook, you can either deep fry or boil your gyoza, just like you would with perogies.
Give your sushi a sweet and smoky side by infusing it with teriyaki flavors. Marinate eggplant slices in teriyaki sauce for a few minutes and fry them in olive oil. Yum!
7. Kani Salad
Contrary to popular belief, kani salad is actually not a traditional Japanese dish. But, since it makes use of Japanese ingredients – kani or imitation crab meat, in particular – it still gives off a Japanese vibe.
And you know what I love about this Japanese-American dish? It’s so easy to make! Just combine kani, lettuce, cucumber, carrots, and Japanese mayo.
For a sweeter salad, add some mango slices. Not only will it add another layer of flavor, but a nice pop of color, too. Oh, and if it’s in season, how about some avocado slices for a rich and nutty twist?
8. Seaweed Salad
Seaweed salad is another refreshing side that will counterbalance the heaviness of the rice in sushi. It’s both easy to prepare and so good for the body.
Give your seaweeds a nice dressing by combining miso, soy sauce, sesame oil, mirin, rice vinegar, yuzu sauce, sesame seeds, chili, and salt.
Don’t worry, these foreign-sounding ingredients are available in Asian stores. And together, they make a wonderful sauce!
The Japanese egg roll has a stunning sweetness to it, thanks to some sugar and mirin. Whether you serve it on the side or as a filling, tamagoyaki is definitely an enjoyable sushi pairing.
10. Green Tea
Green tea is the drink of the Japanese. They drink it for breakfast, lunch, afternoon break… basically all the time. It’s not because of the taste, though, but for its curative properties and healthful benefits.
It’s such a staple that Japanese restaurants serve green tea, either hot or iced, for free. So, without a doubt, if you’re eating sushi, green tea should be your only choice of beverage.
The Japanese are not big on sweets. Their desserts comprise simple flavors that aren’t too overwhelmingly sweet.
Dango, for instance, a mochi-like dumpling, is eaten more than anything to counterbalance the bitterness of green tea.
It usually has a red bean paste, matcha, and other mildly sweet fillings. One serving typically comprises three different-colored dangos fastened in a skewer.
If it seems familiar to you, that’s because it’s an emoji! You see those pink, white, and green balls on a stick? That’s dango!
12. Matcha Ice Cream
Last on our list is the traditional Japanese dessert, the matcha ice cream. Matcha has a distinct bitter flavor and powdery taste, but when turned into ice cream, it’s amazing. It’s the best way to end a Japanese meal.