Japanese Flavor Influence

In excited anticipation of the 2020 Olympics, US tourism to Japan is increasing along with a focus on that country in general – including its cuisine. While ramen, sushi, and matcha have been widely embraced across the US, interest in Japanese cuisine is now growing extensively. People are finding more and more Japanese dishes on American menus and store shelves, as well as shared by their peers on social media.


Looking for hard evidence that it’s worth putting resources into Japanese flavors? Since 2015, there has been a 22% increase in Japanese dishes on American menus. Mentions of ramen on restaurant menus grew by 44% in the same period. Japanese whiskey is also gaining more popularity, even leading to a 2018 shortage.


One of the specific areas where consumers can’t seem to get enough Japanese influence is in street foods, a longtime favorite now enjoying new twists. Food trucks are offering fare such as takoyaki, deep-fried octopus balls topped with mayonnaise, scallions, and bonito flakes. Okonomiyaki is another popular Osaka-based snack; this favorite is a savory pancake made with ingredients such as eggs, meat, cabbage, and condiments. Not to be outdone, dessert is claiming its own place in the food truck spotlight with options such as imagawayaki, a Japanese dessert cake stuffed with red bean paste.


Street food isn’t the only format now seeing a strong Japanese influence. Thanks primarily to social media, awareness of many Japanese dishes is growing. From soufflé pancakes topped with matcha butter to katsu sandwiches made of Japanese milk bread, fried pork, cabbage, and tonkatsu sauce, new and unexpected Japanese treats are everywhere. We’re also seeing many seasonings popular in Japan such as katsuobushi, a dried, flaked fish, as well as furikake, a dry seasoning usually containing dried fish, chopped seaweed, sesame seeds, sugar, and salt. Ingredients such as these are also used to flavor non-Japanese menu items, snacks, retail products, and more.


These ideas represent just a fraction of the ways Japanese flavor influence is being incorporated on menus and shelves this year; there are countless others to discover (and create). Restaurants and flavor companies can explore these dishes and their regional variations, finding unique ways to showcase their origins and nuances. This exploration is also an excellent opportunity to create fusion cuisine based on Japanese foods – for example; you might replace the octopus in takoyaki with beef and top the savory fried balls with barbecue instead of mayo. Whatever ideas you come up with, we can help you create the authentic flavors you want.