“Comfort food” is traditional cooking that tends to have a nostalgic or sentimental connection, often one related to family or childhood. Because of such memories, these foods comfort us, especially when we’re longing for home or feeling especially vulnerable or sick.
Not surprisingly, the sentimental Japanese have their own comfort foods. Many Japanese comfort foods have a rice connection and may even center around the unique relationship between mothers or wives and their role in family food preparation.
Japanese Comfort Foods
What do the Japanese usually eat if they feel like they are catching a cold? In Japan, negi (green onion) and ginger are often consumed, as these are said to keep our bodies warm. Here are some of the traditional Japanese comfort foods.
- Okayu: Japanese rice porridge. It is often eaten when people are not feeling well. The porridge has a very mild taste and it’s easy to digest, making it a perfect food when you don’t have much of an appetite. Okayu is usually made from white rice and water. The water to rice ratio could be anything from 20 to 5 times as much water as rice. The most popular topping is Umeboshi. Umeboshi is sour and salty pickled plum, and its taste goes very well with rice. You could also cook Okayu with eggs or sweet potatoes.
- Shogayu (Hot Ginger Drink): In Japanese “Shoga” means ginger and “yu” means hot water, so “Shoga yu” refers to ginger tea, a home remedy used to treat the common cold. This soothing and spicy herbal tea certainly warms up the body. Mix 2 teaspoons of grated ginger and 2 teaspoons of sugar in a cup, and pour 2/3 cup of hot water in the cup. Use fresh ginger root to make shogayu.
- Negi-Miso-Yu (Hot Green Onion Drink): Colds in Japan call for remedies that warm the body, with ginger and negi (green onion) being traditional ingredients in hot drinks and soups. Try Negi-miso-yu, a hot green onion drink. Just add 1 tablespoon of chopped green onion and 2 teaspoons of miso into a soup cup and fill with boiling water. Let steep until cool enough to drink; do not strain.
- Zosui: Also known as ojiya, is a mild and thin Japanese rice soup akin to a vegetable soup with lots of rice. Leftover soup from nabe is often re-used for zosu with pre-cooked rice. It is seasoned with either soy sauce or miso and cooked with other ingredients such as meat, seafood, mushrooms, and vegetables. It is generally served to those who are sick or otherwise feeling unwell and is usually only served in the winter. Instead of rice, udon and ramen noodles are decent alternatives.
- Tamago-zake: This recipe is made by heating up sake (very hot) and adding a fresh raw egg to it. It's the Japanese cousin of eggnog. The classic recipe calls for a raw beaten egg, a shot of honey and about six ounces of hot sake, downed quickly. Some older recipes call for freshly grated ginger as well as the egg. The taste of the Tamago-zake is very rich and hearty.
- Spaghetti napolitan: also known as spaghetti naporitan, is a Japanese style pasta dish made with a sauce that is tomato ketchup based. This particular style of Japanese pasta is considered "yoshoku" cuisine, or western cuisine with unique Japanese influences and is typically made at home.