Yohshoku or yoshoku (or youshoku): Japanese-style Western cuisine

So far I have been writing about Japanese foods that are quite traditional. The flavors are based on the SaShiSuSeSo of sugar, salt, rice vinegar, soy sauce and miso, plus the all-important dashi soup stock. In Japan, this kind of food is called washoku, or quite literally “Japanese food”.

Washoku is not the only kind of “Japanese cuisine” however. Japanese culture has always freely incorporated ideas and aspects of other cultures, often adapting it to an extent that it somehow becomes uniquely Japanese. Food is no exception. Chinese food (mostly of Cantonese origin), called chuuka has been incorporated into everyday household cooking, so that some items are as familiar as onigiri or miso soup. Many European style dishes have been incorporated too, and adapted to Japanese tastes. These adapted European style of cooking is called yohshoku or youshoku, which can be translated as “Western food”.

Yohshoku is not the same as imported cuisines that have been kept true to their origins. There are as many authentic Italian, French, and other restaurants in Tokyo as there are in any other major international city. Yohshoku is western style cuisine that was introduced a long time ago, and the well known dishes in this genre would be totally foreign in any other country. Some items that were originally introduced as yohshoku are so well entrenched in Japanese food culture that they straddle the line between washoku (Japanese) and yohshoku (Western).

In the last few decades as more Japanese people traveled overseas and the demand for “authentic” foreign cuisine increased, yohshoku became rather unfashionable. However in the last decade or so, yohshoku has made a comeback of sorts, on a wave of nostalgia for anything associated with the Showa period (the reign of the former Emperior Hirohito). There are even some celebrity chefs, such as Gucchi Yuzo, who specialize in re-introducing modernized versions of yohshoku.

Typical yohshoku items include things like omuraisu (rice omelette), hayashi raisu (hashed beef stew), kareh raisu (Japanese style curry), korokke (croquettes), hambaagaa (Japanese style hamburger), tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet), gyuudon (beef bowl) and howaito shichuu (stew made with a bechamel sauce).

Recipes (so far) on Just Hungry for these items, to be updated as they’re added:

[Update:] See my take on that NY Times article about yohshoku!

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Yohshoku: Japanese-style Western cuisine

Talking about Japanese-style Western cuisine:

30 years ago - when I was a very young man - I went together with some friends to a japanese restaurant in Hamburg, Germany. The menu card was written only in japanese signs so we didn't understand it. There were no pictures on the card. Well, everybody pointed the various menu items and ordered their meal. I had the meal with the most fanciful signs. We all waited.

I was the very last one who was served. I got ... a Wiener Schnitzel and a cold beer! The meet was sliced so I could eat it with sticks. That was my very first experience with a japanese dish. Years later my second chance was a original Kobe Steak in Japan. Great.

Jim | 5 January, 2004 - 16:53

Yohshoku: Japanese-style Western cuisine

Jim that's a funny story :) I bet the kobe steak was a little bit better, hehe.

maki | 5 January, 2004 - 19:56

Yohshoku: Japanese-style Western cuisine

i'm making a report of japanese food and i was wondering... what would yakiniku (korean only or japanese too?), nabemono, karaagemono (tori no karaage, nankotsu no karaage), yakitori be considered: washoku or youshoku?

and what about food introduced in the XVI-XVIII centuries by portuguese and co. like tempura?

does it depend on the person or there is kind of a fixed rule that says "this is youshoku, this is not"? --> am i wrong when i say i have the feeling that around 50-70% of nowadays japanese food has been introduced during the last century by europeans and chinese?

hope this are not too many difficult questions! thanks in advance!

elisa | 28 February, 2004 - 05:46

yakiniku

It’s originally Korean BBQ, but of course changed a little to suit Japanese tastes. The term itself was a compromise to be apolitical, and not call it hankuk (ROK) or choson (DPRK) food. Supposedly it’s similar in meaning to bulgogi.

anon. | 7 March, 2007 - 15:11

Yohshoku: Japanese-style Western cuisine

Elisa, generally speaking Yohshoku refers to (mostly) western-Europe influenced cuisine, introduced in the Showa era (the previous Emperor's reign) and later. Some earlier types of dishes with overseas influences now stand on their own, such as tempura or gyuudon. (Karaage is sort of considered to be Chinese, because "kara" is one of the old terms for China.)

Generally speaking, food that's served at restaurants generally regarded as being "authentic yohshoku" restuarants is considered to be yohshoku. Yohshoku is usually prepared using old-world European techniques like using roux for thickening sauces, using a demiglasse base, and so on. Actually, yohshoku is a nostalgia category nowadays in Japan, as many things from the Showa era are, because there really are only very few restaurants that only serve "yohshoku". There's even one popular cooking celebrity (Gucci Yuzo) who specializes in "introducing a new generation to the joys of yohshoku". "Family restaurants" in Japan nowadays serve all kinds of cuisine - Korean, Thai, "Indian" curry, etc. But ask any Japanese person whether a dish is yohshoku or not and they'd probably know. A rice omelette is yohshoku. Nasi goreng isn't.

I just pulled out a book about yohshoku and here are some of the dishes they have there: beef stew, hashed rice (hayashi raisu - a stew variant), "Japanese-style" curry (which is really another stew variant), white stew (made with a bechamel), rice omelette (omu raisu), potato croquettes (korokke), tonkatsu, menchi katsu (breaded deep-fried hamburgers), various soups, even spaghetti bolognese (made with ground meat though, not a real ragu), spaghetti napoletan (which probably has nothing to do with Naples at all - it's basically various sauteed vegetables and a bit of ham and shrimp mixed with spaghetti). Even things like roast beef, meatloaf, and hamburger (but this is more like Salisbury steak, with onion, breadcrumbs and egg mixed in the beef, rather than American style plain-beef burgers) are classified as Yohshoku.

In a way, it's almost like immigrant food without the immigrants! (Such as, spaghetti and meatballs with red sauce being Italian-American rather than "authentic Italian", if that makes sense.)

Sure, a lot of food has been introduced into Japan from other countries in the last century...but you can say that about almost any country I think. When I went to England last year for instance we barely had any "authentic British cuisine" except for a delicious cream tea at Fortnum and Mason - but we had lots of great Indian, Moroccan, Chinese, Italian...etc.

maki | 29 February, 2004 - 09:05
elisa | 29 February, 2004 - 16:05

TrackBack from jimmiz journal:
Heute habe ich bei typepad ein Blogg entdeckt mit dem witzigen Namen

jimmiz journal | 5 January, 2004 - 20:35

TrackBack from bite by byte:
You'd think the Japanese would have come by their curry via India. Nosiree, Bob-san. Our mates the Brits took it from India and sailed with it to Japan in the late nineteenth century. In an early show of the...

bite by byte | 24 January, 2006 - 08:10

TrackBack from bite by byte:
You'd think the Japanese would have come by their curry via India. Nosiree, Bob-san. Our mates the Brits took it from India and sailed with it to Japan in the late nineteenth century. In an early show of the...

bite by byte | 27 January, 2006 - 04:44

another youshoku recipes ^^

There’re a youshoku restaurant in my city, and they serve very nice hamburgers! I’d like to try some menchi katsu someday :)

Anyway, Maki, if you have the time, can you post a recipe of ‘guratan’ or ‘doria’? oh btw, my japanese friend loves doria but she couldn’t explain what that exactly is to me… would you mind explaining what doria is?

Thanks before ^^ hope you’re not suffering too long from your surgery ;) you’ll recover soon enough ^^

Mei Ying | 30 March, 2008 - 13:43

A doria is a rice gratin

A doria is a rice gratin basically…rice is usually sauteed with some chicken or fish, vegetables, etc. then it’s baked with a cream sauce or a bechamel sauce on top (and sometimes with cheese and/or breadcrumbs sprinkled on top). Guratan is gratin, where macaroni is used instead of rice. I don’t make either that much but when I do I’ll post it :) (as you can guess neither are that ‘healthy’ per se.)

maki | 31 March, 2008 - 09:58

Re: Yohshoku or youshoku: Japanese-style Western cuisine

Bhernie

Hello! I like your site so much... Can you help me find your Yakisoba recipe? Thanks & more power!

Bhernie | 13 July, 2009 - 01:27

Re: Yohshoku or yoshoku (or youshoku): Japanese-style ...

Is makizushi actually Japanese or not because I am very confuse whether it is or not. I know California rolls are Western but what type of makizushi is Japanese. I just do not want to be dissapointed that my favourite type of sushi is actually not Japanese.

anon. | 20 November, 2010 - 22:31

Re: Yohshoku or yoshoku (or youshoku): Japanese-style ...

Makizushi 巻き寿司 just means 'rolled sushi', and the shape itself did originate in Japan, but the fillings are another story. Basically the fancy Dragon Rolls and things of that nature that you might find at a run of the mill sushi restaurant in the US were 'invented' elsewhere. Things like cucumber rolls (kappa maki), tuna rolls (tekka maki), futomaki (which has omelette, cooked shiitake, etc), kanpyou maki (dried gourd rolls)...are all Japanese. But if you enjoy eating something, why worry about whether it's 'Japanese' or not? ^_^

maki | 21 November, 2010 - 15:45

Re: Yohshoku or yoshoku (or youshoku): Japanese-style ...

If "yoshoku" refers to Japanised western food what is the word that refers to westernised Japanse food??? An example of westernised Japanese food might be a dorayaki filled with cream and chocolate instead of a more traditional filling such as red bean paste. I had come across a word for westernised Japanese food in a blog one and can't find it now. I guess it would be the reverse of yoshoku. Anyone know if there's an appropriate term in Japanese for this?

Katie Christoffers | 6 May, 2011 - 15:34

Re: Yohshoku or yoshoku (or youshoku): Japanese-style ...

There really is no widespread, well established word for what you are describing. Some people call such sweet things 'Wa suiitsu' (和スイーツ、"Wa" (Japanese) sweets) but that term is also used to describe all "Wa" style sweet things, including traditional ones (the more traditional term for them is wagashi). Another way of describing west-meets-Japanese food might be 'wayou setchuu' (和洋折衷), a term that can be applied to anything, food or otherwise, that's a meeting of Japanese + western/European something. Really though, if something edible becomes western enough, even if it's originally Japanese, it becomes a part of the whole yoshoku category I think.

maki | 7 May, 2011 - 08:55

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