Best Japanese Dish and Alcoholic Drink Pairings

Check what Japanese foods match well with your favorite beverages

Best Japanese Dishes and Alcoholic Drink Pairings

Japanese food is good. If you clicked on this article, I’m sure you agree with me. Sushi, ramen, tempura, and so much more.

All these foods are tasty by themselves, but if you enjoy combining a good alcoholic drink with your meal, then it is important to know which foods pair well with which drinks.

In this article, I will introduce to you the best Japanese dishes and alcoholic drink pairings. Hopefully, when you come and visit Japan, this article will come in handy.

Best Dishes for Beer


Although there are many types of beer (each having its own characteristics), in general, having a bubbly, rich, and bitter taste is what characterizes most beers.

The following are the best Japanese foods to pair with your favorite beer.

1. Edamame

edamameEdamame (枝豆) is arguably the most commonly ordered dish at izakayas. It refers to immature soybeans in the pod that is either boiled or steamed. Sprinkle some salt to add some flavor, and you will have what many consider to be the best Otsumami of them all.

2. Yakitori

yakitoriYakitori (焼き鳥) consists of bite-sized grilled chicken skewers. It might sound simple at first, but pretty much any part of the chicken is used as a type of yakitori; from the regular breast meat and thigh meat, to chicken cartilage, heart, liver, and chicken skin.

3. Hiyayakko

hiyayakkoHiyayakko (冷奴) is simply cold tofu with some toppings such as sliced green onion, katsuobushi (sliced bonito flakes), paste ginger, and soy sauce. Do not be deceived by its simplicity, though, it is a dish that is both refreshing and has a stong taste that will pair well with your nice cold beer.

Best Dishes for Sake

Japanese sakeJapanese sake can have a wide variety of flavors and textures, so it’s not easy to say all sake will match foods the same way. However, there are some Japanese dishes that match sake, no matter what brand you choose or how you decide to drink it.

The following are the best Japanese foods to pair with your favorite Sake.

4. Sashimi

sashimiSashimi (刺身) is a well-known Japanese dish that many have on their list when coming to Japan. It consists of an assortment of raw slices of different types of fish and other types of seafood. Pretty much any Izakaya will have its own assortment of sashimi which may change depending on the season.

5. Sushi

sushiSushi (寿司), just like in the case with sashimi, is well known so it doesn’t need much of an introduction. depending on the type of sake you choose, the type of fish topping that pairs well with that sake can vary. A good balanced Japanese sake that isn’t either too sweet or too dry is what will match perfectly with any such topping.

6. Dashimaki Tamago

dashimaki tamagoDashimaki Tamago (だし巻き卵) is another izakaya dish that you will mostly find on every izakaya menu. it is rolled egg flavored with dashi (a type of stock). because of this, it doesn’t just taste like a fried egg.

Best Dishes for Whisky


Similar to Japanese sake, whisky is another drink that can have a wide variety of flavors depending on the brand. So in this article, I will share with you Japanese dishes that will match nicely with most kinds of whisky.

The following are the best Japanese foods to pair with your favorite whisky.

7. Wagyu steak

wagyuWagyu steak (和牛ステーキ) is another internationally well-known delicacy. The secret to choosing a good steak that matches well with whisky is that it has little fat in it. If the steak has too much fat, it may affect negatively the taste and texture of your whisky.

8. Potato croquette

Potato croquette

I just mentioned that too much fat is not good to pair with whisky. However, a certain amount can be a good match. Potato croquette (コロッケ) is usually a dish that is served at home. However, there are many restaurants and Izakaya where you can order this.

9. Karaage

karaageKaraage (からあげ) refers to any fried food, but in most cases, it refers to chicken. There are many types such as the regular bone-less Karaage, Tatsuta-age (chicken coated with starch instead of flour, and with tartar sauce on top), and Nankotsu Karaage (fried chicken cartilage). This matches perfectly with whisky highball.

Best Dishes for Shochu

shochuShochu is a traditional distilled Japanese alcoholic beverage that you should definitely try if you like trying different alcoholic drinks from different countries (and, of course, if you’re over the allowed drinking age).

The following are the best Japanese foods to pair with your favorite Shochu.

10. Tempura

tempuraTempura (天ぷら) is yet another popular Japanese dish many foreign visitors have on their list of foods to eat when they come to Japan. Tempura is usually enjoyed without adding too much flavor. That is why shochu, which is clean in taste, is said to pair perfectly.

11. Oden


Another typical Japanese food that is loved by most Japanese is Oden (おでん). Oden is a pot-dish consisting of many ingredients such as boiled egg, daikon (white radish), konnyaku (yam cake), and processed fishcakes. It is served with dashi broth, which pairs perfectly with shochu.

12. Gyoza

gyozaGyoza (餃子) are Japanese dumplings that you can order at pretty much any izakaya restaurant in Japan. These are usually served along with a dipping sauce made from soy sauce, vinegar, and chili oil. It has a pronounced flavor that can be well complemented by a clear-taste shochu.

Best Dishes for Wine

red and white wine

Japanese food might not come to your mind when thinking about food to pair with wine. But there are dishes that will compliment nicely when eaten alongside a nice glass of red or white wine.

The following are the best Japanese foods to pair with your favorite wine.

13. Hamburger steak

Hamburger steakHamburger steak (ハンバーグ) is just what it sounds; a hamburger patty made with ground beef, panko (breadcrumbs), and small pieces of onions (and sometimes carots). It can be served in many different ways, usually, it comes with Demi-glaze sauce. No matter how it is served, it will match beautifully with a nice red wine.

14. Nikujaga

NikujagaNikujaga (肉じゃが) literally means “meat and potatoes”. It is Japanese house recipe that consists of stewed meat and vegetables. Although it is a dish you will most likely encounter when visiting someone at their home, you can also order this at restaurants and izakaya. White wine will pair nicely (white wine usually does with many Japanese dishes), but if you want to go with a red wine, as long as it’s mid to light-body.

15. Saba no Misoni

Saba Misoni

And lastly, we have Saba no Misoni (鯖の味噌煮). It consists of mackerel fillet simmered in a miso sauce. Just like the previous dish, this is also a home dish that can also be ordered at izakaya. This pairs very well with red wine. You might think white wine matches better since it’s fish, but red wine compliments well with the strong taste that the miso adds to the mackerel.

I hope you enjoyed this article about the best Japanese dishes and alcoholic drink pairings. If you like Japanese alcoholic drinks, make sure to check out the following articles.

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Written by

Born and raised in Costa Rica, I started living in Tokyo from college. I love traveling within Japan & around the world. Since I wasn’t born in Japan, I know the cultural impact that you can get when visiting Japan for the first time and what you might be worried about before your trip. And I’ve lived long enough to somewhat understand the nuances of the Japanese culture that make this country such an attractive place to visit. Hopefully I can provide to you both the information you’re looking for and the information you didn’t know you needed to know.