The common type of Japanese Meal: Teishoku(定食)
When you think of what Japanese people eat every day, you may imagine they eat sushi, ramen, tempura, katsudon, or other dishes that come in one bowl or plate. However, in fact, Japanese people eat “teishoku”- a set meal that comes with the main dish, rice, miso soup, and side dishes - more often than one-bowl/one-plate dish.
This page introduces the definition of teishoku, common types of teishoku, and where you can have teishoku in Japan. Let’s see a distinctive aspect of Japanese food culture.
What is teishoku (定食)?
Teishoku means “set meal,” which composes the main, rice, miso soup, and side dishes such as pickled vegetables (tsukemono) or tofu. Teishoku is served in the form of “Ichi-ju-san-sai” (one soup and three dishes), one soup indicating miso soup and three dishes indicating the main and side dishes. Rice is not counted as three dishes because rice is a staple food in the Japanese cuisine. Ichi-ju-san-sai is thought to be what makes a well-balanced, nutritious meal because of the perfect balance of carbohydrate, protein, and fat.
Varieties of dishes are offered as the main in teishoku. Common types of main dishes include grilled items (usually pork or chicken), broiled items (fish such as salmon), deep-fried items (including tonkatsu, karaage, and tempura), and stir-fried items (including veggies and meat).
If you just want the main dish, you can ask if they remove rice and miso soup. It is possible in most restaurants to order only main dishes. On the contrary, if there are a la carte menus but you want to make it as a set meal, you can do it. Many restaurants offer a set of rice and miso soup to add to your a la carte dish with additional pay.
How teishoku looks like
Teishoku arrives with all the components on a trey (Obon), and each dish is placed in the set position. Rice and miso soup are placed in front of you with rice on your left side and miso soup on your right side, and the main comes to the back. Side dishes are placed in the left space, and chopsticks are placed right in front of you. Like other food culture, placing dishes in the appropriate position is important.
Eating a set meal comprised of small plates of dishes is a common style of Japanese home cooking, so you can have a similar experience to Japanese home-style dining even if you are away from home.
Common types of teishoku
The followings are familiar types of teishoku you can encounter at any restaurants or cafes.
-Shogayaki Teishoku (生姜焼き定食)
Shogayaki teishoku is the most common teishoku served at restaurants. Shogayaki is ginger pork, with thinly sliced pork sauteed with onions. A sauce made with soy sauce and ginger brings a great taste.
-Yakizakana Teishoku (焼き魚定食)
Yakizakana means grilled /broiled fish, seasoned with a pinch of salt. Since Japanese people consume a lot of fish, this kind of teishoku is popular throughout Japan. Common types of fish are salmon (sake 鮭), saury (sanma 秋刀魚), and horse mackerel (aji 鯵).
Sashimi is thinly sliced raw fish that comes with garnishes such as daikon radish and shiso. You put wasabi on the fish and dip in the soy sauce when eating. For more details about sashimi, check out this page. What is sashimi?
Sashimi teishoku is especially famous and popular where ports or fish markets are nearby. If you want to try fresh seafood, sashimi teishoku is the best choice.
Ebi-furai is a deep-fried prawn coated with thin batter and panko (bread crumbs). It is eaten with the tartar sauce that accompanies the dish or with the sauce provided by the restaurant. Ebi-furai is also a common dish for the kids menu.
Tonkatsu is deep-fried pork coated with thin batter and panko (bread crumbs). It is eaten with the sauce specially made for this dish. It comes with shredded cabbage because the dietary fiber in the cabbage prevents absorption of the oil and the vitamin U prevents the feeling of heavy in the stomach.
Where can you try teishoku in Japan?
Typical places that offer teishoku are traditional Japanese restaurants and cafeteria-style restaurants, but other types of restaurants offer it too. There are some chain restaurants that specialize in teishoku; one example is “Otoya,” that offer wide selections of teishoku with the reasonable price ($8~10). Also, “Famiresu” (family restaurants like Denny’s) usually have a teishoku section on the menu.
How to order Teishoku
Ordering teishoku is easy. Although it is composed of many dishes, in fact, all you should do is choose what you are craving for as the main. Rice, miso soup, and side dishes are already included in the set. Sometimes you are asked to choose side dishes, but most of the time you choose the main.
If you want to try ordering food in Japanese, here is the perfect guide for you.
Let’s have Japanese dining experience of Teishoku!
Trying teishoku gives you an opportunity to have Japanese home-dining experience. If you come to Japan, please include teishoku on your to-do list!