Midnight Diner (深夜食堂, Shinya shokudō) is a Japanese anthology TV series directed by Joji Matsuoka, based on a manga of the same name by Yarō Abe. It focuses on a late-night diner called Meshiya in the Shinjuku district of Tokyo, its mysterious scarred chef known only as “Master”, and the lives of his customers.
The food menu in the series had only four items, but its chef “Master” would make whatever customers request as long as he has the ingredients for it. Therefore, besides the stories of all the characters, every episode shows at least one traditional Japanese dish.
Neko Manma (Cat rice with Bonito flakes)
Neko Manma is a Japanese dish that translates literally to “cat rice”. It is a plain yet delicious bowl of rice topped with bonito flakes and a dash of soy sauce.
Yakisoba (with a fried egg on top)
Yakisoba, “fried noodle”, is a Japanese noodle stir-fry dish. Usually, soba means buckwheat, but soba in yakisoba means Chinese noodles made from wheat flour, and are typically flavoured with a condiment similar to Worcestershire sauce. The dish first appeared in food stalls in Japan during the post-World War II period.
Asari No Sakamushi (Sake Steamed Clams)
This is a very popular Japanese dish, which consists of clams that are steamed with water plus the most traditionalalcoholic beverage in Japan, Sake.
Chazuke or ochazuke is a simple Japanese dish made by pouring green tea, dashi, or hot water over cooked rice. Chazuke provides a good way to use leftover rice as a quick snack because this dish is easy to make.
It consists of a bowl of rice topped with a deep-fried breaded pork cutlet, egg, vegetables, and condiments. The dish takes its name from the Japanese words tonkatsu and donburi.
Aji no Hiraki (dried horse mackerel)
In Japan, this product is very popular, especially for breakfasts. The preparation consists of cutting open the whole fish (head included), soaking it in a brine and then drying it in the sun. Afterwards, the horse mackerel is grilled.
Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup. It consists of Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat or fish-based broth, often flavoured with soy sauce or miso, and uses toppings such as sliced pork, nori, menma, and scallions.
Karaage (Japanese fried chicken)
The word Karaage implies the food and technique in which an ingredient is lightly coated with flour and deep-fried. Chicken karaage, it’s essentially a bite-size chicken thigh dusted with flour and deep-fried in hot oil. With tender and juicy marinated chicken coated in a crispy shell, Karaage is a staple in Japanese home-cooked meals. (Full recipe atjustonecookbook)
It is an ancient traditional method of Japanese cooking/food that involves boiling the fish bones, scales, head, and tail to extract a nutritious and tasty jelly.
Japanese cream stew, or white stew, is characterized by cream or dairy-based broth that is slightly thickened and includes traditional proteins, such as chicken or pork and vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and onions. Broccoli is a popular addition as well.
Hakusaizuke (Pickled napa cabbage)
The word “napa” in the name napa cabbage comes from colloquial and regional Japanese, where nappa (菜っ葉) refers to the leaves of any vegetable, especially when used as food.
Hiyashi chuuka (Cold Ramen)
Hiyashi chūka is a Chinese noodle-style Japanese dish consisting of chilled ramen noodles with various toppings served in the summer. It is also called reimen in Kansai region and hiyashi rāmen in Hokkaido. Toppings are usually colourful cold ingredients and a tare sauce.
Nikujaga (Meat stew)
Nikujaga is a Japanese dish of meat, potatoes and onion stewed in sweetened soy sauce and mirin, sometimes with ito konnyaku and vegetables. Nikujaga is an example of yōshoku. Generally, potatoes make up the bulk of the dish, with meat mostly serving as a source of flavour.
Dumplings / Gyoza
Typically consist of ground meat and/or vegetable filling wrapped into a thinly rolled piece of dough, which is then sealed by pressing the edges together. Finished dumplings can be boiled (shuǐ jiǎo), steamed (zhēng jiǎo), pan-fried (jiān jiǎo), or deep-fried (zhà jiǎo), and are traditionally served with a black vinegar and sesame oil dip. They can also be served in a soup (tāng jiǎo).
Menchi Katsu (Ground Meat Cutlet)
Menchi-katsu (メンチカツ) is a Japanese breaded and deep-fried ground meat patty; a fried meat cake. The meat is usually ground beef, pork, or a mixture of the two. It is often served in inexpensive bento and teishoku.
Atoimo to ika no nimono (Baby taro root with calamari)
It’s simply a baby taro root which is infused with the flavour of calamari.
Roll kyabetsu (Filled cabbage roll)
It is ground meat stuffed in cabbage leaves and cooked in seasoned soup. It is one of the most popular western-style Japanese dishes.
Kinpira means ‘to sauté and simmer’. Gobo is the Japanese name for burdock root. This dish is usually made with thin slices of carrot and burdock root steam-fried in a base of soy sauce, sake, mirin, and dashi stock, with a sprinkling of raw sugar and a handful of chopped red chilli to amp up the flavour. (Full recipe here)
Reba Nira (Pork Liver and Garlic Chives Stir-Fry)
It’s stir-fried pork liver and Nira garlic chives.
Toshikoshi Soba (New Year’s Eve Noodles)
The soba noodle dish served on New Year’s Eve is usually in its simplest form – buckwheat soba noodles served in a hot dashi broth with finely chopped scallions. But the basic tradition of Toshikoshi Soba can be taken to the next level by adding in tempura, fish cakes, or raw eggs. (Full recipe here)
A highball is a mixed alcoholic drink composed of an alcoholic base spirit and a larger proportion of a non-alcoholic mixer, often a carbonated beverage. Examples include the Seven and Seven, Scotch and soda, gin and tonic, Screwdriver, and rum and Coke.
Highballs are popular in Japan, often made with Japanese whisky as a haibōru (ハイボール), or mixed with shōchū as a chūhai (チューハイ). Various mixers can be specified by suffixing with -hai (〜ハイ), as in oolong highball (ウーロンハイ, ūron-hai).
What is the brand of beer in the series?
The regulars drank Kirin Lager Beer (a real beer) in Season 1,but switched to the fictional beer named“Nadeshiko” after Suntory (which IINM makes canned beers but not bottled beers) became one of the show’s sponsors for Season 2.
Appendix: Best books about Japanese cuisine
There are hundreds of good books about Japanese cuisine, which is often considered sophisticated and healthy. These are some of the best: