6 Difference Between Chinese And Japanese Cuisine

6 Difference Between Chinese And Japanese Cuisine

Jun 06, 2024Jon Ng

As a Japanese person, one of the common questions that I am asked while in a foreign country is: Are you Chinese or Japanese?

Well, it’s a regular incident that happens with all north Asian people. Foreigners always mix us up by looking at our resembling faces!!

Even when it comes to food, most people think China and Japan have similar cuisine.

But is it true?

NO, Not at all.

There is a wide difference between Chinese and Japanese cuisine, from flavors to cooking techniques.

So, my today’s job is to discuss the variance of both foods so that you don’t mix them up just like the faces of us!!

Chinese Vs. Japanese Food: Don’t Mix Them Up!

The main difference between Chinese and Japanese foods lies in their ingredients and the way of cooking.

Japanese meals consist of fresh ingredients, and the cooking procedure is light and healthy. And most of the food is raw.

On the other hand, Chinese cuisine has a lot to do with heavy seasoning, sauces, and deep-frying with oil, which is relatively unhealthy.

Japanese cuisine and chinese cuisine side by side

It’s always better to see comparisons side by side.

So, for your better understanding, I am including a table showing the difference between them.

Difference Between Chinese And Japanese Cuisine at A Glance

The below table consists of a quick review of our upcoming discussion.

Terms of Comparison Japanese Food Chinese Food
It shows the taste and style of the people in Japan.
It reflects the cooking style of people in China.
Less oily.
A large amount of oil is used.
Japanese food is less spicy.
Chinese food is comparatively spicier.
Seafood are used more.
Chinese cuisine has more presence of rice and meat.
Cooking style
Food is kept raw most of the time.
Food is evenly fried most of the time.
Cooking pan
Flat pan is used to grill.
Wok is used for frying.
Tea Option
Green tea is relished more in Japan.
Black tea is preferred in China.
Healthy option
Because of less presence of oil and spice, it is healthier.
Because of more presence of spice and oil, it is relatively unhealthy.
Sushi, Ramen, Tofu, etc.
Fried rice, noodles, wonton, etc.
Japanese ramen and chinese fried rice

Well, it’s just a summary from which you won’t be able to differentiate them.

So, let’s start our comprehensive discussion from here.

About Japanese Food

Most of the food in Japan is made with seafood, rice, and other sides like fresh vegetables. They are cooked following the Japanese traditional method.

Japanese seafood with side dish rice

Besides, Japanese food is not spicy because they like to keep it subtle and light to preserve the natural flavor.

In addition, instead of deep-frying, foods are grilled and kept raw. For example, seafood, meat, eggs are often consumed uncooked to get the most nutrition, and many people visit Japan to taste them.

Japanese raw egg dish

This is the reason behind sushi's immense popularity, which has become famous in different countries far away from Japan.

In this cuisine, rice is considered the main course, and to complement it, at least two side dishes are served.

Japanese rice with two sides

Unlike western culture, meals here are served separately. Each dish has its own small bowl or plate. This is because we Japanese don’t like the taste of various foods mixed up together.

If you went to Japan previously, you might already have seen that foods are packed into a bento box, where a divider splits each item.

Japanese bento box

Apart from rice, wheat and soybeans are also widely used in Japanese cuisine.

Also, people here love to drink tea, especially green tea. The most popular flavor is matcha, a key element in traditional tea ceremonies.

Matcha dessert with matcha tea

As matcha is a versatile ingredient, it is widely used in making Japanese desserts as well as snacks.

When it comes to talking about cooking style, the Japanese tend to lean a lot into knife skills. And, of course, a good example is sushi. The raw fish has to be sliced finely to maintain the texture.

Japanese chef knife skills with sushi

Knife skills are also required for hibachi, a grilling technique mastered by the Japanese.

Hibachi style involves cooking food on a flat top grill. Generally, the grill is cast iron, but some have stainless steel flat tops too.

Alright, it’s time to get introduced to some popular Japanese food.

Examples of Japanese Food

One of the common ways that you can easily say where the dish is from is by its name. Some food items can be instantly recognized that are from Japan, such as sushi.

But apart from that, there are loads of items that represent Japanese cuisine.

To name a few,

  • Ramen
  • Tempura
  • Sushi
  • Sashimi
  • Tofu
  • Udon
  • Yakisoba
  • Oden
  • Natto
  • Miso Soup
  • Onigiri
  • Tonkatsu
  • Donburi
  • Yakitori
  • Takoyaki
  • Tamagoyaki
  • Japanese curry
  • Okonomiyaki
  • Shabu Shabu
  • Gyoza
Different japanese foods

Each of these items can make you fall in love instantly after tasting. Also, you will never forget the yumminess that is offered by our dishes.

And it’s possible that the next time a Japanese food will be served, and you will be able to tell its origin right away.

Yes, our meals have the power to win hearts without making you gain weight!

Okay, let’s move on to Chinese food now.

About Chinese Food

Chinese dish refers to the cooking style in China and its surrounding regions. Their cuisine roots back over 1000 years ago, under various empires.

But, their cuisine has changed over the period. And the reason behind this is to accommodate the different preferences of locals.

Chinese cuisine

China has 8 recognized regional culinary cuisines: Anhui, Cantonese, Fujian, Sichuan, Hunan, Shandong, Jiangsu, and Zhejiang.

One of the noteworthy things about Chinese dishes is that they hardly use dairy products.

Different chinese dishes

The main carbohydrate used in their food is noodles, rice, and vegetables. They also use different types of sauce in their rice and seasonings.

These sauces are meant to increase the flavors of their food to meet the Chinese people's taste buds.

Example of Popular Chinese Food

Here is a list of renowned Chinese dishes that people are familiar with.

  • Hotpot
  • Rice dishes, especially fried rice
  • Sichuan pork
  • Noodles
  • Braised pork balls with gravy
  • Dumplings
  • Shrimp with vermicelli noodles
  • Chow mein
  • Steamed rolls
  • Sweet and sour pork
  • Roasted duck
  • Wontons
  • Kung pao chicken
  • Spring rolls
  • Manchurian
Renowned chinese foods

Okay, you have learned about both cuisines, but how will you know which dish is Japanese and which is Chinese?

Don’t worry, I can make you an expert in distinguishing food now..

What Differentiates Japanese Food From Chinese Food?

Asian cuisine is unique compared to the different parts of the world. But, both Chinese and Japanese cuisines have some ingredients that make them somehow look similar.

However, you can easily differentiate them by several facts.

Now, I will highlight those.

Japanese Foods Have Less Oil And Are Much Lighter to Stomach

Japanese people are highly health-conscious, and that reflects in their cuisine. Most of the meals have less presence of oil.

Healthy japanese food without oil

For example, miso soup, one of the most famed soups, is a simple and healthy stock made with miso paste and seaweed. And there is no trace of oil in it at all.

In Chinese food preparation, a lot of grease is used, which increases the calories in their meal.

Man preparing chinese food with oil

That’s why Japanese food is better than Chinese for your health.

So, one of the main differences lies in their recipe.

Additionally, the main staples in China include noodles and rice, which contribute to the higher consumption of carbohydrates.

Main staple rice

Even though Japanese dishes also consists of rice, they are served in smaller portions compared to Chinese ones.

As you already know, Japanese food is mostly grilled and doesn’t require much oil to prepare. Also, they use flat pans for frying that keep the nutritional value of the food.

grilling food

And this is the reason that you will find Japanese food more crispy and light.

Moreover, vegetables are often steamed to keep them healthy.

Chinese Food Is Heavier Because of The Cooking Style

For preparing Chinese dishes, a wok is often used.

You will find that Chinese chefs use woks to fry different types of ingredients, and it involves constantly mixing and turning the food.

Mixing and tossing vegetable in wok

The main reason behind using a wok is to make sure the food is cooked evenly from inside and outside. And, wok requires lots of oil if you deep fry.

Besides meat, Chinese people also love to stir fry their vegetables.

Another noteworthy thing is that people in China love spices and herbs in their dishes, adding more flavors, which makes them heavier for the stomach.

Flavorful chinese food

In short, even though both cultures use some common ingredients, the cooking method plays a significant role by which you can easily distinguish them.

Spices, Herbs, And Seasoning Variance

Chinese food is comparatively spicier than Japanese ones.

The common spices, herbs, and seasonings that are used in Chinese are garlic, spicy peppercorns, five-spice powder, hot mustard, soy sauce, spring onion, cumin, fennel, star anise, bay leaves, oyster sauce, and spicy bean paste.

Chinese spices

So, it seems like most of these can make you look for milk instantly if you are weak in handling spiciness!!

In contrast, Japanese cuisines consist of bonito flakes, soy sauce, miso, seaweed, dashi, shichimi, sesame, black pepper, ginger, wasabi, turmeric, cloves, and cinnamon.

seasoning used in japanese cuisine

You may notice that the Japanese prefer seafood flavors while Chinese people like spicy tastes more.

The Difference in Ingredients

The ingredients used in both cuisines differ significantly. Chinese food involves more meat compared to Japanese.

According to research, the requirement for meat in China has almost quadrupled in the past 30 years.

meat requirement china

As Japan is enriched with seafood, they rely on it for protein rather than meat. However, meat has also become popular after the modernization of Japan.

Another notable thing is that Chinese dishes often have exotic meat, but Japanese doesn’t. Also, dry forms of vegetables like dried mushrooms and vegetables are important ingredients in the Chinese kitchen.

Dried mushroom

Suppose you are served a meal with raw fish, rice, silken tofu, clear broth, and vegetables; it is definitely a traditional Japanese meal.

And if you eat a meal with meat, mushroom, and vegetable: it is most likely of Chinese origin.

Variance in Companion Tea

The Chinese people love to drink black tea, while the Japanese prefer green tea.

Both cultures have tea rooted as a staple in their cuisine. Also, tea is consumed alongside the meal or after the meal to help digestion in both countries.

Tea prefference in japan and china

Alright, I have explained all the major variances between Japanese and Chinese cuisine.

After learning all the differences, don’t you want to know about their similarities?

If so, then my next segment is all you need to go through.

Differences in Cooking Technique and Utensil between Chinese and Japanese cuisine

When it comes to cooking techniques and utensils, Chinese and Japanese cuisines both have their own distinctive elements that set them apart. While both cuisines share some similarities, such as using fresh ingredients, the end results are vastly different. 

Chinese cuisine is known for its wok, which is a round-bottomed skillet that is heated over high heat. This is a traditional cooking tool that is used to stir-fry vegetables and meats quickly, as well as to sear and sauté. 

Additionally, Chinese cooks make use of steaming baskets, which are bamboo or rattan baskets placed over boiling water and used to steam vegetables, dumplings, and meats. 

Moreover, Chinese cooks also use a cleaver to chop and mince meats, vegetables, and ingredients, as well as a flat-bottomed wok spatula which is used for stirring and tossing food. 

On the other hand, Japanese cuisine utilizes traditional cooking utensils such as the flat-bottomed grilling pan called Teppan. 

This is a great tool for quickly searing foods such as fish, steak, and even vegetables. It can also be used for shallow-frying and sautéing. In addition, Japanese cooks also use an iron griddle which is usually rectangular in shape called a tatami. 

This is typically used to prepare grilled dishes such as okonomiyaki. Japanese cuisine also makes use of the cutting boards, which are typically larger than those used in other cuisines and have a lip to contain juices and food layering. 

Finally, Japanese cuisines use a variety of knives, including the Santoke which is a Japanese vegetable knife and the Deba which is a Japanese cleaver. 

In conclusion, Chinese and Japanese cuisines have many of the same ingredients, but the cooking techniques and utensils used in each cuisine differ greatly. Chinese cuisine makes use of a wok and steaming baskets, while Japanese cuisine uses the Teppan to sear and the tatami for cooking grills. 

In addition, the cutting boards and knives used in each cuisine also differ. Understanding the differences in cooking techniques and utensils between the two cuisines will help any serious cooking enthusiast create the perfect dishes for their various meals.

Chinese And Japanese Food Similarities

The most remarkable similarity between these two cuisines is the use of fresh ingredients.

Whether it comes to seafood, meat, or vegetables, the dishes always require fresh items.

Fresh meat, fish, vegetable

And of course, there are many common ingredients that are used widely in both cultures, like soy sauce and tofu. Similarly, they consume rice and noodles dishes often.

Alright, as I have completed discussing this topic, it’s time to say goodbye.


In summary, the key difference between Chinese and Japanese cuisine lies in cooking methods, ingredients, and spices. Both of them have distinguished tastes and specialties.

If you are searching for a healthy and nutritious option and can’t handle spice very well, go for Japanese food.

And in case your taste buds prefer loads of flavor, the Chinese one can satisfy you easily.

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