No matter where you find yourself, there isn’t a country in this world devoid of pizza. It may have originated in Italy, but pizza is a globally beloved food that comforts hearts and stomachs in all hemispheres.
The fantastic thing about pizza is that it is a blank canvas for any culinary tradition. Each country has its own toppings, drawing from local flavors and ingredients.
I make it a point to study pizza menus in each new country I visit.
One of the most interesting sets of pizza toppings I’ve come across was in Japan.
Japanese pizza toppings are as unusual and elegant as Japanese cuisine in general.
Read on to explore all the Japanese pizza toppings I discovered in the land of the rising sun.
Don’t knock these popular pizza toppings in Japan before you’ve tried them yourself!
I’ll start with the most ubiquitous topping. Mayonnaise is a French creation, originating at the turn of the 19th century.
Nevertheless, it’s a fixture in nearly every culinary culture around the world, whether it’s a garnish, the base of a sauce, or a dressing. There’s a reason it’s one of the most used condiments.
In the case of Japanese cuisine, it’s often drizzled over pizza for added creaminess.
Japanese cuisine birthed the origin of the umami flavor.
Miso epitomizes the funkiness inherent in umami. No matter what you pair it with, its flavor permeates.
Miso is a paste that melts into liquids and hot foods.
I imagine it works well with the savory nuttiness of the cheese. I’d add it to mayo before drizzling it over a slice.
Natto (Fermented Soybeans)
If you thought miso was funky, natto brings the funk to the next level.
Fermented soybeans have the strongest flavor I’ve ever tasted. Kimchi doesn’t even hold a candle.
The funkiest part about natto is the slimy, sticky goo that binds the beans together.
It’s a taste and texture that many people outside of Japan would not tolerate. Try it at your own risk!
Mentaiko (Cod Roe)
A popular delicacy in Japanese, Korean, and Russian cuisine, Mentaiko is salted and packed cod roe served over rice as onigiri at most train stations and public food stalls.
The fishy, salty taste and smooth, silky texture taste as good over a flour crust as it does over sushi rice.
This is not your standard type of egg to put on pizza!
Teriyaki chicken is as popular as sushi, both in Japan and abroad.
You’ll see it as a rice bowl and even a Subway sandwich filling. I’d liken it to topping a pizza with barbecue chicken.
I think it pairs well with red onions, olives, and jalapenos on a pizza.
Another umami ingredient, kombu, is dried kelp. You can also find it pickled.
The Japanese are the biggest consumers of seaweed, although the trend has taken hold around the globe.
Shredded, dried Kombu is light and melts in your mouth, acting more like a seasoning than chewable food. Perhaps it’s the Japanese version of sprinkling grated parmesan over pizza.
There’s a shocking delicacy in every cuisine, and for the Japanese, I think shirako takes the cake. Shirako is milt, which is the testes of a fish.
In Japanese cuisine, shirako encompasses the testes from various fish species, including salmon, cod, pufferfish, and anglerfish.
The only way you could get me to try Shirako would be to pay me. That said, if I had to eat it, I’d choose pizza to camouflage its texture and flavor.
Ikasumi is squid ink. If you’ve ever had squid ink pasta or risotto, then you know of its popularity in coastal cuisines worldwide.
It adds a subtle fish flavor, but the real wow factor is dying any food jet black.
Because I’ve had it on risotto, I can see how it would work well with a cheesy, creamy pizza.
Shirasu is a blanket term for baby fish. They are tiny worm-like creatures that haven’t yet developed into their full fish bodies.
The most common edible species of Shirasu is anchovies.
Considering anchovies are one of the most traditional pizza toppings, it makes perfect sense that baby anchovies are a popular Japanese pizza topping.
Yakiniku (Japanese BBQ)
While Japanese cuisine is famous for its high-quality raw fish dishes, grilled meats are just as widespread.
Yakiniku is a culinary tradition that involves grilling small pieces of red meat over a tabletop grill.
The bite-sized morsels of barbecued meat are the height of choice cut meats.
To add Yakiniku to pizza would be like adding the finest slices of grilled steak to pizza.
A bright and colorful topping to fancy sushi rolls, fish roe is the Japanese answer to caviar.
They are the fully developed eggs of a fish and can be from any number of species.
The most common is the reddish-orange salmon roe, also known as Ikura.
I’d prefer the crunchier Tobiko, flying fish roe to add a more interesting texture to the soft and dense nature of cheese pizza.
Sakura means “cherry blossom,” alluding to the bright pink color of these bite-sized delicacies.
Shrimp is a pizza topping that you might love or hate, adding a meaty texture and umami flavor.
Sakura ebi also comes dried, which is another excellent option to add a rich flavor and light crunch to a pizza.
Goya (Bitter Melon)
True to its name, bitter melon is a bitter, cucumber-shaped melon with edible skin and pulp.
It’s a native Asian fruit delicacy that’s an acquired taste. Its bitterness is like magnifying the after-bite of brussels sprouts or roasted broccoli.
I think it pairs well with savory meat, so it would work well with Italian sausage on a pizza.