Pizza was born in Italy, but it is beloved all around the world. This is especially true of Japan, where pizzas have evolved beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.
Here in the United States, it’s not uncommon to find pizza mashups that involve baked ziti, buffalo chicken, taco fixins, and other inventive items. But, in Japan, pizzaiolos utilize ingredients that you’d never expect on a pie.
These are just some of the wild pizza toppings you can find in Japan:
Mayonnaise is something of a pizza staple in Japan. One popular mayo-laden pie is the Mayo Jaga, which also includes potato, corn, onions, pancetta, and a healthy dose of paprika for heat.
Rather than spreading the mayonnaise in a thin layer to match the sauce, it’s piped out into a beautiful lattice design, which transforms this guilty pleasure into a work of art.
Squid ink is revered in the culinary world for its briny flavor and deeply dark color. Both the Italians and the Japanese have been using squid ink for ages, so it only makes sense that it would be heavily featured in Japanese pizzas.
Pizza artisans in Japan blend squid ink with tomato sauce to form a truly unique pie that looks unlike anything you’ll see in the U.S. The salty taste of the ink is muted by the sauce and the other ingredients, so the flavor of the pie isn’t all that foreign for foreigners.
You won’t get a lot of fishy flavor through squid ink, but it’s a different story with fish eggs. Mentaiko – the Japanese word for spicy cod or pollock roe – provides a welcome oceany taste and a bit of a kick thanks to its togarashi seasoning. Think of it as a Japanese take on the Italian’s beloved anchovy-topped pies or the clam pies of New Haven, Connecticut.
As the name suggests, bitter melon carries an acrid flavor that you wouldn’t expect to find on a pizza. However, it’s huge in many Asian cuisines and it’s a better fit for pizza than you might expect.
This spiky squash is sliced into thin strips and placed sparingly across the pie to prevent its flavor from dominating the palate. The bitterness provides a balance to the richer ingredients of the pizza, which may include prosciutto, bacon, or miso.
We’ll readily admit that this pizza is not for everyone. Fermented soybeans are even polarizing in Japan, where they can be found in any supermarket.
Fermented soybeans – known as nattō in Japan – carry a pungent smell and a sticky texture that is beloved by some and despised by others. Nattō lovers compare its aroma to a bold cheese, but haters say it hits the nose like sweaty feet, among other things.
Nattō is often paired with seaweed and its cheese-like taste makes it a go-to for vegans. However, it remains to be seen whether nattō will catch on with America’s burgeoning vegan pizza scene.
Will Japanese-style pizza catch on in the U.S.?
Right now, Japanese-style pizza is hard to find in the United States, but we can definitely see a future for some of these flavor profiles. In the meantime, you may have to settle for drizzling some mayo on your slice to get the Japanese pizza experience.