Easy Japanese and Korean Cafe Recipes to Make At Home

During quarantine, many of us couldn’t visit our local cafes. In fact, sitting at my favorite coffee shop with an iced coffee while working is probably the thing I have missed the most! As a result, lots of us decided to create our own at-home cafes with recipes inspired by our favorite coffee shops.

Of all the coffee shops in the world, Japan and Korea have some of the most ambitious food and drink combinations. From whipped coffee to onigiri with adventurous fillings, Asian cafes serve up some seriously tasty treats! If you’ve been missing traveling and going to your favorite coffee shop, then whipping up these recipes at home is a fun and COVID-safe alternative.

I first got the idea to have an at-home Korean-slash-Japanese cafe from watching this video from Marie’s Kawaii World. There’s something to be said for a good stay-cation, and making these Japanese and Korean recipes will totally transport you to a different continent. Make sure to watch her video for some tasty drink ideas, and keep scrolling for some of my own personal favorites!

Dalgona Coffee

Have you ever heard of dalgona, or whipped, coffee? I hadn’t until very recently, but I’m dying to try it! It’s a classic staple at Korean coffee shops that has since taken Instagram by storm. This coffee can be made at home by whipping instant coffee, sugar, and hot water and spooning the whip over your choice of hot or cold milk. Get the recipe from My Korean Kitchen.

Matcha Green Tea Latte

Unsurprisingly, Japanese matcha is a staple at cafes in Japan. Matcha is a type of concentrated green tea. The tea leaves are ground to make a bright green powder with an earthy taste and smell. You can make a latte with matcha similarly to the way you would with coffee, by steaming milk and pouring steamed milk into your brewed matcha. Get the how-to on making a matcha green tea latte at home from Japan Centre.

Strawberry Milk

Fresh strawberry milk is a beloved Korean drink enjoyed both in cafes and at home. Instead of adding artificial colors and flavors to a bottle (like we do), the Koreans blend strawberry puree with a sugar syrup and your choice of milk, dairy or non-dairy. This simple at-home version uses sweetened condensed milk in lieu of sugar syrup, meaning you don’t need to melt the sugar over the stove. Get the recipe at Cookerru.

Fruits Sando

For Americans, sandwiches are almost exclusively a savory affair. Not for the Japanese! At a Japanese cafe, it’s not unusual to find a fruits sando, or fruit sandwich. Layers of whipped cream and fruit are sandwiched between two slices of milk bread, a soft and sweet Japanese white bread. You can use any store-bought white bread in lieu of milk bread — but, of course, don’t forget to cut the crusts off in true Japanese fashion. Get the recipe from Sylvia Wakana.

Fruit Sandwich / フルーツサンド | For more description see here boh… | Flickr

Chapssaltteok (Red Bean Mochi)

Mochi are dumplings made from a sweet rice dough. They originated in Japan but are also popular in Korea, where this version — known as chapssaltteok — is from. These mochi are filled with red bean paste, a sweet filling made from adzuki beans. You can find red bean paste (or adzuki beans to make your own) at your local Asian grocery store, or perhaps in the international aisle of your regular supermarket. Get the recipe at My Korean Kitchen.

Onigiri

If you like sushi, then you’ll almost definitely love onigiri. These Japanese snacks, otherwise known as rice balls, are made from cooked sushi rice and a sweet or savory filling. Some traditional fillings include tuna and mayo, bonito flakes, or salted ume plums. However, you can make them without filling…or even fill them with leftovers, as the Japanese often do! Another version of onigiri, known as onigirazu, uses rice as a sandwich for layers of meat and veggies, wrapped in nori (seaweed paper). Get a basic onigiri recipe from Wandercooks, or follow this onigirazu recipe from Just One Cookbook.

Purin

Got more of a sweet tooth than a savory one? Then you’ll love purin, a Japanese caramel custard pudding often served in cafes. You’ll recognize it from the name of the Sanrio character Pompompurin, who is named and designed after purin, his favorite dessert! Surprisingly, purin is easy to make with just a few tasty ingredients. It’s the perfect dessert to impress guests with, since it looks fancy despite being delightfully simple. Get the recipe from Tiffy Cooks.

Homemade Creme Caramel with Sweet Syrup / Custard Pudding | Flickr

Aesthetic J-Fashion and K-Fashion Picks

In case you haven’t noticed, I am obsessed with Asian pop culture. From anime to otome games, Pokemon to K-beauty, I just can’t get enough of all things Japanese and Korean.

Lately, the same goes for fashion: a lot of J-fashion and K-fashion outfits are popping up in my feed, and I’m obsessed! As someone who’s recovering from surgery, I admittedly haven’t ventured outside my leggings and sweatshirts in a while, but these fashion trends have got me itching to get back into my fancier clothing.

J-fashion (Japanese fashion) and K-fashion (Korean fashion) are distinct, but I lump them together for the purposes of this blog post. Again, both are different — but what they have in common is that they are both popular for being “aesthetic.”

“Aesthetic” is one of those words that I can’t define easily, but I know when I see it. And, if you have spent literally any time on social media, you probably know it when you see it, too. From stationery to bubble tea, Japanese and Korean culture dominate the aesthetic scene…. and fashion is no exception.

Log onto Pinterest and search for “aesthetic outfit ideas.” You may not realize it, but a lot of the outfits you see are either worn by Asian models or inspired by J-fashion and K-fashion trends.

So, how do you put together your own aesthetic outfit using these trends? First, you need to understand what J-fashion and K-fashion really are, and how to dress like a Japanese or Korean stylista.

What is J-Fashion?

J-fashion, short for Japanese fashion, is a term that lumps together a bunch of clothing styles that are unique to Japan. You may have heard of Lolita or fairy kei, two aesthetics that became popular in Japan’s Harajuku fashion scene. These are some of the more distinctive types of fashion, known for fluffy skirts, pastel wigs, and girly-girl accents. But there are other types of Japanese fashion that are less well-known, and more casual, than Lolita or fairy kei:

Mori kei is a type of Japanese fashion that’s inspired by vintage looks and the natural environment. If you want to dress mori kei, you should try to dress like “a girl who came from the forest.”

Natural kei is similar to mori kei, but draws most of its inspiration from the past. Think Little Women or Little House on the Prairie: the natural kei girl lives in a village, rather than the forest, and dresses like Anne of Green Gables.

Otome kei comes from the word “otome,” meaning “young lady” in Japanese. It’s a bit like Lolita, in that it is very feminine, but it is also viewed as more mature than Lolita. There are fewer petticoats and the rules are not as well-defined.

….and many more. I chose to define these three specifically because they have influenced my own style and the pieces that I have chosen to showcase in this blog post.

However, it’s important to recognize that Japanese fashion is as widely varied as American fashion. The word J-fashion doesn’t refer to one thing, but an amalgam of styles.

What is K-Fashion?

K-fashion is the Korean version of the term. Unlike J-fashion, K-fashion does not have many subsets. Instead, it’s a broader term referring to the trends that are most popular in Korea — many of which originate from Seoul.

In Korea, it’s popular to dress in oversized clothing, like chunky-knit cardigans or baggy tee shirts. It’s part of Korean culture to be modest, especially when it comes to revealing clothing. But, while Korean women tend to stay covered on top, they reveal their legs with cute dresses or mini skirts. For example, Korean woman might pair an oversized sweater with a pleated skirt, or a chunky cardigan with a cute sundress.

The school uniform is a staple in K-fashion as well as J-fashion. In both countries, children wear uniforms all throughout their school years — but elements of the school uniform, like pleated skirts or collared sailor shirts, have integrated themselves into popular adult fashion trends.

Aesthetic Clothing Picks (Inspired by J-Fashion and K-Fashion)

If you, like me, are interested in Japanese and Korean culture, you probably know that shopping on Asian sites can be overwhelming. The shipping fees are hefty, you need to deal with translation and currency exchange, and sometimes, you even need to hire a proxy (another person to shop for you and ship the items to your home).

Thankfully, J-fashion and K-fashion are starting to influence the trends we see here at home. These influences can be seen at mainstream Western stores like Forever 21 and H&M, but also at smaller boutiques and on social media. The good news about this is that you can often find Korean and Japanese styles at American stores, without paying $20 for shipping — see below for examples!

Ribbed Cardigan ($14, Nasty Gal)

Paired with a pleated skirt, a fitted cardigan is a classic look. Available in sizes 0 to 10.

Pleated Plaid Mini Skirt ($18, Forever 21)

Pleated Plaid Mini Skirt, image 1

The schoolgirl skirt is a must-have staple in Asian fashion. Available in sizes XS to L.

Tie-front Blouse ($25, H&M)

Tie-front Blouse - Light pink/black - Ladies | H&M US 1

The bow-tie on this blouse is reminiscent of the sailor styles popular in Japan. Available in sizes XS to XL.

Black Denim Overall Skirt ($65, Unique Vintage)

The youthful look is “in” in Asia, which is probably why overall skirts like these are so popular. Available in sizes XS to 4X.

Patent Platform Mary Janes ($68, Dolls Kill)

A nod to kawaii fashion, platforms like these can often be seen on the streets of Harajuku. Available in sizes 5 to 10.