Hi all. Today it’s another food post, and it centres on destination Japan. However, this is not a review post like you may have become accustomed to, instead I want to write about some of the food in Japan, because there is so much and it’s so good! I am going to talk about my favourites mostly, so keep in mind that there is a lot of food in Japan that I don’t particularly like. That’s mostly because I am not a seafood eater of any kind, I really can’t stand seafood and basically never eat it. I’m sure for some that it is sacrilegious almost, but I have never enjoyed fish or seafood with the exception of squid. I don’t know why, but it turns me right off. And yes, there is plenty of seafood in Japan!
Nevertheless, there is still loads to cover. Mostly food I like, or at least have tried. In Japan food can be expensive, but it can also be pretty cheap. And you will find restaurants that range in prices from places where you can dine for under $10USD to places where you spend well over $100 pp (I can’t say I’ve eaten in such a place in Japan though). So let’s have a look at some Japanese Food that I recommend if you visit Japan.
Sushi & Sashimi
Okay, I am going to start with a couple of things I’m not a huge fan of. But, they are very typically Japanese and I certainly wouldn’t be advising people to only stick to the things I like, as you might find them somewhat limiting. And let’s be honest, the first food people think of when they think of Japan is sushi, or the similar sashimi. I’m not an expert on stuff I don’t eat regularly, but from what I can see sashimi is like sushi without the rice. So sliced raw meat I guess.
I was surprised that ‘sushi-train’ style restaurants abound in Japan, I thought it was possibly a western take on Japanese restaurants. But they do, and you can get sushi along with all kinds of other dishes at these places, and they are relatively cheap. Some will have you ordering with an electronic pad, which possibly won’t have any English, but you can see the train coming along past your table with different dishes and take what you want, and then when you pay a code or something will be on your plate. If you want something specially prepared, then you need to use the pads.
But back to sushi, it is sticky rice wrapped in seaweed. It is combined with usually fish or raw fish (salmon seems popular) or alternatively with vegetables, sometimes cooked, sometimes fresh (for example, cucumber). The other common alternative is egg. Chicken – as in Teriyaki Chicken, which I often see for sale in Australia, is rarer in Japan and I think is a slight pivot to western tastes. Japan has food courts and shopping malls by the truck load, where you’ll always find sushi for sale, and even in the supermarkets if you dare!
So again, this is not my favourite but I will eat it, as opposed to anything with fish. I actually recommend trying an okonomiyaki restaurant when you are in Japan because it’s a great experience and it’s something a little difference from your typical dining. I’ve had it in restaurant and also in home – my mother in law had a little hot plate she put on the table in front of us all and we cooked and ate our own, and that’s typically how it’s done.
In a restaurant you get a menu – in Japan it is extremely typical that your menu has pictures of everything there is to order – which can certainly help to give you an idea of what you are ordering which can’t be a bad thing! You get all the ingredients and an egg – maybe two – and you are able to cook the thing for yourself.
It’s a little like a frittata I guess. Common ingredients include alfalfa and cabbage, a choice of meat, flour to form the batter and a bunch of sauces, one is a brown sauce which may be a little like oyster sauce, the other is white like a mayonnaise, but I’m sure these will vary from establishment to establishment.
It’s a social experience and hopefully you might get the chance to share it with some locals. The word roughly translates to ‘how you like it’.
Okay so this one I love. Ramen, I was told in Japan, is actually from China originally, but today it’s incredibly popular. It’s offered in a variety of restaurants and food courts etc, but the ultimate place to have Ramen is in a little Raman restaurant somewhere with wooden walls, a few tables and a bench alongside where it’s served up. Ramen noodles can vary a bit, they are typically a bit thicker than a 2-minute noodle, but not as think as udon noodles.
Inside your bowl you might see any number of things beside the broth and the noodles. For example, sliced pork, egg, spring onion or similar vegetable, tofu or more. In a restaurant with a few more options, or in some Ramen places, out the front or in the front window you will see plastic replicas of the dishes, and they are not that far off what you get. It’s actually an industry in Japan, making plastic replica foods for display. And of course, there’s a good chance your restaurant will have pictures of the dishes/bowls in its menu. This was my first meal when I first hit Japan in a little Ramen place on a side street in Kyoto. I loved it – although I wasn’t a fan of the green tea. Many places serve you green tea while you wait (for free) as a matter of course. If you like Japanese green tea you’ll be pretty happy – and most do. Personally I feel like it’s over caffeinated for my tastes.
Katsu and Tempura
Both are kinds of batter for fried food, mostly meat and seafood – for example shrimp. Obviously I don’t eat the shrimp, but otherwise it is a really tasty and often very crisp way of battering meat which is also very tasty.
Karaage & Convenience Store Treats
Earlier this week I put up a post about Convenience stores in Japan, and their importance in said country. For more read – Japan Loves Convenience Stores. Karaage is available at most if not all convenience stores in Japan, and as I said in the post the best I feel is at Lawson’s – karaage being Japanese fried chicken. It often comes with a dipping sauce too, and is to die for! You can also get karaage at many restaurants which is a bit more upmarket, and at karaoke venues as well which usually have a wide array of snacks.
You’ll also find a bunch of different snacks and foods at convenience stores including hot dogs and corn dogs. Okay, not really Japanese but useful as a quick snack. Loads of different kinds of chips from your standard salted potato to all sorts of shrimp and seafood flavours, or chilli flavoured. They are a real potluck sort of affair I guess. You also get ‘Pocky’ – a sort of bread stick (biscuit) dipped in chocolate or strawberry. It’s been a while since I was in Japan so I’m not remembering everything you get in these places.
Meat in Japan can be quite different from what we are used to in the west. Japanese BBQs often featured very thin and marbled pieces of meat, which is the most common way to have meat in Japan (thin and marbled).
Of course, there are regions where they are really proud of their beef, and the most well known is Kobe as in Kobe Beef. There are different ways to have it cut of course, and marbled will still be popular (in fact in supermarkets I often found lean meat CHEAPER than meat with lots of fat or marbled with it), and lots of restaurants specialise in the beef, and you sit by the cook as they cook it for you. It is expensive of course, but a speciality worth trying at least once.
There’s a lot more. I really like udon noodles, they are quite fat and tasty, soba I’ve had a few times but often served in a sort of sour or soy sauce which I didn’t really enjoy – they are very thin noodles. There are loads of seafood options and so if you’re into your seafood, I apologise that I can’t give you more information on that.
You’ll also see a lot of bakeries in Japan, but I have to say that they disappoint more often than not. The bread is usually white and sold by the half-loaf with little variation or offering of brown, multi-grain or rye bread, and there is always a lot of sugar in all the products, even the bread tastes sweet. The bread – at least from a supermarket – also seems to last a lot longer than bread here in Australia, suggesting preservatives.
Oh also – and you can get it from some convenience stores – soft serve ice cream, called ‘soft cream’ is pretty popular and usually well priced. Commonly they combine a couple of flavours – vanilla and chocolate is the most common, but I was very excited when one day I found a vanilla/strawberry combination. It’s a little different to what we find here, but it’s not bad at all!
Okay, well folks, thanks for popping by today. I know there are a lot of other things I could have included, but a post has to end at some point! What are your favourite Japanese foods? Let me know! And… May the Journey Never End!