During our recent seven week trip to Japan, we experienced a variety of food from around the country. Food is a huge part of Japanese culture. In 2013 Washoku, the traditional cuisine of Japan was recognised as a Cultural Heritage asset by UNESCO. The Japanese capital city of Tokyo is home to more Michelin star restaurants that any other country in the world. Compared to other countries, Japan is relatively small, but every region has its own specialty cuisines. Most restaurants in Japan are speciality restaurants. This means rather than having an extensive menu they focus on one dish or types of cuisine. This list will walk you through the best Japanese foods to try.
The first food that come to mind when you think Japanese cuisine is sushi. Sushi is cold rice packed together with fish, vegetables or egg. Japan has amazing sushi restaurants throughout the country. However, you will not find fresher Sushi than from the Sushi restaurants found around the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo.
You will find ramen on every street corner in Japan. This noodle soup was originally brought to Japan by the Chinese. Ramen is one of the most popular and inexpensive dishes in Japan. Commonly eaten for lunch, it is considered a fast-food. At some Ramen restaurants, you order from a vending machine, pay and get a ticket that you give to the chef. Your ramen will then be served to you at your table. Each region has its own twist to this popular dish, but our favourite was Hakata Tonkotsu (pork) ramen from Fukuoka.
Gyoza was introduced to Japan by the Chinese. These hand rolled dumplings that can be steamed or pan fried. The most popular filling is pork and green onion, but there are many other varieties.
Yakitori is a dish in which skewered chicken is seasoned, usually with a soy sauce or salt and grilled over a charcoal fire. Yakitori can usually be found at an izakyaya (Japanese bar). This is a common snack enjoyed with a beer or sake.
Karaage is deep fried chicken seasoned with soy sauce, salt and a variety of spices. Karaage is a Japanese version of fried chicken, but the flavour is different.
Kare Raisu (Japanese Curry)
Kare raisu is one of the most popular dishes in Japan and it is usually very affordable. This curry dish is made with meat and vegetables (carrots, potatoes, onions), flavoured with curry powder and served with rice. Some restaurants give you the option of add fried foods such as pork cutlets to the top of the dish.
Okonomoyakai is considered Japanese comfort food. It consists of a light pancake batter topped with cabbage, egg and a variety of topping of your choice (meat, seafood, cheese, vegetables). You will find okonomoyaki restaurants all over Japan but its most popular in the west of the country in the cities of Hiroshima and Osaka. In Hiroshima they add a layer of fried soba noodles to the dish.
Takoyaki is a popular Japanese snack or appetiser. Also known as octopus balls, takoyaki are round batter balls with dice octopus, green onion and pickled ginger cooked inside. Once cooked the balls are topped with mayonnaise and brushed a takoyaki sauce (similar to worcestershire sauce). They are then sprinkled with dried bonito (fish flakes). You can find takoyaki stands all over Japan.
Introduced to Japan by the Portuguese, tempura is thick chunks of meat, seafood, or vegetables deep fried in a light batter. The batter is extremely light and crispy. Tempura is usually eaten with a bowl of noodles, rice or ramen.
Udon noodles are a thicker than soba and ramen noodles and are chewier in texture. Udon can be served both hot and cold, with or without soup, and sometimes with vegetables, meat or tempura.
Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour. Similar to udon, soba can be served hot or cold, with or without soup, and served with vegetables, meat or egg.
If you’re traveling to Kobe or Kyoto make sure to try some famous Kobe beef. It is considered one of the best Japanese dishes but it can also be quite expensive. The meat is a delicacy famous for its tenderness, flavour and well marbled texture.
We would highly suggest trying all the foods on this list. Japanese cuisine is full of rich and delicious flavours and shouldn’t be missed. What’s your favourite Japanese food?
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