Along with several other great things about traveling, one is that you get to try different cuisines around the world with their authentic flavors. Being a non-vegetarian, I always have more options of food as compared to my wife Anu who is a vegetarian. But she also gets her share of fun in trying to explain that being vegetarian is not same as vegan and fish doesn’t come under vegetarian.
After my virgin attempt for Lobsters in our Mexico trip, my spirits were high to try everything in Japan. Apart from some high rated authentic restaurants, street food is the best source for experiments. First, you know what you are ordering by looking at the real food instead of a picture and second it is way cheaper. Here is my list of dishes which I have tried in our week-long trip in Japan. Please let us know in comments what all other great dishes I missed, which I am sure will be a lot.
I saw one food stall near Akihabara metro station on our first night in Tokyo serving something similar to cheese balls. I asked that guy what’s inside this and the reply was Octopus. After my recent attempt to try Lobster for the first time on our Mexico trip, my confidence level was high to try other kinds of seafood. Takoyaki is a ball-shaped snack made of wheat flour and filled with minced octopus.
Dango (Rice cakes) and Pork Bun
Dango and Pork bun, both are very commonly available snacks which I found almost at every place. Dango is mashed rice cake heated over white charcoal and usually served with sweet soya sauce glaze. Pork bun is similar to steam momos but very big in size and just one piece is sufficient.
Yakitori (Grilled Chicken Skewers)
This is the only food closest to Indian cuisine which we could find in Japan. Yakitori, small pieces of grilled chicken (combined with other meats at some places) and vegetables skewered on a bamboo stick and served with Tare (soya sauce with sugar).
If someone told you that Japanese food is too bland, ask them to try Okonomiyaki. It is a savory pancake filled with, whatever you want. Okonomiyaki literally means “grilled as you like it”, so this is a food without any rules. Every region has its own version of Okonomiyaki in Japan.
We tried one at Hiroshima which is famous for Yakisoba (literally means grilled noodles) filled Okonomiyaki.
There is one very famous restaurant named Issen Yoshoku in Kyoto (Higashiyama district, walking distance from Yasaka Shrine) which has Okonomiyaki as the only item in their menu. Issen Yoshoku is also the name of their style of heavily loaded Okonomiyaki with ingredients like spring onion, egg, dried shrimp, grilled fish paste, dried bonito, beef, ginger, tempura batter, konjac jelly, flour.
Houtou (Hoto) Noodles
If someone told you that Japanese food is not that bland, ask them to try Hoto noodles. Houtou is a soup with vegetables/meat and extra thick noodles in a hot pot; this is a specialty of Fujigoko region. Houtou Fudou is a restaurant popular for its Houtou noodles in Kawaguchiko region. It was our first attempt to eat noodles with chopsticks. So after a lot of patience and failed attempts, we managed to eat it but it was too bland for us and we couldn’t finish it.
With our limited exposure to different cuisines, the food item (rice with a leaf wrapping around and some filling in the middle) which we knew as sushi back home turned out to be a sushi roll. Actual sushi was something which I had never seen or tried before. Basically, it is fresh meat served over a lump of rice. You get different options in restaurants like 8/12/15 pieces of sushi and every piece is a different flavor. I tried sushi in an old-style Japanese restaurant where they have limited number of seatings and you get to sit in front of the chef which was also a different experience.
Green tea obsession
When I first saw a green tea pudding, I found it different but then I saw green tea (Macha) cookies, KitKat, ice cream, cakes and even a whole shop dedicated to Macha style beverages. Japanese are obsessed with Green tea the same way Santorini is obsessed with white color.
This was my list of dishes which I tried in Japan. Please let us know your favorite one in the comments and do check out our another post from our Japan trip: 24 hrs in Tokyo.