Surely, John Keats, the English poet did not think of Japan when he wrote ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’ but these lines come to mind when one thinks of this country that is indeed a joy in so many ways. Whether it’s the sublime beauty of the cherry trees or the variety of landscapes on offer or just the thrill of being in Tokyo, a supremely cosmopolitan city that seems to have no rival, the one thing that will make you want to return to the country over and over again is the food. Yes, Japanese food with its delicious ingredients that focus on freshness above all else, is the highlight of a trip to Japan for many people.
It’s easy to see why. Not only is the food tasty, it’s also very healthy as the focus is on seasonal dishes. Also, since it’s an island nation, there’s a marked preference for seafood. But what will leave you amazed is how beautifully everything is presented. Japanese cuisine is indeed a feast for the eyes and not just the stomach. Here’s a list of some of the popular Japanese food that you must try when you travel to Japan.
These crispy and delicious little bites are some of the most popular Japanese food that can be found everywhere in Japan. Prawns, squid, vegetables, tofu or fish are dipped in a light batter and quickly deep fried. This crunchy delight is great on its own but also perfect with a dipping sauce. For the most delicious tempura ever, head to Tempura Fukamachi in Tokyo. This Japanese restaurant is best known for its rare sea urchin wrapped in shiso perilla herb and deep fried.
Every day Japanese food is a complete meal offering rice, pickles, soup and a main dish that could have fish, seafood, vegetables or meat. Teishoku is popular especially during lunch time and it’s also inexpensive, which makes it a perfect choice for a quick and tasty meal that is truly Japanese. In Kyoto, Menbo Yamamoto is a great place for Teishoku.
Teppanyaki is fun and entertaining, where a chef prepares a delicious meal right in front of you. Some of the allure in Teppanyaki is watching the amazing skills of the chef, where sometimes they might juggle with their knives or snap tiny morsels with their chopsticks. A Japanese restaurant where you can have a great Teppanyaki experience is Aoyama Gyusai which uses fresh seafood and brings a fusion of Japanese and Western cuisines.
Sushi is considered to be the best Japanese food and with good reason. In Japan, be sure to try the authentic sushi nigiri, which is the most well known of them all, served with a slice of raw fish on top of a small bundle of rice. There’s also the maki sushi which is rolled in nori seaweed or the cone-shaped temaki sushi, filled with several ingredients. The inari sushi is also quite popular, featuring deep fried tofu wrapped around rice. For a life changing sushi experience, the best Japanese restaurant for sushi is Sukiyabashi Jiro, a three starred Michelin restaurant in Tokyo.
One can’t mention Japanese food without talking of noodles. Whether it’s the greyish soba, or the thick Udon noodles or the more popular ramen, noodles are the mainstay of Japanese cuisine, especially since they’re delicious, cheap and easily available. There are more than 10,000 specialty shops around Japan serving noodles. Ramen is often served with a hot broth that is prepared from miso or soy, fish or pork, and is covered with tempura or slices of meat. When it comes to ramen, Nakiryu, a Michelin starred noodle restaurant is one of the best places to eat in Japan.
A popular snack food in Japan that goes well with beer is Yakitori, which is grilled chicken on skewers. This is classic Japanese food that you can’t go wrong with as it’s quick to be served, easy to find and really tasty. Yakitori is often flavoured with salt or tare, a sweet and salty sauce. While Yakitori is typically a form of street food, in recent years it has been elevated to a slightly higher status and popular Japanese restaurants such as Tokoshima serves 20 different versions of Yakitori in its classy Tokyo establishment.
Many consider Unagi (eel) to be the best Japanese food there is for its taste and nutritious value. Unagi is served with a sweet soy teriyaki sauce over rice and traditionally, Japanese believe eating Unagi is good for the health, during the hot months. The best place to have Unagi in Japan is in Nodaiwa, a Michelin starred restaurant in Tokyo that is built in the traditional old style. The restaurant stands out particularly as it is surrounded by tall office buildings.
For a fun and interactive food experience that is best enjoyed in a group, do try the Okonomiyaki when you are in Japan. It’s a sort of savoury pancake that defies description because the variety of ingredients that go into it completely depend on your preferences. The possibilities are endless because you can add whatever you like. Central Tokyo’s Okonomiyaki Kiji is one of the best places to try this delicious dish.
With so many mouth-watering dishes to try, you must be quite eager to kick off your Japan trip. Before you do anything, do remember to check out the SOTC website for offers and deals as there are some excellent Japan Holiday Packages available.