Japan is renowned for its diverse and delicious cuisine. From traditional dishes like sushi and ramen, to modern creations that bring together local ingredients with international flavors, there is no shortage of delicious food to discover in Japan. Whether you’re a foodie looking to try new things or simply a traveler in need of sustenance, here are some of the must-try foods in Japan.
Sushi is undoubtedly one of the most famous Japanese dishes and is enjoyed all over the world. It consists of vinegared rice served with a variety of ingredients, including raw fish, seafood, and vegetables. The best sushi can be found in specialized sushi restaurants, known as sushi-ya, where you can watch the sushi chef prepare your meal right in front of you.
Ramen is another popular Japanese dish, consisting of noodles served in a meat or fish-based broth. The noodles are typically topped with ingredients such as sliced pork, dried seaweed, and green onions. Ramen is widely available in Japan and can be found in specialized ramen shops, as well as convenience stores and food stalls.
Tempura is a type of Japanese cuisine that involves coating ingredients, such as seafood and vegetables, in a light batter and then frying them. The result is a crispy and flavorful dish that can be enjoyed on its own or as a topping for rice or noodles.
Okonomiyaki is a savory Japanese pancake made with a batter of flour, eggs, and water, and filled with a variety of ingredients such as cabbage, seafood, and meats. There are actually two different styles of okonomiyaki: Hiroshima and Osaka. Hiroshima style is typically layered and includes noodles, while Osaka style is mixed together. It is a popular dish in Japan and is often cooked at the table, allowing diners to enjoy the aroma and flavors as it cooks.
Udon is a type of thick, chewy noodle made from wheat flour. It is typically served in a hot, savory broth with a variety of toppings such as tempura, green onions, and sliced meats. Udon is a filling and satisfying meal that can be enjoyed in many different forms, from simple bowls of broth to more elaborate dishes with a variety of toppings.
Soba is a type of thin, buckwheat noodle that is enjoyed in Japan, particularly in the colder months. It can be served hot or cold, and is often served with a dipping sauce made from soy sauce, dashi, and wasabi. Soba is a light and flavorful dish that is easy to enjoy on the go.
If you’re looking for a quick and convenient snack on the go, onigiri is a must-try food in Japan. Onigiri is a type of rice ball that is typically filled with ingredients such as salmon, tuna, and pickled plum, and then shaped into a triangle or cylinder. It is a staple food in Japan and can be found at convenience stores, supermarkets, and street vendors.
Originating from Osaka, takoyaki are savory, bite-sized balls filled with diced octopus, pickled ginger, and green onions, cooked in a special molded pan. These delightful snacks are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, bursting with umami flavors. It’s typically served with a variety of sauces and toppings, such as mayonnaise, takoyaki sauce, and dried bonito flakes, that add an extra layer of flavor to the dish.
Yakitori can be found at specialty restaurants, street vendors, and izakaya (Japanese pubs) throughout Japan. It is a popular food for after-work drinks, as it is a convenient and tasty option for snacking while enjoying a cold beer or other beverage. Along with traditional chicken yakitori, you can find variations made with other meats and vegetables, such as beef, pork, and mushrooms. These skewers are often grilled to perfection, resulting in a tender and juicy bite that is full of flavor.
Mochi is a traditional Japanese food that is made from glutinous rice that has been pounded into a sticky and dough-like consistency. One of the most popular uses of mochi is in the form of mochi sweets, which are small balls of sweet mochi that are filled with a variety of fillings, such as sweetened red bean paste, fruit, or ice cream.
Wagyu beef is synonymous with luxury and is renowned worldwide for its unparalleled marbling and melt-in-your-mouth tenderness. The term “Wagyu” translates to “Japanese cow,” and it refers to several Japanese cattle breeds, with the most famous being the Kobe beef. Raised with utmost care and fed a specialized diet, Wagyu cattle produce beef with extraordinary flavor and texture.
Yakiniku, meaning “grilled meat” in Japanese, is a popular dining experience that involves grilling bite-sized pieces of meat, typically beef, pork, or chicken, at the table. In Yakiniku restaurants, you are provided with a grill embedded in the table, where you can cook the meat to your preferred level of doneness. There are also typically a variety of sauces in which to dip the grilled meat.
Shabu Shabu is a hot pot-style dish that involves cooking thin slices of meat, usually beef or pork, along with an array of fresh vegetables in a simmering broth. The thinly sliced meat cooks quickly. Once cooked, the ingredients are typically dipped into a variety of flavorful sauces, such as ponzu and sesame, before eating.
Taiyaki is a typically fish-shaped pastry made from a pancake-like batter filled with a sweet filling, traditionally red bean paste. However, modern variations also include fillings like chocolate, custard, or even savory options like cheese or sweet potato. Taiyaki is cooked in special molds that give it its distinctive shape and a crispy exterior.
Dango is a traditional Japanese dumpling made from glutinous rice flour. These chewy dumplings are skewered onto bamboo sticks, making them a convenient and portable snack. Dango can be enjoyed in various ways, with the most common being mitarashi dango. These dango are glazed with a sweet soy sauce glaze, imparting a delicate combination of sweet and savory flavors. Other popular variations include matcha-flavored dango and kinako (roasted soybean flour)-coated dango.
Japan is famous for its matcha, a finely ground powdered green tea that holds cultural significance. Beyond its use in traditional tea ceremonies, matcha is used to create delectable desserts like matcha ice cream, matcha-flavored cakes, and matcha-flavored mochi.
Embarking on a culinary adventure in Japan means immersing yourself in a world of diverse and captivating flavors. From the delicate artistry of sushi to the comforting warmth of ramen, the crispy delight of tempura, the joyous bite of takoyaki, and the customizable charm of okonomiyaki, Japan’s cuisine offers something for everyone. Don’t forget to indulge in the matcha-infused desserts and savor the unparalleled luxury of Wagyu beef.