When I travelled in to Japan, one thing that totally surprised me was the food. When it comes to food, and so much else, Japan seems to have taken the best of what the world offers and improved on it. Do you like milkshakes? Then you will enjoy the heavenly Sakura shake, a cherry-flavoured frozen custard delight. Do you like pancakes? Then you might completely bliss out when you try Okonomiyaki, which can have many different ingredients. Do you like street food? How about battered octopus with veggies and pickled ginger on a stick, hot from the vendor? Yum!
I was in Japan for 10 days, but I would have needed at least double that to try every kind of food. On tour, we had a chance to eat traditional Japanese meals, which included a lot of fish dishes, as well as more modern foods, like Teriyaki chicken pizza. I tried as many foods as I could, and with one or two small exceptions, I loved it all!
And I could have eaten constantly because there was food everywhere we went. Street food in the markets, small 6-stool restaurants in every neighbourhood, vending machines with every kind of drink and snack, and the 7-Eleven stores are a revelation, you can buy almost any kind of food there, and many instant suppers. And desserts – oh my – the Japanese have a sweet tooth! On my last day I walked through the Tokyo train station and I counted at least 12 stores selling only sweets. In fact, I had to circle the station twice to find a place that wasn’t specializing in dessert, because I needed some lunch.
So, as hard it was to choose, here are some of my favourite Japanese foods:
- Sushi – when in Japan, sushi is a must. This was my meal on the first night, and every morsel was delish! I washed it down with Asahi beer, which was also very tasty.
- Udon noodle bowl – The ramen was delicious, the locally made buckwheat soba noodles were also lovely, but the homey bowl of udon noodles with meat and veg was just so good, I could eat it every day.
- Hot pot – with globefish and snow crabs and vegetables. Amazing.
- Shinshu (Wagyu) beef – I didn’t want to like it, because I try to avoid red meat and we could use less cattle on the planet. But, wow, I have never had beef so tender, it melts like butter in the mouth.
- Okonomiyaki – take some leftovers from the fridge, mix them into pancake batter, top with whatever you have on hand, drizzle with barbecue sauce (optional). No? Really, you have to try it!
- Pickles – not one food, but many, and all amazing. Pickled turnip, pickled eggplant, even pickled fish, and of course the famous pickled plums (umeboshi) – I am not normally a pickle person, but these were all bursting with flavour.
- Apricot liqueur (Nigori Anzunshu) – like biting into a fresh apricot. Just wow.
- Yuzu sorbet – Yuzu is a Japanese fruit similar to lime. Other dessert highlights include matcha ice cream, and dorayaki – sweet red bean paste with whipped cream sandwiched between pancakes.
- Jelly coffee – only the Japanese would take cold coffee, make it into a jelly dessert, and top it with ice cream. It sounds weird but it tastes wonderful!
I don’t have room to talk about the fresh steamed buns, the octopus-on-a-stick with their heads stuffed with quail eggs (wish I had tried that one), the bespoke hand-drip coffee, the little cookies (or were they rice cakes?) in the shape of panda heads, and that plain bowl of brown rice topped with bonito flakes that tasted so good when I had been walking for hours. I got to be pretty good at saying “Arigato gozaimasu” (Thank you very much)!
So here are a few photos to give you a taste of Japan (click on the thumbnails for larger images). Enjoy!