Known around the world, Japanese food is exceptional but to many, it’s only Sushi. To the rest of us, it’s so much more. Trying different dishes is definitely one of the things you must do if you visit Japan.
Sushi and Sashimi
For many outside of Japan, these two often get confused. Sushi has a vinegared rice base and can be accompanied by seafood or vegetables. There are plenty of different varieties and it does not have to be wrapped in seaweed or contain raw fish to be sushi although many types do have these components. Sashimi, on the other hand, is just the raw fish or raw meat sliced into thin pieces. Both are delicious and both are small portions so that you can try a variety of types.
This is best described as a mixed savoury pancake. Similar to pancakes, you can have whatever you like as toppings. In fact, the name derives from the words meaning ‘what you like’ and ‘cooked’. Made from a savoury pancake batter, chopped cabbage is the main consistent ingredient and they are almost always topped with a sweet okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayo, bonito flakes, and aonori and pickled ginger. The other ingredients can include thin pork belly, octopus, prawns, vegetables, whatever you like.
There are two varieties though, Osaka and Hiroshima okonomiyaki. The Osaka one mixes everything together whereas the Hiroshima one is layered and has a fried noodle base.
An Osaka speciality. Takoyaki are fried balls of batter with a piece of squid in the middle. They are quick and easy to make and are excellent street food. Be careful though, they are very hot when you bite into them. Similar to the okonomiyaki, they are topped with a similar sauce and mayo, bonito and aonori.
Yakitori is the collective term for fried, skewered chicken. Every part of the bird is used and you can get sticks of fried breast meat down to fried skin. Yakitori is often used to encompass other items on sticks too and the accompanying dishes. It’s another great food type to eat with friends because you can try lots of different things and share lots of plates.
This is a difficult section to write as noodles are such a big part of Japanese cuisine and should each get their own article. Ramen, udon, and soba are possibly the best-known ones and each have their own unique qualities and recommended ways of eating, all should be slurped (we’ll look at this another time).
- Ramen is known throughout the world. The noodles used are Chinese wheat noodles that are served in a broth (often miso or soy) and come with assorted toppings. These commonly include a soft boiled egg, some sliced pork, some nori, and scallions or spring onions. Depending on where you eat it in Japan you will find that there are a wider variety of toppings available and each region has its own special way of making it with different toppings and different sauces. All are worth trying.
- Udon is a thicker wheat noodle that in its simplest form is served in a broth. Similar to ramen, there are often different toppings but again these take a simpler approach. Curry udon is particularly good and you will often find that udon is served with tempura.
- Soba is a thin buckwheat noodle. These too can be served in a hot broth but unlike the others, they are also often served cold and accompanied by a dipping sauce, as such, these make for a great light summer meal on a hot day.
Not technically a food but more of a food group nowadays. Matcha is a finely ground powder from green tea leaves. Traditionally, it is a tea drink that is used at the centre of the Japanese tea ceremony. Over the past few years, lower grades of the matcha powder have been used in a range of drinks and sweet treats around Japan. The bright green colour it gives when mixed into some foods makes for beautiful looking desserts and the Japanese have fallen in love with this. From ice cream to cake to soba noodles, you’ll be able to find matcha dyed food. Why not see how many types you can try?
Come to Japan with one of our Study Trips, and you’ll have the chance to eat loads of delicious, seasonal foods. Our team will be more than happy to show you around and give you suggestions!
Last Updated on February 17, 2020