Home to a myriad of foods, Japan is filled with cultural delicacies everywhere. They instantly come to life, bringing wonderful flavours and textures to your belly. In this article, we will be showing 10 foods that you should try at least once when in Japan. Since Japan has far more must-try foods than can be fit into one article, we will be starting a series, covering this country's amazing culinary world and more dazzling dishes.
Ramen are traditional Japanese noodles. It is one of the most enjoyable foods in Japan, because all the components–noodles, broth, toppings, and condiments–blend perfectly in the bowl to create something greater than the sum of its parts. If you are looking for ramen, it will be very easy to find. There are street vendors and restaurants entirely dedicated to this dish. Ramen is also a very versatile meal with hundreds of variants. Tonkotsu Ramen, also known as pork bone ramen, is delicious, and the meat goes well with the noodles. There is also Shio Ramen, which is chicken broth ramen. All types of ramen are enjoyable. There even exists a special ramen variant that originated from Tokyo known as Tsukemen. It involves a plate of noodles and a bowl full of broth. To enjoy it, one dips the noodles in the broth with chopsticks and slurps it down.
You have most likely seen or eaten Tempura. They are a very popular and famous dish in Tokyo and the rest of Japan. Tempura is either vegetables, sweet potatoes, or even seafood, heavily deep-fried to make a golden crispy covering. Tempura is also eaten on rice or dipped in sesame sauce for flavouring. Japanese locals often eat tempura as fast food like a cheap snack. Give it a try!
Some of you may recognize Monjayaki by its appearance but never before heard the name. Monjayaki consists of crispy pan-fried batter, mixed with other delicious ingredients. Similar to pancakes and crêpes, they are found in plenty of restaurants.
4. Chanko Nabe
Ever wanted to be a Sumo Wrestler? Look no further than this protein-rich soup known as Chanko Nabe. During their weight gaining process, sumo wrestlers devour enormous bowls of this dish. It is made from dashi or chicken stock. Chicken meat is used in this soup since according to tradition, chicken is associated with victory. After all, in order to be the winner, the wrestler must stand on two legs, just like a chicken. Pork is sometimes added to make it more flavorful. Even if you don't intend to be a sumo wrestler, this dish will be a good and healthy meal.
The most iconic Japanese food, sushi is one of the most versatile dishes of all. The classic rice ball wrapped with seaweed can be filled with all manner of ingredients, and some sushi skips the rice ball altogether, further expanding the diverse range of the dish. This meal originated from Tokyo in the 1820s. Sushi rice tastes different from other rice because it has a bit of vinegar in it as a preservative. If you feel like you want to try sushi now, you would be in luck, since sushi is found pretty much everywhere, not only in Japan but also all around the world, from vendors to sushi-themed restaurants.
You may not have heard of anago. That is because it is overshadowed by its cousin, the unagi. Both of them are eels, though they are quite different since unagi is freshwater eel and anago is saltwater eel. Anago and unagi are cooked differently, with unagi going on rice and sushi, and anago fried like tempura. Anago is also different from unagi as it is slightly less rich than unagi. However, unagi eels are beginning to get rarer and even endangered. If you want to enjoy Japanese eel, we recommend going for anago, rather than unagi.
7. Soba (buckwheat noodles)
Soba is another famous Japanese dish. While you might wonder why there are 2 noodle dishes in this article, it is because that soba is so good that deserves a spot as well. Compared to ramen, soba noodles have a darker, almost blackish colour. They are equally tasty, but soba is drastically different, with a more grainish texture. Like ramen, the dish is quite versatile. Soba noodles are an important dish in Japanese culture.
8. Miso Soup
Miso soup is one of the most common food in Japan. As well as a bought for noodles and other ingredients, it is great on its own. Miso soup is an important part of Japanese meals. Miso soup contains vegetables, tofu, miso paste, dashi, and other ingredients. Miso soup is so common that you can turn on a tap beside the stall and get a bowl of miso soup. Be careful, however, the soup you order is very hot so wait some time to cool it down.
Here we are, at the third noodle entry in this article. Udon is very different from ramen or soba. Its texture is smooth and sticky. Udon is also bigger than other noodles, using thin wide blocks rather than strips. Udon is still a very popular dish usually eaten in miso soup. Still, have doubts? The moment you try udon, they will all melt away, as you are consumed by its flavour, texture, and its broth richness.
Onigiri is similar to sushi, though it is less colourful and rather straightforward. It is simply a rice ball wrapped in seaweed. However, the insides aren't as varied as sushi, sticking to meat, dried fish, and other things. Sushi rice has more flavour since it is laced with vinegar. Onigiri uses plain rice, sometimes sprinkled lightly with salt. Despite this, onigiri is still a popular snack, and it was even eaten by ancient samurai.