There’s more to Japanese food than westernized sushi and ramen, although those are also worth a taste. Whether you crave sweet or salty, fried or healthy, Japan’s streets are full of tasty treats that you need to make sure you try at least once!
This wheat noodle soup dish can be found at almost every Japanese corner, even though it was originally imported from China.
Shoyu ramen is the most popular type of ramen. It has a clear, brown broth flavored with soy sauce. The soup is usually made of chicken broth but often has other meats like pork or fish, a hard-boiled egg, and vegetables like onion, mushrooms, bean sprouts, seaweed, and corn.
Did you know this food was brought to Japan by the Portuguese Jesuit missionaries in the 16th century?
The tempura batter is prepared with wheat flour, water, and eggs. Then, slices of veggies or seafood are dipped in it and deep-fried in vegetable oil. The temperature of the batter is usually ice cold and the oil is very hot for deep-frying so that every piece is perfectly crispily fried.
Chewey Udon Noodles
Udon noodles are thick and a bit chewy. They are traditionally made from wheat flour. They are normally served with kakejiru broth as a hot soup. The secret is getting the right mix of dashi (Japanese soup stock), soy sauce, and mirin (a rice wine-based Japanese condiment).
Udon can be served in various ways like with stir-fries or hot pots.
Tofu in places like Japan is a staple of a traditional diet, not just a vegetarian option. Tofu is basically soy milk that has been coagulated. The resulting curds are then pressed into blocks. These blocks come in varying levels of firmness.
Tofu can be consumed uncooked, boiled, or fried and it can even be used as a garnish. It can be paired with almost any dish.
Sushi And Sashimi
Sushi is probably the most internationally recognized dish in Japanese cuisine. It was exported to the US after the Meiji Restoration in 1868, and since then has gotten really popular.
The word “sushi” refers to any dish made with Japanese rice that has been seasoned with rice vinegar. In ancient times, it originated from the process of preserving fish in fermented rice. Today it’s made with vinegared rice and all kinds of fish and vegetables.
While typical American bar food includes chicken wings, the Japanese have their own version with yakitori. The name literally means “barbecued chicken,” and it consists of different chicken parts placed on skewers and grilled over charcoal.
The chicken is seasoned with a sweet-and-salty sauce or tare, of mirin, soy sauce, sake, and sugar. There most common types are momo (chicken thigh), negima (chicken and spring onion), and tsukune (chicken meatball).
Onigiri Snack Ball
This is the perfect Japanese snack! It is a triangle- or oval-shaped rice ball wrapped in a nori leaf. The filling can vary among any type of salty or sour ingredient.
You’ll find this snack anywhere from convenience stores to sushi restaurants, and it’s generally available at any time of day.
Unagi No Kabayaki (Grilled Eel)
Unagi means eel, which is used in high-class Japanese dining. Restaurants serve it “kabayaki,” which is a method of cooking. It means the unagi is put on skewers and brushed a sweetened sauce containing soy sauce, mirin, sugar, and sake. Then it is broiled on a grill.
Unagi dates back to the Edo period (1603–1868), when the Japanese ate kabayaki unagi during the summer in order to gain stamina.
For those with a sweet tooth, mochi is a round Japanese sweet rice cake. It has a soft, dough-like consistency. It is usually filled with red bean paste, but variations can include ice cream.
It’s not made with flour, but a paste of pounded rice, made during a special ceremony as it is traditionally consumed on the Japanese New Year. But it can still be tasted all year round.
Is it a pancake, or a pizza, or both? It can literally be whatever you like. In fact, the name translates to “what you like” or “how you like,” as this dish is available in so many varieties.
It is made of pan-fried batter made from flour, eggs, water, shredded cabbage, and nagaimo (Chinese yam). Then you add toppings that range from sliced meat and seafood to wasabi and cheese.
Soba noodles are kind of like spaghetti but made of buckwheat flour, which makes them gray/brownish in color. They are a favorite that dates back to the Edo period (1603–1868) when they became popular among samurais.
They are prepared in various hot and cold dishes with and without soup. The buckwheat gives them a nutty flavor that works well with ingredients like garlic and sesame. Soba can be served hot in soups with onions, tempura, raw egg, and meat, or it can be eaten cold without soup.
While curry has its origins in India, in Japan it’s known as “kare raisu.” It was introduced during the Meiji era (1868–1912) by the British.
It usually made with meat and vegetables (carrots, potatoes, onions, etc.) and flavored with curry powder. It’s all stewed and served with rice. Challenge yourself with the level of spiciness!
Miso soup is made with dashi broth and miso paste. The paste comes from fermented soybeans. The side dish is usually topped with wakame seaweed, tofu, and spring onions.
This humble soup is to be consumed at any time of day from breakfast with coffee to dinner with some sushi.
This street food comes in three types: yakigyoza (fried), suigyoza (boiled), and agegyoza (deep-fried). But usually, it is a savory moon-shaped dumpling, with filling made from a minced mixture of things like pork, cabbage, green onions, and mushrooms.
Unlike China’s thick and doughy wrapping, Japanese dumplings are made in thin wrappers. They are eaten with dipping sauces like soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, chili oil, etc.
Natto Soy Beans
This polarizing dish is made from fermented soybeans. It is usually eaten for breakfast. If it doesn’t sound that bad yet, it’s because you haven’t smelled it. They say the strong smell is as bad as moldy cheese and very off-putting. Plus, they have a very sticky and slimy texture.
Yet some people love it for their savory flavor and nutritional value.
Oden One-Pot Soup
Oden is a one-pot dish that is popular during the Japanese wintertime. It is made from a base of dashi-seasoned broth.
Added ingredients almost always include hard-boiled eggs, tofu, daikon radish, konjac (a Japanese root vegetable), and fishcakes. Even though it’s a soup, it tends to be super comforting and filling.
Tamagoyaki literally means “fried eggs.” However, unlike what you’re imagining, the Japanese version is a lot smoother and fluffier than the traditional omelet.
This is because the egg mixture is rolled out and cut into small pieces. It’s prepared in a special square-shaped pan.
Takoyaki Octopus Balls
Here is another popular street appetizer delicacy. It is made of diced octopus that is battered and formed into small balls. Each of the molds is filled with a savory batter mixture then a piece of octopus is put in the middle.
The takoyaki are cooked or fried by being turned every minute to evenly cook both sides. They are usually served with a Worcestershire-like sauce and a topping of dried bonito fish.
Tonkatsu Pork Cutlets
The pork is cut into thick slices, dipped in flour and a beaten egg batter, then coated in breadcrumbs and fried in oil.
The deep-fried piece of pork is usually accompanied by rice, cabbage salad, and a sweet and fruity tonkatsu sauce. A perfect dish for meat lovers!
This dish is a little bit on the pricey side, and by “pricey,” we mean a pound of high-grade wagyu can cost up to $200.
It is known for its rich marbling of fat and tender texture, but its popularity is thanks to being high in monounsaturated fats, which have a lower melting point, so it literally feels like it melts in your mouth.