Food is the heartbeat of culture. When traveling, it offers an intimate window into the traditions, history, and daily life of a place. This is especially true in Japan, where food is deeply ingrained in the nation’s customs and consciousness.
From vibrant street food stalls to revered sushi restaurants, culinary exploration provides a rich insight into the Japanese way of life. This article provides a tour of must-try food and drinks to fully experience Japan’s culinary offerings.
If you’re planning to visit Japan on a culinary tour, make sure you get pocket Wi-Fi, so you can easily look up the best restaurants to sample the country’s cuisine while on your trip!
Sushi – A Revered Delicacy
Of course, no food is more synonymous with Japan than sushi. But, in its homeland, this trendy cuisine takes on a whole new dimension.
Renowned sushi masters spend years honing their craft, slicing the freshest seafood, and shaping perfectly seasoned sushi rice. Be sure to try Nigiri, a type of sushi with a slice of raw fish over pressed vinegared rice.
Ramen: Comfort in a Bowl
A steaming bowl of ramen is comfort food at its best. Although the dish originated from China, it’s been thoroughly Japanese for centuries.
The magic of ramen lies in its umami-rich broth, lovingly simmered for hours, and the perfectly springy wheat noodles. While there are many regional variations, all bowls share an emphasis on high-quality ingredients and meticulous preparation.
Okonomiyaki: The Japanese Pancake
This savory pancake, whose name translates to “cooked as you like it,” is a testament to Japan’s spirit of innovation. Usually filled with a variety of ingredients like cabbage, meat, and seafood, okonomiyaki is a delightful mix of flavors and textures.
You can find it throughout Japan, but it’s a special treat in Hiroshima and Osaka, where the local versions have a unique twist.
The Quintessential Tempura
Tempura is a simple dish, where ingredients like shrimp and vegetables are coated in a light batter and deep-fried. It’s the careful technique and quality of ingredients that elevate this dish to an art form in Japan. Tempura is commonly served over rice or noodle bowls, or as part of a multi-course meal.
Japanese Sake: The Rice Wine
Your Japanese culinary adventure won’t be complete without trying sake, Japan’s famous rice wine. It’s served either chilled, at room temperature, or warmed, depending on the type and season.
This alcoholic beverage is the perfect accompaniment to a meal or a refreshing way to unwind after a busy day visiting Tokyo’s attractions. You should also visit a sake brewery if you get the chance, to learn about the traditional brewing process.
Matcha: A Taste of Tradition
From tea ceremonies to the everyday, matcha has a central place in Japanese culture. This powdered green tea has a strong, earthy taste and is often served with a sweet to counterbalance its slightly bitter profile. Also, don’t miss out on the many matcha-flavored sweets in Japan, like the delicious matcha Kit-Kat.
Takoyaki: Osaka’s Street Food Star
A trip to Japan would be incomplete without savoring takoyaki, a popular street food originating from Osaka. These small, round dumplings are made from a wheat flour-based batter and filled with diced octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger, and green onion.
Grilled in a special molded pan to achieve a crisp exterior and gooey center, takoyaki is typically served brushed with a sweet, savory sauce and sprinkled with bonito flakes. The contrasting textures and burst of flavors make them an irresistible treat.
Tonkatsu: The Crispy Delight
Tonkatsu, a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet, is another must-try dish in Japan. A slice of succulent pork is coated in panko breadcrumbs and then deep-fried to a golden brown.
The crispy outer layer encases a tender and juicy interior, creating a delightful crunch with every bite. It is usually served with shredded cabbage, rice, and a rich, tangy tonkatsu sauce.
Black Eggs of Hakone: A Unique Regional Specialty
In the volcanic valleys of Hakone, you’ll encounter a culinary curio – the kuro-tamago, or black egg. These eggs are ordinary chicken eggs boiled in the region’s hot sulfur springs, which naturally dye the shells black while slightly flavoring the inside.
Local tradition holds that eating one of these eggs can add seven years to your life. Whether or not you believe the legend, tasting kuro-tamago is a fun and memorable part of any visit to Hakone.
Ryokan Traditional Japanese Breakfast
Staying in a ryokan, or traditional Japanese inn, affords the opportunity to experience a traditional Japanese breakfast. This is a lavish, multi-dish spread that beautifully illustrates Japan’s philosophy of food.
A balance of textures, flavors, and nutrition is achieved through an assortment of dishes such as grilled fish, steamed rice, miso soup, pickled vegetables, and a rolled omelet called tamagoyaki. This hearty start to the day is a culinary experience that immerses you in Japan’s gastronomic heritage from the jump.
So that you know: The photogarphs has been collected from various stock photography sites like Unsplash, Pixabay etc.