Yes, sushi is on the must-try list, however, there is so much more to Japanese cuisine. Here are our top ten food picks to try when visiting the city – in no particular order, they’re all well-worth a try!
This much-loved dish comprises egg noodles in a salty broth and there’s four main broth styles that you’ll come across including miso, soy sauce tonkotsu (pork bone), and salt.
You probably know of the deep-fried goodness that is tempura, but not like this. Tempura in Japan is light and fluffy. You’ll find it coating everything from seafood (fish heads included) to vegetables, and it tends to come served with a dipping sauce of soy sauce-flavoured broth.
You’ll find shabu-shabu restaurants all over Tokyo, where your table will be topped with a big pot of bubbling broth and platters of unlimited thinly sliced beef or pork, to swish around in the broth to cook to your liking. Cooking only takes a couple of seconds and the meat pairs wonderfully with a slurping of the broth afterwards.
We all know what sushi is, however, you’ll be surprised to find that sushi in Japan is different to what is served in other countries. Firstly, the quality of the fish is always of the upmost importance and tends to be ‘catch of the day’ only. Once sliced, the fish is serve atop rice seasoned with vinegar on the most beautiful sushi rice. Around Tokyo, you’ll find sushi at all establishments ranging from Michelin-starred to street food vendors – both of which serve superb quality.
Unagi is river eel, and is a much-loved ingredient in Japan. You’ll find river eel most commonly grilled over charcoal before being generously coated with a sweet barbecue sauce. The meat melts-in-the-mouth and is extremely tender and flavoursome.
No matter the time of day, you can never beat a couple of skewers of yakitori – sticks of charcoal-grilled meat and vegetables. Chicken in particular is most commonly used for yakitori (all parts of it), and will be grilled marinated in a sweet soy sauce. Don’t be caught off guard if you find your chicken served towards the ‘medium rare’ temperature. I know that eating raw chicken goes against what most of us were taught growing up, but the quality of chicken in Japan is so superior, that the Japanese eat it raw. Are you daring enough to give it a try?
Unlike udon noodles that are thick, soba noodles are long and thin. Made from buckwheat, soba tends to be served in a hot, soy sauce broth.
In simple terms, the Kaiseki dining experience is best described as an ultra-seasonal, authentic and traditional Japanese multi-course meal prepared by a chef, with great attention to detail and presentation. It originated centuries ago alongside the tea ceremony in Kyoto (and Kyoto remains the home of kaiseki). There’s no menu, just a procession of small courses meticulously arranged on exquisite crockery. Only fresh ingredients are used and each dish is designed to evoke the current season.
The word ‘okonomiyak’ quite literally means ‘grilled as you like’ in English. Okonomiyak is Japanese comfort food in the form of a savoury pancake filled anything from cabbage and pork to seafood.
This last one is only for the most adventurous and daring – and is only recommended to try at licensed establishments. Pufferfish are poisonous and contain tetrodotoxin, a deadly toxin that is up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide (gulp!) – that’s enough poison to kill 30 humans. But, it’s not all scary news. Many people in Japan eat pufferfish safely, however, it must be prepared by someone who has been specially trained and has a license.
If you enjoyed this article, you may be interested in trying our own recipe for Japanese ramen noodle soup.