One of the best things about traveling to Japan is the local food. The wide variety of Japanese dishes and their use of healthy ingredients make it a unique cuisine. The most famous Japanese dish is sushi, but there are many more delicious foods to offer–so many that you won’t even know where to start. That’s why we made a list of the top things to eat in Japan. Ready to discover some of the tastiest Japanese dishes? Keep reading to discover 10 Japanese delicacies you should definitely try on your next trip to Japan.
You’ll find this popular dish in every corner in Japan. Ramen is a noodle soup that is served in a bowl containing a rich-flavored broth, noodles, and toppings. The broth is the most crucial part of the dish. Generally, there are 4 types of soup: shoyu (soy sauce-based), shio (salt-based), miso (soybean paste-based), and tonkotsu (pork bone-based). Of course, there are other variations and sometimes they are mixed together. Another important component is the noodles. They are made of wheat and can vary in thickness and shape: straight or wavy. The toppings are the final touch to a delicious bowl of ramen. Some of the most popular toppings are roasted pork, fish cakes, a soft-boiled egg, bamboo shoots, spring onion, and seaweed. This comfort food can vary depending on the region where it is made. Try to discover as many as you can!
Onigiri are Japanese rice balls. Cooked rice is often formed into a triangular shape and in the center, you’ll be surprised with a delicious filling. The filling can be anything: tuna-mayo, salmon, pickled vegetables, meat, etc. They are usually wrapped with crispy nori seaweed. Onigiri are sold in convenience stores, supermarkets, train stations–in fact almost everywhere. You can eat them for breakfast, lunch, or as a snack. Another great food to feast on!
Yakitori are juicy pieces of chicken on a skewer that are grilled over a charcoal fire. Different parts of the chicken can be used to make yakitori. You’ll find yakitori made of chicken thigh, breast, wings, skin, liver, and so on. Of course, it doesn’t have to be chicken, as, for example, vegetable skewers are also offered. These vegetable skewers are most commonly made with asparagus, mushrooms, or other veggies. The skewer is seasoned with salt or tare, glazing made from mirin (rice wine), and sweet soy sauce. Try these yummy skewers at a yakitori-ya (specialty restaurant) or at an izakaya (Japanese pub). Make sure to add it to your foodie bucket list!
Gyoza (Japanese dumplings) are thin dough pockets made from wheat flour and filled with juicy ground meat and vegetables. The most popular filling consists of cabbage, garlic, chives, and ground pork. The dumplings are first pan-fried, then steamed until tender and briefly pan-fried again. That creates a crispy bottom and a soft top side. Other types are boiled, steamed, and deep-fried gyoza. Gyoza can also be found everywhere: in ramen shops, restaurants, izakaya, or specialty shops. They are cheap and delicious–definitely a must-try food!
This ultimate comfort food consists of rice with a Japanese-style curry, meat, and vegetables such as carrots, onions, and potatoes. Specialty restaurants offer various toppings like meat, seafood, and other vegetables. A popular variation of this dish is katsu kare, in which tonkatsu is served on top of your rice and curry. Tonkatsu is a deep-fried pork cutlet covered in panko bread crumbs. That’s what makes it crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Make sure to try this meal that is the favorite of many people.
Okonomiyaki, meaning “grill (yaki) what you like (okonomi)”, is a savory Japanese pancake. It is made of shredded cabbage, batter, and pork belly slices. It is topped with okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, seaweed powder, bonito flakes, and scallions. But as the name already says, you can add whatever you want, for example, seafood or other vegetables. In general, there are two varieties of okonomiyaki: Osaka-style and Hiroshima-style. For the Osaka-style, all the ingredients are mixed together into the batter and then cooked. The ingredients of the Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki, on the other hand, are layered and two additional toppings are added: yakisoba noodles and a fried egg. What they do have in common is that they are both delicious. Try them both and decide for yourself!
Unagi is the Japanese word for freshwater eel. It can be prepared in several different ways, but the most common way is kabayaki. Square fillets of eel are grilled over charcoal while being brushed with a sweet sauce (made of soy sauce, mirin, and sugar). The unagi is then served over steaming hot rice. Unaju is a dish where the unagi is served over a bed of rice in a rectangular box. Unadon is actually the same, but the difference is that it is served in a bowl. Try this delicacy at a specialty restaurant and be surprised by its unique taste.
Takoyaki, or octopus balls, is one of the most popular street foods in Japan. This dish originated in Osaka. There, you can find a takoyaki food stand on every street corner, but now you can also find it throughout the entire country! Takoyaki are fluffy dough balls filled with small pieces of octopus (tako), pickled ginger, and green onions. They are crisp on the outside and creamy on the inside topped with teriyaki sauce, mayonnaise, seaweed powder, and bonito flakes. Enjoy these yummy octopus balls, but be sure not to burn your tongue as they are piping hot.
Tempura is a classic Japanese dish beloved by everyone. It consists of deep-fried pieces of vegetables or seafood in a crispy coating of batter, which is made of flour, egg, and water. Nowadays, you’ll find other ingredients being used as well such as chicken and even ice cream. You can eat it as a main dish, side dish, or as a topping for udon or soba noodle dishes. You can’t leave Japan without tasting them!
Lastly, but certainly not the least tasty: yakiniku. It literally means “grilled (yaki) meat (niku)”. At restaurants, you can choose from a wide variety of beef, pork, seafood, and veggies. Each table has its own grill. Grill the ingredients yourself and dip them in one of the delicious sauces that are offered. This is a great, fun way to share a meal with family or friends. It’s definitely a must-try food experience!
These are just a few examples of what Japan has to offer. There are so many restaurants and each one of them offers delicious dishes. During your trip, you definitely won’t go hungry. Be sure to let Japanese cuisine take you to a whole new culinary world!
Featured image source: Image by Martijn Baudoin on Unsplash