Five foods to try in Japan
When we decided to visit Japan, of course I was worried about the food. I was afraid to eat raw fish and wondered if the food would agree with my stomach. I feared the food would be so exotic and I’d be pressured to eat “strange” things. Not the case.
While there, I fell in love with the food! I was so surprised! And it wasn't all that different. To my surprise, nothing I ate upset my stomach.
Here are some foods I enjoyed.
My husband and I tried this dish while visiting my cousin in Okinawa. We went to an even smaller island, Kourijima, and were directed to this small restaurant on a hill. It looked kind of rustic inside, overlooking the ocean. I was skeptical. But man o man, did the chef impress me. The soba noodles were amazing. They’re typically made from buckwheat and wheat flour, however in Okinawa, the soba noodles are made from just wheat flour. They were served in a soup with a broth containing konbu which is edible seaweed, slice scallion, and a thick slice of pork belly or pork ribs. Sounds different but it was delicious. And the chef gave us so much food. We ate with chopsticks and learned slurping the noodles as we ate was a compliment to the chef. I heard Okinawa soba is a little different from the soba in mainland. The noodles are also served cold in some dishes.
Ramen is wheat noodles, and usually served in a soup with a meat or fish based broth with miso, with slender slices of pork, dried seaweed or nori, and scallions. Sometimes it is served with an egg. They serve it in big bowls, like the soba noodles, and it is delicious. Every region in Japan has its own variation. We tried ramen in Tokyo and in Okinawa and both dishes were equally tasty. Both restaurants we went to required customers to order their ramen using a ticket vendor machine. The machine looks similar to a vending machine. We ordered and paid for our food, and then the hostess sat us, and delivered the food about 10-15 minutes later. If you’re in Tokyo, I’d recommend visiting Ichiran Shibuya, right near the famous Shibuya Crossing. It’s open 24 hours. It serves the Tonkotsu ramen, which has a pork-based broth. There might be a wait of up to an hour but it’s worth it. It’s a cool dining experience where you sit in these tiny wooden booths and eat and they have a button to press anytime you need the waitstaff. It’s cash only so be prepared. Also most restaurants don’t expect customers to provide a tip. =
The sushi is so fresh and amazing in Japan. I was never big on eating raw fish but honestly, once I tried the raw salmon, it really wasn’t a big deal. Over there, there’s actually several different styles of what Americans consider to be sushi. The nigiri style seemed to be most prevalent with raw fish on top of the rice. Then there were the maki rolls, which Americans are accustomed to, which were layers of fish, rice and veggies wrapped in seaweed. For regular sushi, sometimes they grilled the fish a little and added mayonnaise on top with avocado. The best part was visiting the sushi-go-rounds. In several of the sushi restaurants we visited, we ordered the sushi on a screen and it was delivered on a conveyor belt. It was pretty neat to watch. We just waited for our food to appear on the belt and grabbed it. Picture an old school diner in the states, with a conveyor belt and food on the belt going around it. Another restaurant looked like we had entered a casino, with the ordering stations looking like slot machines, and sushi sliding around on conveyor belts. It’s a unique, high-tech experience. They had all types of exotic sushi but I just played it safe, looked at the pictures, and stuck to salmon and crab sushi both nigiri and maki style.
There were a lot of bakeries and places selling desserts. Even the convenience stores, Family Mart and Lawson’s, had a nice variety of desserts. We didn’t have enough time to try everything but a lot of bakeries sold some form of mochi. It’s a rice cake often filled with a red bean paste called anko. I found it delicious. It wasn’t as sweet as usual deserts in the United States but there’s just enough sugar to satisfy the taste buds. You’ll want try to try it.
Teas and vending machines
In Japan, you’ll never go thirsty. They have vending machines on what seemed like every corner. The machines sell drinks, ranging from bottled water, soft drinks and about half of the drinks are different teas. I tried a few. They’re unsweetened and have a light taste to them but mostly watery. All in all, it seemed Japanese loved their teas and they didn’t put a lot of sugar in them. Matcha tea is very popular and served for free at most restaurants. It’s a green tea made from the leaves of tea plants. The leaves are ground down into a fine powder which is combined with hot water to create the tea. It tastes very earthy but I enjoyed it. Not sweet at all. One of the teas I brought back was hibiscus tea, which I bought at Okinawa World. It had a fruitier, cranberry-like flavor. I found it delicious, especially when sugar was added. The Japanese beer, Asahi, was good too.
All in all, trying the different foods there was a pleasant experience. If you don’t want to eat traditional Japanese food the entire time, they have McDonald’s, Burger King, TGI Fridays, Hooters, Outback, Sizzler, Tony Roma, and Hard Rock Café in Tokyo. Our free breakfast with out hotel was pretty Americanized as well with fruit, potatoes, bacon and croissants served. But if you have to have your Lays chips, bring them because I didn’t see very many American snacks there. Not even in the convenience stores. A large variety of kit kat bars, many that aren’t seen in the United States, coke, sprite and water were about all that I saw that looked familiar, besides fried chicken, in the convenience stores. The rest of the foods there were completely foreign.
If you’ve been to Japan, describe your favorite Japanese food or restaurant in the comments.