Food plays a big role in Japanese life and culture, so it is an amazing place for a foodie to visit.
This video reveals my top ten favourite foods which I discovered while living in Japan – I have also listed these below the video with some additional information.
These are Japanese rice balls which are often wrapped in seaweed with a filling inside the rice. They can be circular or triangular. My favourites were the grilled salmon and tuna mayo versions, I wasn’t brave enough to try the fish egg flavour!
This is sushi rice wrapped in sweet deep fried tofu skin. I had never heard of this before I came to Japan but I absolutely love it!
This is a savoury pancake dish which means “grilled as you like it”. There are lots of different types of Okomoniyaki, but it is often made from cabbage, egg, seafood, chicken, meat or noodles. The version I tried was made in ‘Hiroshima style’ which included cheese and okonomiyaki sauce (which is similar to brown sauce or a sweeter version of Worcester sauce).
4. Ramen and Soba
We had lots of tasty noodle dishes during the trip, but it was difficult to find vegetarian versions as the broth was often pork based. The top two noodle pictures above are ramen, which are thin and firm wheat based noodles. The bottom two pictures are of soba noodles which are made from buckwheat and are usually darker in colour than other noodles.
5. Ajitsuke Tamago
These are the marinated eggs that are served in ramen dishes, these can also be bought in most convenience shops as well. They are so tasty, and probably my favourite part of a ramen dish! Ajitsuke tamago are made by marinating soft boiled eggs in soy sauce, sake and sugar for 12 – 24 hours (here is a recipe from BBC Food if your are interested).
6. Japanese Vegetables
We had the chance to try lot’s of tasty vegetables in Japan, my favourites were lotus flower root (which is popular in most of Asia) and the different types of sweet potatoes which were available. Beni imo is a purple sweet potato which is especially popular in Okinawa, it is also used to flavour desserts such as: ice cream, tarts and cakes.
7. Japanese Vegetable Crisps
Vegetable crisps like these are commonly found in convenience shops. I really liked these as they were a bit thicker, slightly less salty and more like actual vegetables compared to versions I’ve tried in the the UK and Ireland.
8. Sensational Soya
There are loads of different soya-based dishes in Japan. We went to a soya specialist restaurant and had a nine course meal which contained different forms of soya at each course (like pressed tofu, tofu skin, fried tofu, soy ice cream etc.)! My favourite was fried silky tofu which was topped with a miso sauce which you can see in the above photo.
9. Japanese Sweets and Desserts
I have a whole separate post and video about Japanese sweets and desserts, but they still deserve a mention in this list as some of them were really delicious. My favourites are shown in the picture above – soufflé pancakes; yuki ichigo (top right) which is a sponge cake with a strawberry and cream which is wrapped in mochi; and daigaku imo which are candied sweet potatoes (bottom right).
10. Delicious Drinks
I liked the variety of drinks available in convenience shops, especially the smoothie drinks which were often soy based; cold jasmine tea which was popular in Okinawa and I’ve also been informed that the cold almond milk based coffees were tasty as well (I’m not a big coffee drinker myself).
As well as these tasty foods and drinks, there were parts of Japanese food culture which I really liked, such as:
- The good variety of options with portion sizes in restaurants – this means you could match your portion to your hunger to reduce food waste and the risk of overeating.
- The culture of serving food with alcohol – food is an important feature in the Izakayas (Japanese informal bars), this reminded of Italian aperitivo. This is great because eating when drinking alcohol helps to slow down alcohol absorption.
- The ceremony and presentation that went along with meals – this made a meal more enjoyable (as we eat with our eyes too) and was an important feature with more traditional meals in particular.