Food Tourism: Japan

There are few universal truths in this world.  We all die equal.  Money doesn’t buy happiness.  The longer the line the better the food.  And people love looking at food photos.  So here’s a look back on some of the tasty treats from our recent Japan trip; the third time round is almost as good as the first.  Photos again by the lovely Jessica Faithfull. 

Taiyaki

taiyakiThese delightful little fish shaped cakes are commonly found on street corners; just follow your nose.  The freshly cooked batter is often filled with red bean paste, or sometimes sweet potato, chocolate, cheese and custard.  This was the first time I liked red bean paste, which could just be me getting used to it after several attempts, although it being in the shape of a cute fish certainly helped.

Black Garlic Ramen

black garlic ramenDon’t be put off by the fact that black garlic looks like tar.  The two could not taste any more different.  The ageing process to form black garlic gives it a more mellow, sweeter flavour, which pairs very well with the salty, savoury ramen broth.  If it still looks off putting, try giving the soup a good stir between bites as black garlic normally floats on the top.

Milk Pudding

milk puddingOne of many gems found in a Konbini (convenience store).  Sweetened condensed milk in a jelly like form in a cup.  We first heard about them on a Japanese Netflix show, where the characters got over the top distraught when someone eats their milk pudding.  After finally trying it I now see it as a perfectly understandable reaction.  Some Konbinis didn’t stock it, but 7Eleven always had the goods.

Curry Donuts

curry donutsImagine a pizza pocket filled with Japanese curry and then deep fried until the extra crispy side of golden brown.  That is essentially a curry donut.  Found in most Japanese bakeries, they quickly became a breakfast staple.  Curry donuts were almost the best savoury food of the whole trip, second only to Kobe beef, which was literally 40 times more expensive.

Daily Chico Icecream

daily chico icecreamThere were many softserve flavours in Japan; matcha seemed normal in comparison to black sesame.  But if I had to pick one to write about it had to be Daily Chico.  Hidden in the basement of Nakano Broadway in Tokyo this tiny ice cream shop that has a massive 8 flavour softserve cone.  There was strawberry, coffee, milk, chocolate, grape, mango, ramune soda and matcha.

Kobe Beef

Kobe BeefImagine the best piece of beef you have ever eaten in your life.  Then imagine what it would be like if it was 100 times better.  That is the best way I can explain Kobe beef; seared crispy on the outside and melt in your mouth soft on the inside.  There is not enough space to describe Japan’s tastiest and most interesting steak, so you can read more here.

 

A whole grilled fish

grilled fishIf raw fish is not your thing, then perhaps you can still be a bit adventurous with this whole grilled fish on a stick.  Freshly caught and cooked over a bed of hot charcoals in a small mountain town an hour south of Nara, this white flesh fish was tender and juicy.  Even the head and guts weren’t that bad.  The only tricky bit was eating the jaw, which was a bit hard to chew.

Mr Donut

mr donutNot the most cultural food, I know.  But they must be doing something right if I end up eating 6 donuts in a single sitting.  Mr Donuts were a lot softer, chewer and not super sweet; somewhere in between a Krispy Cream donut and mochi.  Worth stopping in for afternoon tea at least once, even if it is just for the novelty of seeing a donut buffet or to get character themed sweets.

Okonomiyaki at Okonomimura

okonomiyakiIt is no secret that I love okonomiyaki, so when I found out there was a 4 storey building in Hiroshima filled with okonomiyaki vendors I had to try it.  Okonomiyaki is a Japanese pancake with meat, seafood, cabbage and sometimes noodles, grilled on a hotplate then covered in okonomi sauce and kewpie mayonnaise.  It has everything I love about Japanese food rolled into one dish.

Konbini Fried Chicken

Do not let memories of shitty, dry, day old food in the bain marie of an Australian servo put you off trying fried chicken at a Konbini (convenience store).  It is amazing.  And open 24 hours.  Double amazing.  As a testament to it’s deliciousness we could never wait to devour it long enough to get a photo.  Not even once.

I would not have discovered some of the above amazing foods without being a bit adventurous, which does have its risks.  Sometimes you come across something that is more weird than it is wonderful.  On previous trips I have eaten cod sperm nigiri, which was as unpleasant as it sounds.  This trip, my dosey food was Brown Crab Meat.

brown crab meatWhen I think of crab meat, I think of the delicious white flesh from crabs legs.  This was what I was expecting when I ordered a crab meat nigiri.  Instead, I was served with what looked like three perfectly formed pieces of baby poo on a bed of rice.  Eating it wasn’t much better, the texture was super slimy and there was an intense taste of the ocean.  Turns out brown crab meat is not popular in western countries for precisely these reasons.

Brown crab meat aside, most of what I ate in Japan was bloody good food.  It was nice to know that there was still so much food to discover despite it being our third trip to Japan.  I think it is partially because our level of adventurousness in food has expanded over time, but also because we just didn’t know that many of these places existed before.  So if you are planning a trip to Japan, hopefully this has helped in expanding the food bucket list for your trip.

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