Japan is known as the world over for its creative, unique, and most importantly, scrumptious cuisine. Foodies everywhere have Japan marked somewhere on their munchie bucket list. Fish, chicken, noodles, even vegetables are all prepared in special, delicious ways you can’t really find anywhere else in the world. To get a true taste of Japan, you need to know where to look, and that’s why we’re here. Here are some of the seven best traditional foods you’ve just got to sink your teeth into.
This is an absolute must if you’re visiting Japan, and it doesn’t even matter where. Kaiseki is a series of small, seasonal dishes served consecutively, allowing you to taste a wide variety of fares prepared with precision and skill by worthy chefs. It’s often served with traditional tea, from which it got its origins. Gradually, it was added onto until the kaiseki of today came to be, a highly formal, yet infinitely delicious journey into the seasonal specialty of Japanese cuisine.
You can find many restaurants offering kaiseki in Ginza, which is one of the one of the best districts to stay in Tokyo for tourists.
Coming in hot and fast, we’ve got probably the most famous of all Japanese foods, sushi. Many people are turned off by the idea of eating raw fish wrapped in rice and seaweed, but the Japanese know what they’re doing. The idea was to preserve the fish in fermented rice back in ancient times, and the process thrived into the modern-day. So many different kinds have evolved over the years that it’s hard to keep track of them all. Honestly, for even for the avid sushi lover, it could take a week to go through every variety. That just leaves plenty to keep going back for.
A staple to any Japanese meal, including breakfast, Miso soup is a surprisingly simple and oddly complex broth. Made from dashi stock, produced from fish or kelp and combined with miso paste, it’s then mixed with any number of additives; leeks, mushrooms and sliced green onions, seaweed, pork, clams, you name it. Such a warm, smooth and delicate broth warms the entire body as you drink it, leaving you feeling cozy and satisfied, and eagerly anticipating whatever dish has been paired with it.
Udon is in the noodle family of Japanese delicacies. A thick, chewy noodle made from wheat flour and served any number of ways makes it one of the most popular dishes on its home turf. It’s incredibly flexible and can be consumed hot or cold in a wide range of dishes, such as curry, soup, tempura or stir fry. They’ll add a comforting texture to any dish and you might find yourself surprised at how fun they are to nibble on bit by bit.
This is a traditional dish with some interesting history behind it. In the Meiji period, meat-eating was banned, so people in the fields would quickly and covertly cook up whatever meat they found outside with whatever ingredients they could before they were caught. Of course, the ban was eventually lifted, but the dish had gained some popularity, allowing it to stay and evolve. It’s a one-pot dish consisting of meat, veggies, and tofu cooked in a sweet broth. If you’re looking to enjoy the famous wagyu beef, then this is the way to go.
Even if you aren’t a fan of fried food, tempura is still a must-try for any tourist. The way it’s prepared is so different from what you may expect. Fresh seafood and vegetables are coated in a flour and egg batter and fried but served immediately. And we do mean immediately; it’s the best way to eat it. Ay any specialist tempura restaurant, no matter how much you order, they will serve it the very second it comes out of the fryer. Crispy breading over still crunchy vegetables and fresh seafood. It doesn’t get much better than that.
And of course, the ultimate in Japanese symbols, ramen. First, you need to eliminate that ‘poor college kids’ food’ stigma. This is a whole different league of flavor. Ramen broth is made from a complex array of different additions, including pork or chicken bones, salt, soy sauce, miso, and even curry. Beautiful handmade noodles swimming in a richly flavored, tempting soup are the perfect dish for a cold winter’s day.
Japanese food is unlike any other found on earth, relying solely on the principle of balance in colors, flavors, foods, and preparations. So whether you know it or not while you’re eating, you’re also on a bit of a true Zen trip at the same time. Whether this is what makes their food so special or not, wherever you go, you’re bound to find something as appetizing as it is beautiful.