Many people say that when you travel, don’t just look for the coolest places to go to–you have to try the local food, be it weird or fancy–besides, walking and looking for tourist spots can really make you hungry.
Forget McDonald’s, Starbucks or Burger King. Fast food joints are everywhere, popping like daisies in a meadow. But when you’re in a foreign country, you have to be a little adventurous when it comes to food. Of course, you also have to be careful about which food stand to visit, especially if you want to try street foods.
In Japan, trucks, carts and tables with tents are all over the place, offering great cheap food after a night out drinking with friends, or any time at all. Though the Japanese still see it as rude to eat on the go, it’s actually starting to change. Here are some of the snacks you might see on streets and on the common places in Japan, food that not only would catch your attention but tickle your taste buds.
Yaki Imo (Oven-roasted Sweet Potatoes)
According to locals, Yaki imo is the classic street food in Japan, especially during autumn and winter because it helps keep people warm and feeling full in more ways than one. It’s simply sweet potatoes roasted on an open fire. Some vendors have their ovens built on wheels so they can move around and sell their stuff. Yaki imo is very high in dietary fiber and jam-packed with other vitamins and minerals.
Yakisoba (Fried Noodles)
Seriously, you’re in Japan, might as well try authentic noodles! It’s very cheap yet it fills your stomach and satisfies your hunger. It has vegetables with salty and juicy goodness that you can eat any time of the day. It’s also one of the favorites during festivals and sporting events.
Ramen stands are all over the city. If you’re having a ramen episode, pick a different stand everyday and compare which ramen tastes better.
Osaka has a strong street food culture, and the batter-based okonomiyaki pancakes are city specialities. Kansai- or Osaka-style okonomiyaki is found throughout Japan. The batter is made of flour, grated nagaimo (a type of yam), water or dashi, eggs and shredded cabbage, and usually contains other ingredients such as green onion, meat (generally pork or bacon), octopus, squid, shrimp, vegetables, kimchi, mochi or cheese. Okonomiyaki is also referred to as “Japanese pancake” or “Osaka soul food.”
Kakiage is a type of tempura made with mixed vegetable strips, such as onion, carrot, and burdock, and sometimes including shrimp, which are deep fried as small round fritters.
Takoyaki or fried or grilled octopus is a popular dumpling made of batter and cooked in a special takoyaki pan. The ball is filled wth diced octopus, tempura scraps or tenkasu, pickled ginger and green onion.
Nikuman (Pork buns)
Another flour-made snack, nikumn is similar to the hinese baozi or pork buns. From August or September through the winter months in Japan, these are sold even at convenience stores, where they are kept hot and steamy.
Yakitori (grilled chicken)
Yakitori is made from several bite-sized pieces of chicken meat, or chicken offal, skewered on a bamboo skewer and grilled, usually over charcoal. It is cooked with salt or tare sauce, made up of mirin, sake, soy sauce and sugar. The sauce is applied to the skewered meat and is grilled until delicately cooked.
Korokke (deep-fried dish)
This snack is made by mixing cooked chopped meat, seafood, or vegetables with mashed potato or white sauce, rolling it in wheat flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs, then deep frying this until brown on the outside. Sounds like the French dish croquette, korokke are sold wrapped in paper at stalls and sometimes served as sandwich.
Onigiri (Rice Balls)
Rice balls are common in Asia. In Japan, a simple rice ball may both be filled with salmon, plum, tuna and mayonnaise and wrapped in seaweed. Perfect for lunch or at any time of day.
As years go by the Western culture continues to influence Japan’s cuisine, seen on simple snacks or even street foods. Bagels, ice cream, coffee, even Mexican food can be seen on the streets of Japan. But still, nothing beats the colors, the art and years of tradition packed in a single ball of rice sold in stores, carts and corners in the cities of Japan. Truly, everything here is a must-try.