Food is a major motivation for people choosing where to travel. It is always exciting to eat and experience new flavors you may never have tasted before. Japanese food, just like the language, has become famous worldwide thanks to their cultural exports. Many people around the world were introduced to food from the country through anime, manga, and Japanese films.
Today, it is easier than ever to get your hands on and try out Japanese food around the world. We will look at some of the most famous foods associated with Japan. Though this is just the tip of the iceberg for Japanese cuisine, it will act as an introduction and a short list of what to try.
No list of popular Japanese food can be made without mentioning Sushi (寿司). Known worldwide, it consists of a raw fish served on rice flavored with vinegar. However, not all sushi contains fish, with varieties also including vegetables like avocado and cucumber.
Often served with sushi is wasabi (わさび), a condiment made with Japanese horseradish that is famously strong flavor. Pickled ginger is also a common inclusion, used to cleanse the palate between courses and soothe the stomach. There are many varieties, some traditional Japanese but also many western-developed styles. This one is a must-try for anyone visiting Japan.
Onigiri (おにぎり), also known as rice balls, are a common sight in Japanese anime. They consist of balls of rice wrapped around a filling. More often than not, Onigiri are covered in seaweed which not only adds to the flavor, but also helps keeps fingers clean. They come in both a round and triangular shape.
Onigiri are a savory snack, being filled with fish, roe, egg, shrimp, or pork amongst many other fillings. They have a long history in the country, and can be found in almost any convenience store or restaurant there. There is a variety of cheaper options for travellers on a tight budget. There are also more gourmet, traditional options, so you should try a few out to find your favorite.
Said to be very healthy, Sukiyaki (すき焼き) is a mixture of meat, vegetables and tofu in a sauce of soy, sugar and mirin. The dish is popular during the winter time, served with a hot pot. It is often accompanied with a raw egg which can be used as a dip for the meat for a richer texture and flavor.
This dish has become popular throughout Southeast Asia and many other countries where hotpot meals are common. It is very filling and includes a variety of vegetables. It can be eaten on its own or together with rice. The sauce uses many ingredients common in Japanese cuisine, giving it a very authentic flavor.
While a dessert, Mochi (餅) is a popular Japanese food associated with the new year. Known as Japanese Rice Cake, it is made from glutinous rice. Its most common form is a steamed and filled with a sweet filling such as red bean. However, it can be prepared in a number of different ways, both savory and sweet with many different types of filling.
The way it is made is very interesting as can be seen as a performance. While traditionally made with whole rice, sweet rice powder is used mostly these days. Before, the steamed rice needed to be pounded constantly to create the desired texture. However, today it is possible to make using home appliances.
Ramen (ラーメン), long associated with Japan, actually have their origins in Chinese cuisine. However, Japan has embraced these noodles and very much have made them their own. These are a type of soup noodles, served with several toppings such as meat, vegetables, and seaweed.
The stock for the soup usually is made over hours, giving it a rich flavor. This broth can be fish, soy or pork based, with miso used to add more taste. Char Shu style pork is a common topping, often joined by scallions and seaweed, though soft boiled eggs and kamaboko (蒲鉾) – sliced fish cakes – can also be used. There is a lot of regional variation to explore with ramen.
This one is more of a special mention, but it is amongst the most popular foods to come out of Japan. Instant noodles are just that – noodles that are quick to prepare and start eating. While they can be eaten as is, a lot of the fun is in sprucing up the dish by adding vegetables, protein, and other ingredients to make it more interesting.
Though it is not the most nutritious options available, it is super convenient and cheap, and is available worldwide in a number of different flavors and styles. Chances are that, if you go to your nearest store, you can buy some instant noodle there. So, while you are eating it, you can thank Japan for their creation.
Again, this is just a small part of the vast variety available. Food in Japan is a real treat and should definitely persuade you to go and try for yourself. Not only does it taste great, it also often comes served in a special fashion, though we can look into that another time.