Japan is famous for its unusual food ideas. Most probably you have already heard of the most typical Japanese dishes such as Sushi and Ramen – That’s why we haven’t included them in our Top 10 Japanese Foods List.
During our time in Japan, we tried a lot of different things we haven’t heard of before. But there were also things I just couldn’t convince myself to try. For example, one dish that was served with a sauce made out of raw eggs I just couldn’t eat. – Eduardo said it was quite tasty though.
In the following, you can find our Top 10 popular Japanese Food that you might have never heard of.
What to find out in this post
Top 10 best Japanese Foods
10. Miso soup
Miso Soup might be not that unknown as already some Japanese restaurants in Europe are serving this dish.
Anyway, I have never tried this soup before I came to Japan. Even though it is one of the national dishes of Japan. Anyway, we got served Miso Soup everywhere and at every time of the day: for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Miso is a paste made out of soybeans. This paste is cooked with Daisi (fish stock). Afterward, you can add different ingredients, such as tofu, seaweed, or spring onions.
The taste of Miso Soup is not comparable with anything I have tried before. But the taste is really strong. I guess it depends on your preference. I wasn’t really into it, to be honest. For me, the taste was too fishy. Eduardo, on the other hand, simply loved it. So just try it out and decide for yourself.
09. Udon and Soba
As well Udon as Soba are traditional Japanese noodles. Usually, they got served as noodle soup.
The noodles itself you usually eat with chopsticks. The brew you can either eat with a spoon or directly drink from the bowl. Soba is compared thin. Udon on the other hand is the thickest noodles in traditional Japanese cuisine.
Especially the region around Takamatsu is famous all over Japan for its Udon. In this area, you get already served this tasty noodle dish for breakfast.
Taiyaki are small little cakes, maybe comparable with waffles. They have the shape of a fish and are usually filled with red bean paste. The red bean paste is a typical filling for cakes and pastries in Asian counties, such as Japan, China, and Taiwan. (In China it took me a little while until I had figured out what this thing was that I was eating all the time. And I was quite astonished when I realized that this sweet paste was actually made out of red beans.)
If you are not a fan of red bean paste like Eduardo, you don’t have to do without this tasty snack. Taiyaki are also available with other fillings, such as chocolate, cream cheese, Matcha cream, or custard.
A sweet snack for in-between times. And the best, you can get these delicious bites almost everywhere in Japanese cities. Yummy.
Matcha powder is said to be extremely healthy. Japanese seem to already acknowledge that and mix this intensely green powder with almost everything. Matcha is also known as Green tea powder and this is exactly what it is. In more and more shops it is already available at home in Europe. But most of the time truly overpriced.
Well, I guess it is just a matter of time until this trend is also available in our local supermarkets for affordable prices. Anyway, in Japan, you can already get Macha everywhere and with everything: As a tea, cake, pastry, as Matcha Latte (my favorite), as filling of various food, in chocolate (The green Kitkat is especially popular nowadays), and not to forget in the delicious ice cream in Japan – simply everywhere.
If you like green tea, you will certainly love this Matcha trend.
Takoyaki is a popular snack in Japan, especially in and around Osaka. These bites are little baked dough balls filled with a piece of the octopus arm. The name Takoyaki means translated “baked octopus” by the way.
They fill the dough in hot iron, similar to the production of Poffertjes, and afterward add an arm of an octopus. I read that the turnover of the little balls is kinda tricky as they might fall apart. Anyway, in the end, they should be well-formed balls.
When they managed it to get nice balls out of the dough this dish gets served with Okonomiyaki sauce. (see point 1) and Katsuobushi. You can find Katsuobushi on many Japanese dishes. It is made out of dried bonito fish. After drying, it got grated into tiny pieces. So when you put it on top of any dish it gets moved by air leaving the impression it is still alive. (The first time I saw it was in Taiwan. No one could really explain to me what it was. So I just assumed whatever this thing is, it is still alive. And I just didn’t have the heart to eat it.)
Those people who know me, know me for not being a big fan of seafood. But Eduardo just loved Takoyaki and absolutely wanted it to be on this list. So there you go.
05. Tonkatsu and Katsukare
Tonkatsu is basically breaded pork. As matter of fact is it is quite similar to our German Schnitzel. It gets perfect when the coating is really crunchy. Usually, this dish gets served with rice and ginger. We liked it most in combination with Japan’s famous curry. Combined this dish is called Katsukare. But you can also find this kind of breaded meat with chicken. The cheapest version of Tonkatsu you might find in one of the convenience stores around Japan. (Well, obviously it is not really good, to be honest.) But you will also find many restaurant chains that serve this dish for a reasonable price. Just take a look around.
04. Somen fishing
Another specialty of Japanese cuisine is Somen noodles.
Perse, nothing really special as they are more or less common noodles. They usually get served with regular soy sauce. The unique thing about this dish is obviously not the taste but much more the way of how it gets served. The noodles are floating in the water.
The trick is to catch the noodles out of the water with your chopsticks. And that is not as easy as it might sound like.
This way, your meal becomes a sort of activity more than a common meal. In the video, you can join Eduardo’s first try. He actually didn’t do that bad I think. What do you think?
Not only delicious food but also the relaxed feeling of a bbq night with your friends you can find in this unique kind of restaurant. It’s called Yakiniku and you can find this amazing trend all over Japan. Especially in Osaka Yakiniku restaurants get more and more popular these days. It might not be the cheapest option to eat but it is still affordable if you are on a budget. The bigger the group the cheaper it usually gets.
Every table offers its own little grill with a build-in ranges hood. And no, no electro grill but a traditional charcoal grill is what you will have your bbq on. For an authentic grill experience. For everyone that has his bag with him and doesn’t want it to smell like smoke they even offer plastic bags at the entrance. They really have thought of everything.
There is a huge variety of meats and veggies that you can put on the grill. But actually, the very best about this restaurant was the sauce. It was amazingly delicious. After trying your life will just never be the same anymore… Trust me. Well, but seriously. I was told that the name of this sauce is Yakiniku No Tare. So in case anyone has the recipe and wants to be my new favorite person you know what to do 😉
And even the dessert was amazingly well thought. They serve frozen strawberries filled with sweet condensed milk. After sitting around the hot grill for a while this is exactly what you need. Super refreshing!
If you get the chance to join such a Japanese Barbecue, don’t hesitate and try it!
Yakitori is basically bamboo sticks with different kinds of grilled chicken. My mouth is just watering thinking of it! For everyone that is not yet on their way to the next Yakitori Restaurant: The way of eating this tasty dish reminds me actually a little bit of our Spanish Tapas. You order some dishes and everything gets shared between you and your friends. How lovely! (It might be good if your friends are better at sharing food than me and Eduardo though 🙂 )
This way you have the chance to try everything. You can find Yakitori actually everywhere: in Bars, as street food, or even in specialized Yakitori Restaurants. This dish is even suitable as just an in-between snack as you can also just have one or two sticks. If this is not a reason to love this dish I don’t know what is.
As I have explained before and I will more often. We need Okonomiyaki in Europe! For us, the absolute best food in Japan! So guys, bring this trend to Europe as soon as possible!
In the middle of the table, there is a plate similar to a Barbecue. The original Okonomiyaki is from Osaka by the way. I would maybe describe it as a kind of grilled omelet.
Besides the Osaka version, you can also find the Tokyo- and Hiroshima styles. We had the chance to try all three kinds of them in Kanazawa. How lucky we were!
The Tokyo Style is mostly veggies and cheese. This one was my favorite. Eduardo was more into the Hiroshima version. Which was served with noodles and seafood.
But all in all, all three kinds of Okonomiyaki are totally recommended by us.
More Delicious Food in Japan
One of the most popular Japanese dishes is, of course, ramen. Its worldwide fame is hardly surprising, as this dish is not only filling and delicious but also healthy. There are dozens of recipes and possible combinations for this delicious noodle soup. Nowadays there are even vegetarian versions, but meat and seafood options are also popular.
How could I make a list of the best foods in Japan without mentioning sushi after all? After all, sushi is probably the first dish that comes to mind when you think of food in Japan.
However, in case you’ve never heard of it despite everything: Sushi is raw fish (or vegetables) wrapped in seaweed leaves along with sushi rice. It is important that the fish is really fresh and has been sufficiently cooled and treated before consumption. Usually, the sushi is served together with soy sauce and wasabi.
If you ever really want to treat yourself in Japan, you should go to the Kobe region. Because here, you can find one of the most expensive (actually, the most expensive) and highest-quality beef in the world. Kobe beef, also called Kobe-gyū or Wagyu, is produced under strict conditions and is now exported to almost the entire world.
The beef is not a breed of its own, but simply the cattle from the region. Many foodies report that Kobe meat is clearly worth its price. Due to the elaborate rearing of cattle, the absence of antibiotics, the tender and strongly marbled meat of cattle are considered one of the best in the world.
Onigiri is a typical Japanese snack for in-between meals. Known from many anime and manga, the small rice dumplings can be found on almost every corner in Japan. The pieces, which are usually individually packaged, are seasoned rice dumplings that are often decorated with a seaweed leaf.
Not only can the shape and size vary, but so can the flavors. From fish to meat to seafood, you can find almost every possible recipe.
Natto definitely did not become our favorite food in the country. And we are probably far from being the only ones to think that way. On the other hand, there are also a lot of people for whom Natto is an absolute delicacy. This popular dish is basically fermented soybeans. Some love it, others hate it – but you should definitely try it.
Small personal tip: Best not to smell it before trying 😉
Many countries have their very own variety of dumplings. Maultauschen in Germany, Pierogi in Poland, and Jiaozi in China. Japanese gyoza is not that dissimilar to my Chinese favorites, jiaozi, because basically the Japanese dumpling variety (just like Korean mandu) is made according to the same recipe.
The delicious dish is dumplings filled with vegetables or meat, depending on the recipe. These are fried, steamed, or deep-fried depending on the version. Often the gyozas are then served with soy sauce.
For all the fish fans out there, unagi is another must-try dish in Japan. In fact, this freshwater eel is considered a real delicacy. The fish is dried and grilled several times and then served with a sweet soy sauce, similar to teriyaki sauce.
Interested in Japan?
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