Japanese Food: Beyond Sushis and Ramen
You think Japanese cuisine and your mind immediately jumps to Sushi, Ramen, and Tempura. Granted these dishes have achieved a cult status now, but Japan has so much more to offer in terms of food. From croquets to fried food and baked items, the variety available in the culinary spectrum is huge. We recommend 7 dishes from traditional Japanese fare that you must have while in Osaka or Tokyo.
You don’t just eat in Japan; you immerse yourself in the numerous flavors and notes that each carefully curated dish has to offer and enjoy it as a whole new experience. After all, Japanese food is based on a concept to please the senses in all possible ways. So what to order from a menu at a Japanese restaurant?
Here are some dishes that are truly unique to the country, some even downright bizarre, nonetheless, extremely delicious:
This homegrown beef can give the good old western steak a run for its money. Matsusaka is a product derived from the ‘female virgin cow’ of the kuroge washu (Japanese black) cattle breed that is indigenous to the Matsusaka region. It is known for its high fat content, exquisite marbling patterns, and the melt-in-your mouth experience it offers. In fact, the Japanese love their beef curry with rice and Matsusaka is a must-have, fine version of the dish.
Try it at Osaka’s famous restaurant, Matsusakagyu.
KAiseki; source: Sarkars_food_dairies
The savory pancake literally represents what it brings to the table. ‘Okonomi’ means what you like and ‘yaki’ means grill. Okonomiyaki is served with cabbage, shrimp, pork belly, or octopus as toppings. You can choose between Hiroshima style (pancake with toppings) and Osaka style (toppings mixed into the batter) Okonomiyakis.
Try it at Chibo or Ajinoya restaurants in Osaka.
KAiseki; source: Sarkars_food_dairies
The Japanese sure love their proteins, even if it is ‘offal’- the internal organs of cows and pigs. Motsunabe, the hot pot stew offers beautiful contrasts – meat that is strong in taste but soft in texture and broth that is light yet filling, topped with nutrient-packed veggies!
Try it at Keisyu in Tokyo.
- Tori Gai
If you are a sushi-lover looking for adventure, Tori Gai (Cockle or Heart Clam) may be a good thing to try. The flash-boiled cockle redefines exotic, being only available between April and May. It is probably one of the most expensive delicacies you can try in Japan.
Try it at Sushi Taichi, Ginza, Tokyo.
- Neba Neba Don
Neba Neba is not a dish per se, but rather an adjective that describes any sticky ingredient. Neba-neba Don is the buffet of all things sticky, packed in one. The buffet includes natto (fermented soybean), tororo (mountain yam), okra, nameko (smallest forest mushrooms), and sometimes raw egg.
Try it at the Tengu Natto Factory in Tokyo.
If you are looking for more conventional dishes, Katsudon might be right up your alley. This rice bowl dish comes with deep-fried pork cutlet, eggs, and veggies, and also in a variety of different curries and sauces, depending on the area you’re eating it in.
Try it at the Zuicho restaurant in Tokyo.
Now we’re talking tradition! Any visit to Japan would be incomplete without trying out Sashimi. It may not be much ingredient-wise, because it is raw meat after all, but the quality and cut matters. Every platter is treated with amazing precision and looks like a work of art.
Try it at the Ryuzushi restaurant in Tokyo.
As per chef and author, Anthony Bourdain, Kaiseki is the world’s finest meal. With meticulous preparations and eye to smallest of details, dishes served in Kaiseki represent the soul of Japanese hospitality. A set of various courses, the order of which is often determined by the chef, is based on the locale and time of serving it; and only freshly available ingredients are used.
Try it at the Akasaka Eigestsu restaurant in Tokyo.
To sum up, Japan offers food for every taste. The country literally checks all the boxes to make it a gastronomic theme park. So much food to experiment with, so much to savor, and never a dull food moment for a true food connoisseur!
By Swetha Bhagat
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Posted In: Food Travels