Japan Food Essentials

Japan is an incredible country for food, probably the best in the world. It has so many delicacies, you’ll have a hard time deciding what to eat next. The best part, the prices in Japan will fit any traveler’s budget. Below is my run down of some of the highlights and lowlights of food I’ve sampled throughout my travels in Japan.

 

Lets Start With The Worst

Before I start hating on some of the Japanese food I’ve tasted, I acknowledge it MIGHT be possible I picked the wrong places to try these dishes. That said, I honestly think the only way I could’ve liked them is if I was drunk AND on a midnight food run.

 

Takoyaki

Takoyaki

Cost: 550 – 750 Yen for 8 pieces.

Bought From: Takoyaki stand just outside of Akihabara Train Station.

What is it: This is a ball shaped snack that’s filled with minced or diced octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger and green onions. These balls are cooked in a special takoyaki pan and are prepared in front of you. It’s actually quite an impressive show; the cook will form and flip dozens of balls in the tray very quickly using picks.

Review

OMG, where do I start!

First let me say that I love Mark Wiens. If you don’t know him, he’s a Youtuber who’s famous for taping himself eating food and making you drool wishing you could try some. I remember watching him eat Takoyaki and making it look sooooooo delicious. I almost started licking my screen trying to taste some (check out his video here  go to 14:20).

Now that I’m in Japan, I have to try them. I walk up to the stand and watch them prepare the octopus balls. I’m hypnotized by the speed and efficiency of the cook flipping those balls. It smells great and like Pavlov’s dog I’m drooling. I buy a box and rush back to my hostel.

This is a sneaky dish. It looks great, everything about it screams eat me. So I do, I take a massive bite out of the ball. For a second or two, it feels good. The outside skin is crispy and the inside is gooey and oozes into my mouth. Then, all of a sudden, my taste buds start screaming at my brain:

“Spit it out ….. Spit it out ….. OMG ….. Spit it out.  NOW!!!!”

Let’s start with the stuffing inside the ball. How can I properly describe it? This is the best analogy I can think of (and I’m being very generous here). The stuffing is like the gooey snot that comes out of your nose when you have a cold, except it tastes worse.

Sorry for the visual.

Then there’s the octopus. It was totally inedible. I don’t know if it was over or under cooked. But it was like rubber bullets. I couldn’t even bite into them. There’s absolutely no redemptive qualities to this dish.

All I can say is Mark Wiens lied:  TAKOYAKI ….. IS ….. DIS-GUS-TING.


 


Dango

Dango

Cost: I think 150 Yen.

Bought From: Street vendor in Gion district in Kyoto.

What is it: This is a sweet Japanese dumpling that’s made of rice flour and formed in the shape of cute small balls and served on a stick. They can come in different colors/flavors and might be topped with a sweet sauce.

Review

While I was exploring Kyoto I noticed a long line of people in front of a street vendor. When you see locals waiting in long lines in Japan, it’s usually for something really really good. So I go to the front of the line to see what all the fuss is about. That’s when I laid eyes on my first Dangos. It was love at first sight. They were these tiny balls smothered in thick brown sauce and they looked unabashedly delectable.

I was hooked. I quickly scurried to the back of the long line and waited. As I stood in the queue my anticipation and excitement grew. I really wanted to taste this new delicacy. When I finally got my hands on a stick I just tore a ball right off it.

Terrible. Horrible. Mistake.

I’m not sure I can really describe it. The ball had a pasty mealy quality that put me off from the first bite. My tongue recoiled from the overpowering sweetness of the sauce that smothered the Dango. Also, I didn’t know what to make of the blandness of the pasty ball. There was no way I could take another bite.

Just like that, my infatuation for the Dango evaporated. I coyote dragged myself (when you wake up next to someone so ugly you’d rather chew your arm off than wake them) as far as I could from that location.


Grilled Unagi On A Stick (Grilled Eel)

unagi

Cost: 200 Yen per skewer.

Bought From: Outer markets surrounding Tsukiji Fish Market.

What is it: Grilled eel on a stick.

Review

OK, this one is my bad.

I’ve tried eel in the past and didn’t like it. So I knew I didn’t have the palette to enjoy this dish. I just got caught up in the excitement of being in Tsukiji Market I forgot that I don’t like eel.

I bought it, took one bite of it and then promptly found a bin (which is really hard in Japan) and dumped it.


 


Dishonorable Mention

Hiroshima Raw Oysters

Hiroshima Oysters

Cost: 3 oysters for 700 Yen.

Bought From: Popup store in Ginza.

What is it: Raw Oysters.

Review

Hiroshima Oysters have a reputation for being the best in Japan. The conditions around Hiroshima are considered to be optimal and these oysters are characterized as having large meaty textures.

I’ve never tried raw oysters before and was curious to give it a go. I believe we should try everything at least once. After tasting the raw oysters, I can say it’s not my thing.

Check out the below video on that experience.

 

 

NEXT PAGE