I could write all day about Japanese food. So much to talk about. Every region has its own specialties. But let’s take a look at the more mainstream Japanese food items, you just must try!
You can read the first part of the article by clicking here!
I can’t believe I did not include this amazingness into the first part of this article sequence… It’s just the best thing ever!
What is the onigiri?
Sticky cooked japanese rice filled with some tasty item, and wrapped in nori (seaweed).
You can say, it’s a rice sandwich, that holds inside for example umeboshi (salty pickled plum), tuna mayo, cooked salmon, shrimp tempura, or soybean. But the list could go on…
I also tried one grilled with some say sauce, no filling at all, but the taste was wonderful.
Tip: If you eat gluten free or are celiac, onigiri can be your savior in Japan. Always check the ingredients though, some of them contains soy sauce, which in Japan means wheat was added in the process, so it’s not gluten free.
Japanese dessert food, made with sticky rice flour, water, and sugar. Usually filled with adzuki bean paste. But encountered many types of mochi, it’s just amazing, how many varieties you can find in Japan.
What a special treat! It has a softer texture, cut in cubes, then the classic ones are covered with soybean flour, but my favorite one is with matcha powder. It’s best having it when it’s fresh.
Dango mochi, another great type! They boil the mochi dumplings, then they place them on a stick. My favorite is grilled on some charcoal, and covered with sweet soy sauce…You can be easy addicted to this stuff!
Could write this post forever, just talking about mochi types. If you see something new, just try it! High chance, it’s going to be amazing!
Classical mochi is vegan and gluten free. But always check the ingredients, there might be variations.
3. Katsu Curry
Schnitzel in curry sauce, with rice on the side? Exactly! I used to love this dish, but lately I avoid it, as it usually contains milk products, and the batter is made with wheat flour. Anyway, people love it! You should give a try!
Last year I went for a cooking course, to learn some Japanese dishes, including Oyakodon. I got immediately hooked, and want to have this dish whenever I spot it on any menu.
They cut the chicken, and onions into bigger pieces, then cook them in Japanese dashi sauce for a short time, and in the end they add it to a bowl of rice. All the umami you can imagine!
What is umami, anyway?
A Japanese chemist found the 5th basic taste next to sweet, salty, bitter and sour. He tasted it in various food items, and thought that Japanese dashi has the most. He recreated that flavour artificially, and called it MSG.
If you try umeboshi (salted plum) (find it at point 9), you’ll know what’s umami for sure!
Japanese fish-shaped waffle. Classic version is filled with adzuki bean paste, but saw one with custard, or matcha creme.
Taiyaki contains wheat and milk products. During the cooking course I learned a version made with rice flour, soy milk, filled with white bean paste and fresh strawberries. It was amazing!
Typical street food, just follow the fresh waffle smell and you most likely find a vendor, that sells this miracle food! 🙂
Another street food, a wok fried noodle with vegetables, meat with an added special sauce.
‘Yakisoba’ means fried buckwheat, but in this case they don’t use soba noodles, but egg noodles with wheat instead.
I never tried it, but seems super popular, so I decided including in this list.
You can find it on the menu of gluten free restaurants, so anyone who has intolerance or being a celiac, won’t miss a thing!
We can call it the ‘Japanese Pizza’, but it’s really something different. All kinds of vegetables, tossed together, and cooked on a flat heated platform. They can add some meat, seafood, some batter to it, and they most likely will top it with some mayonnaise. Yap, you heard it well!
Original version contains wheat flour, but you can try a gluten free version in one of those gluten free restaurants in Japan. I loved it personally!
The word itself means Japanese dessert, sweets. But I’d love to highlight one of my favorite thing in this world especially paired with a bowl of freshly whisked matcha. They make it from rice flour, sugar, water, and adzuki bean paste, and the form can depend on the season. You can see two different one on the bottom of this picture below.
We went to participate at a Japanese dessert making course, and you can see the desserts below I made with my own hands. On the top there are two daifuku-s. One filled with white bean paste, the other holds red bean paste, but both has a whole fresh strawberry as well. We made dango-s as well with three different colors (that’s a spring design). We colored the balls with matcha powder, and food colorant. We boiled them in water for 1-2 minutes, then pulled them on a stick.
Why do they love adzuki bean so much?
The first time I ever tried a dessert with adzuki bean was in Hawaii, at a Japanese restaurant. At first the taste was just so different, something really new. With no time, I became a huge fan. Dessert with adzuki bean? I can have it any damn time!
Is it healthy?
Well it has a load of protein, fiber, iron, manganese, phosphor, and folic acid. We can agree that it’s definitely more healthy than your average creamy cake.
Umeboshi for president! If I could be a food item, I would want to be an umeboshi. It is major in Japanese cooking. They use it in onigiri, crushed in some salt, in whiskey, sushi, dessert, snacks. Give me a break, there’s no end to this sentence.. .Anyway, umeboshi gives that explosion of taste, and umami is guaranteed, when tasting these items.
Tip: Search for an Asian grocery store and get a box of umeboshi!
10. Bento box
A bit of cheating here, bento box is not really a food item, but you need to try it when you’re visiting Japan.
What is a bento?
Literally, a box full of great food. We have small beautiful compartments, for ex: one for the rice, one for the pickles, then for the cooked vegetables, and so on. Japanese people love to make fun and creative bento boxes.
You can get all kind when you’re at the train station. To my surprise these boxes are cold, so it’s not a hot meal. But the taste makes up for it!
I realized in the last year or so, that I love everything that was made with fermentation. Like: sauerkraut, sourdough, kimchi, yoghurt, miso, tempeh, beer, wine, cider, kombutcha, and well, any kinds of pickles.
There’s one common thing with me and Japanese, they love their pickles, and want to have it all the time.
If you go to a supermarket, there’s a whole dedicated section for just pickles. It can’t get better than this!
All kinds of vegetables, really! My favorite is pickled daikon. But all of them are great, and super tasty. At the Nishiki Market in Kyoto, there’s many pickle vendors, where you can even taste their products before choosing your favorite.
Did you know that pickles and other fermented foods are super healthy?
They are absolutely loaded with probiotic bacterias, that are responsible for your gut’s health.
Tip: If you’re craving for something sweet, instead of eating some carbohydrates try to eat some pickles. Some research shows that fermented food can stop the temporary craving for sweets. So, what about making some sauerkraut instead that cake?
Let me know what’s your favorite Japanese food in the comment below!