With world famous cuisine, it can be quite overwhelming when choosing what food, you want to eat, especially if you are on a short trip. There are so many different types of dishes available that there is usually always something even the pickiest eater can enjoy. From cheap eats and fried goodness to something a bit classier and more delicate, your tastebuds can experience it all here in Japan.
Sushi / Sashimi
A staple in Japanese cuisine, sushi is world-famous and the epitome of mouth-watering goodness. The carefully cut slice of fish, gently laid upon a roll of sushi rice is the symbol of perfection in terms of not only taste, but visually too.
Sashimi is essentially sushi, but without the rice. By eating it in this fashion, you are able to get a stronger taste and texture of the fish. This may be better to have than sushi in cases of ‘otoro’ or ‘fatty tuna’ for example, where you can experience the feeling of the fish ‘melting’ in your mouth better.
It is good to note that there are different styles of sushi too. The classic style is ‘nigiri’, where a slice of fish is laid on top some rice. ‘Maki’ is the one where the fish is placed in the middle of a roll of rice and wrapped with seaweed. ‘Uramaki’ is similar to the previous one, but this time it is reversed where the seaweed is on the inside surrounding the fish, and rice is on the outside. Finally, there is ‘Temaki’ which is quite unique, where it is wrapped with seaweed in a cone shape, filled with rice and fish.
A chewy thick noodle with a mochi-like texture, udon is a simple yet delicious meal. It can be served in numerous ways from a plain hot broth to a cold version where you dip the noodles into a dipping sauce, and even one with a Japanese curry broth. It is a popular dish all across the country, where you can even find unique variations of udon dishes that are specific to certain areas and prefectures. There is a great deal of pride and care for the handmade process of making the prefecture specific udon, so for people who enjoy this dish, trying out the different udon in the various prefectures could be a fun little challenge to take on.
Tonkatsu / Gyukatsu
Forget ‘tori-no-karaage’ or Japanese style fried chicken, tonkatsu or gyukatsu is the crown jewel for fried goodness. Tonkatsu is a pork cutlet which has been breaded with ‘panko’ bread crumbs, deep fried and eaten with a sweet brown ‘tonkatsu sauce’ which is possibly best described as a Japanese style Worcestershire sauce. When served, it also typically comes with rice and a side of shredded cabbage which fits surprisingly well. Outside of Japan, the chicken version known as ‘chicken katsu’ is probably the more common and popular choice. However, in Japan tonkatsu is the superior option and you should not be surprised if you see restaurants that sell tonkatsu but not ‘chicken katsu’.
Gyukatsu I would describe to be the fancier version of tonkatsu. Rather than pork, it is instead a beef cutlet. With the availability of high-class beef such as ‘wagyu’ or ‘Kobe’, you can only imagine how good this must taste. Because of that, gyukatsu is not something you can expect to see at any restaurant and must visit specialised restaurants that serve this dish.
Unagi is freshwater eel in English, and quite a popular dish. When you first hear of what it is, you may be put off by it or assume that it is something you may not like. People initially have similar impressions too, but you should always try new foods as you never know, you may find your new favourite meal.
When unagi is served it is usually gutted, deboned, cut into fillets, glazed in a sweet soy-sauce based sauce, and finally grilled. You can find unagi in a variety of different dishes such as sushi, and probably the most popular, ‘unadon’. It is where the unagi is served on top of a bed of rice in a bowl, and this style of dish where something is served on top of rice is called a ‘donburi’. You may also find something called ‘unajū’, which is essentially the same thing as ‘unadon’, but instead served in a special box designed with elegant and luxurious designs.
A dish that needs no introduction, this flavoursome noodle explosion is admired all across the world. You can find multiple variations of this dish all over the nation in the different prefectures. One of the most common and subjectively most delicious variant is the ‘tonkotsu’ version. You may recognise the name from tonkatsu earlier on the list, and that is because this style of ramen uses a pork-based broth. It originates from the Fukuoka Prefecture and is a prominent destination for lovers of this style of ramen.