Japanese food is well-loved around the world. And some of those mouthwatering dishes can be found in the streets of the country. So if you go on a trip to the land of the rising sun, it is a must to try out a variety of street food. Shops that sell them are the perfect go-to, especially since you’re out and about.
Whether you’re on an adventure through Tokyo’s bustling city streets or walking down the quaint alleys of Kyoto, you’ll find yourself near the tempting smells of Japanese street food. There’s always something out there that will satisfy everyone’s palate. Below are some of the best and most popular ones.
Takoyaki (蛸焼), which originates from Osaka, is a classic street food. Served in bite-sized balls, people love it for its unique flavor.
Takoyaki ingredients include batter (which is a mix of flour, eggs, and water) and octopus bits (hence the name tako). These are cooked in a pan specially designed for takoyaki. Once cooked, the balls are topped with takoyaki sauce, seaweed, and bonito flakes.
With the bursting flavors of takoyaki, you might be tempted to eat it the moment it’s served. But you need to wait for about five minutes or it’ll burn your tongue.
Meat on a stick is just so good and you can never go wrong with sticks of yakitori (焼き鳥). Japan’s skewered dish uses chicken that’s marinated in soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar. Traditionally it is grilled over white charcoal called binchotan (備長炭) and served with salt or tare sauce.
And if you cannot find one on the street, perhaps you’ll see it being sold at convenience stores including Lawson, 7-Eleven, and Family Mart.
Korokke (コロッケ) is yet another dish you shouldn’t miss when coming to Japan. The deep-fried dumpling, just like the traditional croquette, is made of mashed potatoes. It comes with meat or seafood as well as veggies.
The Japanese added their twist to the potato dish by coating the patty in panko (breadcrumbs) before frying to create a crispy texture on the outer layer.
Korokke is often served as a snack or side dish in Japanese cuisine, and it can also be found in bento boxes and sold at convenience stores. It is a popular comfort food in Japan, and variations of the dish can be found throughout the country.
Yaki tomorokoshi (焼きとうもろこし) is Japan’s version of corn on the cob. Instead of the typical butter and salt, the Japanese use soy sauce and salt to add some flavor.
Since sweet corn is in season from July to September, you will usually see yaki tomorokoshi being grilled and sold during summer festivals in the country.
The classic Japanese noodle dish yakisoba (焼きそば) is a very popular street food typically sold at festivals and school events. The sweet and savory dish comes with veggies, meat, and sometimes seafood.
When sold in stalls, it is normally cooked on a griddle or teppan (鉄板). But the best thing about yakisoba is that you can easily make it at home.
While the dish contains the word soba or buckwheat noodles in its name, it is worth noting that it does not actually include soba noodles. Instead, it uses Mushi Chukamen (蒸し中華麺), which is Chinese-style noodles.
Japan boasts its unique twist on pancakes with a dish called okonomiyaki (お好み焼き). Unlike your usual breakfast pancake, okonomiyaki is a savory snack added with vegetables and meat.
Flavor-wise, takoyaki and okonomiyaki taste the same. The latter, however, will have a slightly different flavor all thanks to the variety of toppings people can add to the dish.
Okonomiyaki is also topped with sauce, mayonnaise, and bonito flakes, which gives it a distinct umami flavor. The name of the dish means "grilled as you like it," because you can customize the toppings according to your preference.
Savory dishes are not the only food sold as street food. Sweet treats are also a popular choice among Japanese street food lovers. From traditional Japanese sweets to Western-inspired desserts, the streets of Japan are filled with an array of delectable delights for those with a sweet tooth.
If there’s a snack you’ll always see in food stalls on the streets and supermarkets, it is dango (団子). This chewy wagashi is made using glutinous rice flour, a central ingredient of mochi, and is mixed with uruchi rice flour. One serving is normally a stick of three to five balls.
The country has varieties of dango. The three-colored ones we often see are called bocchan dango (三色団子). Another type is the Mitarashi Dango (みたらし団子), which is glazed with sweet soy sauce.
Taiyaki (鯛焼き) is a Japanese pastry shaped like a fish, hence its name, which translates to "baked sea bream." The snack is made using a batter that is poured into a fish-shaped mold and then filled with sweet red bean paste or other fillings like custard, chocolate, or cheese. The pastry is then baked until it is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, resulting in a delicious treat.
Taiyaki became well known in some parts of the world, and as a result, many other countries have put their own unique twist on the Japanese pastry. For instance, in Korea, the pastry is called Bungeoppang and is often filled with sweetened red bean paste and many other ingredients.
Often served hot, it is a favorite snack during the cold months of Japan.
Yaki Imo (焼き芋) may be a popular Japanese snack, but did you know that the sweet potatoes used in this street food didn’t originate in Japan? The satsuma imo is a variety that came from South America. It was first brought to the southern part of Japan through the Philippines in the mid-1500s.
The snack is very convenient for people on the go because aside from being served hot, it is also wrapped in paper. Don’t forget to wait for a bit before eating so you won’t hurt your tongue from the heat of the yaki imo.
Japanese street foods are sold in food carts which are called yatai (屋台) in Japan. The word’s literal translation is shop stand.
You can usually find these stalls along the walkways early in the evening. The shopkeeper will then take it down late at night or in the early hours of the morning.
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