When you're sipping some drinks, don't you just want to nibble on some snacks too? Well, the Japanese are way ahead of you because they have certain snacks they eat while drinking alcohol; these snacks are called Otsumami.
It's pretty cool to munch and drink at the same time. This is even customary in Japan, especially in bars or Izakaya. There are countless yummy types of Otsumami and different combinations that'll rock your socks off. They are sometimes pre-made and packaged to be sold in supermarkets but they are served in small dishes so that everyone can enjoy them.
If you have been searching for the perfect snack to pair with drinks, then this article is for you. Of course, some of the snacks are available for delivery in our ZenPop snack pack. Let's get right to it!
Here is our list of the top 10 best Otsumami in Japan!
Tempura is a popular Japanese dish that has various varieties but the popular ones are the squid Tempura (ika ten) and the seaweed Tempura (nori ten). What makes it so special is how it is prepared. These vegetables or meat are coated with Tempura batter and deep fried. The Tempura batter is usually flour, egg and ice cold water. It is especially crispy and crunchy so it's great for snacking on between drinks. People also season Tempura with salt or chilli pepper for that extra flavor.
There are a whole lot of vegetarian friendly Otsumami. For instance Edamame is basically boiled or steamed immature soybeans. It is very popular and cheap in Japan. It can be salted during or after boiling. You do not eat the pods, you should take the beans out, eat and discard the pods. It seems simple but it's really chewy and can get addictive.
Ebi mayo is simply fried prawn coated with mayo sauce. It's a crowd pleasing otsumami that is popular in pubs all over Japan in China. It was created by a popular Chinese chef born in Japan. Shu Tomitoku was inspired by a mayonnaise shrimp dish to create Ebi mayo. He coated the shrimp in starch, fried it and dipped it in mayonnaise. Yum… people get explorative and add several flavors to this dish. It goes great with all drinks.
These are vegetables preserved or pickled in vinegar, rice bran, salt or sakekatsu. They are often soft, crisp, sour and slightly spicy. Many vegetables can become Tsukemono in Japan. Examples are cucumber, eggplant, and radish. Some people use them as side dishes for rice. One thing we're sure of is that it goes great with drinks and since it's vegetables, it's quite healthy too!
It's totally not cliché that French fries are enjoyed in pubs in Japan. Even though it is popular everywhere, otsumami french fries come with a twist. You guessed it! They are crispy and flavored with seaweed, sesame, salt and even mentaiko. It goes with pretty much every drink and it tastes finger licking delicious.
Stingray fin is another popular Pub appetizer taken with sake. It may seem strange to eat stingray fin but it's actually a popular delicacy in Japan. The fins are dried and then slightly Roasted or grilled with ingredients with shichimi (a mixture of 7 different peppers), mayonnaise and soy sauce. It is chewy and heavily flavored. You either love it or hate it but you can't deny that it's a rare dish.
Even if you don't like cabbage, the Japanese Yamitsuki will surely change your mind. This 'addictive' salted cabbage is made with just salt, pepper, sesame oil and other seasonings to give the perfect crunchy izakaya bomb. It is so simple but it is truly addictive. It's very cheap in Japan and some places would even offer free refills because of how addictive it is. It's definitely a win for me. You can even make yamitsuki in around 5 minutes. Just wash the cabbage, chop it, add the seasonings, mix and enjoy.
Squid dishes are quite popular in Japan and the Ikayaki is no exception. Ikayaki is grilled squid flavored with soy sauce and salted to perfection. It is usually a street food that is sold whole or in ring pieces. When eaten at the pub, it also goes well with drinks and friends can easily share portions when it is sliced. Unlike most of the crunch snacks, Ikayaki is tender and chewy but it has a savory taste that is unforgettable.
We all know dried chicken is mouth watering delicious but have you tried Japanese Karaage chicken yet? Karaage is actually the method of making this fried chicken. It is first marinated with ingredients like soy sauce, ginger or even sake and then coated with flour or crumbs before being deep fried. The cool thing about the Karaage method is that it comes out crunchy and the ingredients just melt on the tongue. It's great with sake and the chicken can be cut into finger bite sizes.
Gyoza originates from China, but Japan has truly made it a popular Otsumami. They are dumplings with pork, tofu and vegetable filling which is steamed or fried. Gyoza is a step above dumplings because the wrapper is thinner, so it is crunchy when fried. It tastes heavenly with beer and some restaurants only specialize in making Gyoza. Another way to take Gyoza is by dipping it in a ponzu sauce that has a strong flavor. It's definitely worth tasting. If you want to cook gyoza yourself, you can take a look of this easy Japanese gyoza recipe.
Overall, we have covered vegetables, pastries, fish and meat versions of otsumami. It may seem weird to think of pairing all of these with drinks, but it's pretty normal in Japan, and it's healthy too. Here's a little advice for your first time trying out otsumami in Japan, pair greasy, spicy or deep-fried dishes with beer and leave the heavily-flavored dishes for sake.