In April, I realized my long-held dream of visiting Japan. I love Japanese culture – the food, the history, the temples, the respect people have for each other. Months after my visit, I still dream of the country. I think about it every day. And one thing I am especially still dreaming about is the food.
I’ve eaten a lot of Japanese food in my life, but visiting the country opened me up to dishes I’ve never had before and meals that never tasted as good as when I ate them in Japan. Here’s a break down of the best:
Sushi: My all-time favorite Japanese food, I went to Japan with one thing on my mind: to eat my weight in fish. I didn’t succeed, but I did gorge on sushi throughout my trip. I found that even the little cheap, sushi trains had mouthwatering sushi and were often times better than the mid-range restaurants. My favorite was Koyoshi Sushi in Osaka.
Ramen: I practically lived off ramen noodles while in Japan. There were ramen stores every block and were usually the cheapest food option, costing only a few hundred Yen per dish. I loved the flavor of the broth, the tenderness of the meat, and the warmth of the noodles. It was always a hearty and filling meal.
Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancakes): Okonomiyaki is a Japanese dish I had never heard of before my visit. Okonomiyaki is mainly associated with the Kyoto and Hiroshima areas of Japan, though you can get it anywhere, and each region has their own special way of preparing it. These pancakes consist of a layer of batter, cabbage, noodles, and a meat or seafood. They are grilled and then covered with sauce. And for just a pancake, they are quite filling.
Hida Beef: While in the town of Takayama, my group went to dinner where we could try the local Hida beef. This beautifully marbled beef has a very smooth texture and melts in your mouth. It was honestly the best beef I’ve ever tasted and while ridiculously expensive, my sticker shock went away every time I took a bite of this heavenly meat.
Donburi: In Japan, donburi houses are on every block, and, like ramen shops, they offer some of the cheapest and most delicious food in Japan. I’d order huge bowls piled high with rice, egg, and beef for only a few hundred yen. I’d pour some soy sauce over these bowls, wait for the freshly cooked beef and eggs to cool down, and gorge while sitting next to Japanese businessmen escaping the office for a quick lunch.
Rice triangles: These quick and convenient snacks are found at every convenience store. They are simply rice mixed with seaweed that are a delicious snack. I must have eaten two or three each day. It was quick, it was simple, and had two of my favorite foods mixed together.
Soba noodles: Soba is the Japanese name for buckwheat. Soba noodles are served either chilled with a dipping sauce, or in hot broth as a noodle soup. It’s a bit weird to eat noodles cold, but slathering these noodles in wasabi and the soy sauce they bring with the dish is just heaven. Actually, I’m not sure what I loved more – the noodles or the sauce.
There isn’t a Japanese dish I won’t try. I even had the fermented soy beans (not that good!) and while I love just about everything Japanese, these foods are my highlights and the ones I urge you to try when you go to Japan. After all, while you can get these foods anywhere in the world, they don’t taste nearly as good and as fresh as when you eat them in Japan.