Japanese street food – part 1

If you’ve read my other posts, then you know that I like to eat. I like to try new dishes, get to know new flavors. For me, it is a way to get to know another culture or country. I must admit that when I plan a trip, instead of searching for monuments and places I want to see, I firstly look for food that I want to eat. I need to know names of local dishes and products, so I’m searching on blogs, YouTube, and the Internet in general, to find places that are worth to eat in. I mark them on the map or on TripAdvisor and then, when I’m planning a day during my journey, I naturally include these places in it. If the food is so important to you as for me, you should go to Japan. It’s paradise on earth!

Ice cream with gold flake has been very popular in recent years. It’s an idea of the largest Japanese gold producer from Kanazawa. We were looking for them all over Tokyo, and we found them in Arashiyama, Kyoto.

Japan is really a great place for every food lover! There is dozens of dishes and delicacies. You don’t have enough time to try everything. In Japan you will also find a lot of great street food. One of the places where you should look for it are the shopping streets, the so-called Shotengai. Shotengai are located throughout Japan, and each district in the city has at least several of them. This is a key part of everyday life in Japan and more than just a place to shop. Shotengai is filled with shops of all kinds, from food to clothing stores or kitchen accessories shops. Of course there is street food there. Small family businesses with a long tradition in which everything is prepared from scratch. Each of the family members has a permanent task, some of them buy products, others prepare food. Many of these stores offer take-away food at an affordable prices. They usually specialize in specific dishes, for example they sell gyoza dumplings with different fillings or oden.

Oden is a perfect dish for winter days. In hot broth based on soy sauce, eggs, fish paste patties, tofu, daikon and many other ingredients slowly boil. Sometimes there are up to 30 different delicacies to choose from. Oden warms you and fills you up with optimism. It is a real comfort food.800px-Oden_by_LWY_in_Fukuoka.jpg

Source: WikipediaThe shop owners are very happy to talk with clients and they are masters in dishes they sell. Over the years, they have been improving their products to offer customers the best food quality. They are very friendly, so you can ask them about recommendations. They enjoy having a chat about things like that. Customers feel more at ease when they know exactly who’s making their food. Shotengai are everywhere in Tokyo. However, in tourist districts, like Harajuku or Ginza, there will be a lot of people and prices will be much higher. If you want to feel the home, local climate, you should go to less tourists districts, such as Shitamachi, Ameyoko in Ueno or Sugamo. Sugamo is called “granny’s street”, and the offer in stores is adapted to older people. They can buy there canes, shopping baskets and even take a funeral photo. And who will feed us better then a grandmother who knows secret ingredients? That’s why in Sugamo you will also eat traditional Japanese street food. In addition, it will be at least half cheaper than in popular districts. In less known shotengai there is a friendly, family atmosphere. It is worth going there to feel the atmosphere of old Japan.

If we are talking about street food then we cannot forget about marketplaces. They offer ready-to-eat meals throughout Japan. However, there is one important rule. In Japan, you do not eat on the street! You should stand somewhere to the side and eat the food. Many places also offer a small space, where there are benches or tables. There you can admire what you are eating and do not disturbed other people. The most popular market in Tokyo is Tsukiji, although some parts of the market has been moved to a different location, there are still street food stores. In Kyoto, it will be Nishiki Market. Throughout the country, marketplaces, in addition to selling vegetables or seafood, also offer take-out food.

For us, this may seem an inappropriate place, but street food stands often also stand in the grounds of the Japanese shrines. Especially if a festival or Hanami is organized. The choice is huge, from fried to grilled or boiled dishes. The most important dishes that always appear are takoyaki and okonomiyaki.

Takoyaki are balls from a pancake batter with the addition of a Japanese dashi, in the middle there is a piece of octopus, pickled ginger and tempura flakes. They are sprinkle with katsuobushi and topping with a special sauce and mayonnaise. And although you want to sink your teeth in these delicacies as soon as possible, it’s better to stop yourself. You can burn yourself so much that you will not be able to eat anything in the next few days.

Okomiyaki is called a Japanese pizza. It’s a pancake with a lot of cabbage and various toppings, like seafood or bacon. It is fried on special plates and two versions are available: from Hiroshima and Osaka. The version from Hiroshima contains noodles and egg and there is only a thin layer of pancake on which the other ingredients are put. There is no noodles in the version from Osaka. As with Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki is also topped with sauce and sprinkled with katsuobushi.

There also must be yakitori and kushikatsu. Yakitori are grilled small portion of chicken on the stick. Yakitori can be only salted or spread with a special sauce. Juicy meat with a light, smoky aftertaste is an ideal snack for beer or sake. Kushikatsu is also a skewered dish but meat, vegetables or seafood are additionally breaded and deep fried.

Yakitori

Kushikatsu

And if you already have enough of Japanese flavors, you will surely like to try street food from other countries. Many representatives of Asian countries live in Tokyo. They also create their own districts and shopping streets. One example is Korean Shin-Okubo, where you will try tteokbokki, or rice dumplings in sweet and super-spicy sauce, cheese corn dogs or breaded pieces of chicken.

Japanese street food is so diverse that it is impossible to present it in one article, so soon expect the next part. It will also be sweet, and maybe even more tasty. In Japan, everywhere where people go to rest, shop or even pray, there is street food. In parks, temples, shotengai but also in many other places, where you do not expect it. It is an inseparable part of the Japanese life, enjoyed by everyone. Dishes that I have described are typical street food, but you will also eat them in stationary shops  or in supermarkets. They tempt you and leave you with no money. But how can you not try all this delicious food? It is impossible. One thing is for sure, you will not be hungry in Japan.

On the almost unused road in Arashiyama, we came across a seller of baked sweet potatoes. Unfortunately, it was not enough potatoes for us 🙁

All pictures belongs to @kocinka

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