The one thing people always say to you when you tell them you’re going to Japan is “oh, you’re going to love the food!” and they’d be right! Between all the sushi, ramen, udon and gyozas, there is no shortage of tasty food to tuck into. Heck, even the convenience stores have ready-made meals that would put some 5-star restaurants in other countries to shame!
However, on a recent trip to Japan, we discovered it is actually the dishes you have never heard of before that end up being the most delicious. Read on for the six best things we ate in Japan.
Read this too: Touring Tokyo & Hakuba: 5 Parent-Approved Stays in Japan
#1 Pork cutlet curry at CoCo Ichibanya
CoCo Ichibanya Japan is the most popular curry house chain and they are absolutely everywhere — which is fortunate for us because we became so obsessed with it we went there 7 times over the course of 3 weeks! They have an extensive menu of Japanese curry dishes served with every type of meat you could imagine, from beef and chicken to cuttlefish and clam. However, the real MVP is definitely the pork cutlet curry. Think perfectly crispy, thinly sliced pieces of pork katsu with a fragrant golden curry sauce, served over a bed of rice — so good! Order it with the melted cheese to take the deliciousness to the next level.
We have to admit that when we first heard about the Japanese ‘octopus balls’ known as takoyaki, we were a little hesitant to try them. However, they are a lot less strange than they sound and at least 10 times more delicious! They are savoury, ball-shaped snacks made from wheat flour and filled with diced octopus, green onions, pickled ginger and tenkasu (tempura scraps). Usually served with takoyaki sauce and/or mayo, they are also garnished with green laver (a type of edible seaweed) and dried bonito. Takoyaki is a really common street food which is great because they are the perfect snack for when you are out and about sightseeing but are feeling a bit peckish.
#3 Mitarashi Dango
At first, we didn’t know what to make of this Japanese street food. Was it sweet? Was it savoury? We still don’t know, but we do know it was insanely delicious. Made from warm, grilled mochi balls and served with a soy sauce glaze on skewers, it’s technically classified as a dessert. However, we would still argue that it hits the perfect balance between sweet and savoury, making it an ideal ‘anytime’ snack.
#4 Japanese crepes
While Tokyo’s Harajuku area is mainly known for its vibrant stores and crazy street style, it’s almost as famous for its Japanese-style crepes. These are rolled into a triangle ice-cream cone shape and stuffed with decadent fillings such as fruits and chocolate sauce with cream or ice cream (or both!). Not only do they make for some great Instagram photos, they are the perfect option for when you crave something sweet after dinner.
Not to be confused with takoyaki, taiyaki is a fish-shaped pastry with sweet fillings like red bean paste, custard or chocolate. The first and best one we tasted was at a street food vendor at Fushimi Inari in Kyoto. It was made from a pancake batter and was filled with piping hot custard sauce. We tried several variations throughout the trip (made with croissant and roti batter) but none quite measured up to that very first!
#6 Kobe steak
If you’ve heard of Kobe (a city located near Osaka) before, it’s probably for one reason and one reason only — their world famous steak. Sourced from the rare Tajima strain of Wagyu cattle, it’s renowned for its exceptional flavour, tenderness and well-marbled texture. So, did it live up to the hype? You betcha! Easily the best steak we’ve ever tasted, it was well worth the 7000 Yen it set us back.
Image credit: Main