Get your grub on Japanese style
Sashimi, sushi, tempura, teppanyaki, yakitori, udon noodles, these are all different types of Japanese food or styles of Japanese cuisine. Simply put, I absolutely love Japanese food! It comes in at a strong third place behind Mexican and Italian for me. It isn’t easy to find really good Mexican or Italian food in this part of the world, in my opinion, but thankfully good Japanese food is in abundance. If you really want the best of the best however you simply have to eat Japanese food in none other than beautiful Japan.
If you were so kind to read my last blog post Cherry Blossoms and Geishas, then you know that during our trip to Japan earlier this month we spent time in Tokyo and Kyoto. Needless to say I was in foodie heaven! Not only do I love how Japanese food is prepared, how it tastes and the presentation, I also am a big fan of the fact the majority is healthy. This is the one thing Japanese cuisine has going for it over Mexican and Italian in my book. When I pig out on those two I know I’ve over-indulged and the physical bloating that immediately follows is a telltale sign. I love that you can eat a lot of Japanese food and not feel like are going to fall into a “food coma.” So during this last visit to Japan it was GAME ON, get your grub on Japanese style!
Some restaurants we ate at were recommendations but we also enjoyed just walking the streets of Tokyo, deciding what we felt like eating that day and stopped in wherever looked good to us. One thing to keep in mind when you’re there is that much of the staff in the smaller restaurants won’t speak English. Some will have pictures so you can point to what you’re keen to eat, fingers crossed it is what you think it is! Another helpful option if you don’t speak a word of Japanese is to use Google Translate. It saved us a couple of times when we weren’t quite sure what kind of “meat” we were getting as our dish. Of course there is a last resort…a game of charades and acting out various animals. There may have been an incident or two on a prior trip to Japan where Ozdane was doing his best chicken flapping its wings impression to make sure we were ordering chicken! MOO for cow/beef seems to be universal too! It’s all part of the fun! On that note, let me share my favorite types of Japanese food with you and also a few great restaurants we were lucky enough to enjoy.
Sashimi, Sashimi, Sashimi and Sushi! Salmon and tuna sashimi is my sashimi of choice with a side of edamame and miso soup. Bliss! Not to mention salmon is one of the healthiest fish for you with high levels of omega 3, which has multiple benefits. I’m happy with pretty much all types of sashimi though except for maybe unagi (eel). I just can’t stomach that one. Of course it’s very easy to find sashimi and sushi throughout Japan. We were fortunate a good friend of ours recommended a great place with excellent sushi and sashimi, which also happened to be quite inexpensive for Tokyo. Thanks Mr. P! If you go to Tokyo you MUST check out this place.
Delicious, fresh sushi and sashimi with a very lively atmosphere filled with locals and sprinkled with tourists. The lively chefs and wait staff greet each guest and also thank them when they leave with a loud, happy greeting in Japanese for the entire restaurant to hear. You almost feel like you’ve walked into a party. Midori Sushi is also inexpensive by Tokyo standards so eat up! There can be a line to get in but it moved quickly and trust me, it was so worth it!
Tempura. Who doesn’t love tempura? Prawn and vegetable tempura, yum!
Teppanaki is another favorite of mine. Teppanyaki is a style of Japanese cuisine that uses an iron griddle to cook the food. Everything is prepared on the griddle including chicken, beef, seafood, veggies and more. In teppanyaki restaurants you can get a spot at the bar or a table where the chef cooks right in front of you. Not only is it delicious but it’s an entertaining dining experience. We went to a couple teppanyaki restaurants in Tokyo but Teppan-Yaki Ten stood out this trip. The Okonomiyaki, Japanese pancake, has to win for the top dish of the night for me. It was the last thing served and I have to admit our stomachs were filling up but there was no stopping me from eating this one. It’s heaven!
We landed a spot at the counter front and center so we could watch the cooks do their thing. I think that is part of the reason I love this style of Japanese cuisine so much. It’s fun to watch them prepare it all right in front of your eyes. You see it, smell it and eventually eat it. The restaurant itself is not too big but not too small with a comfortable feel to it. It’s quite casual which is what we were looking for that evening. If we had more time we definitely would have gone back again.
Yakitori is a Japanese type of skewered chicken or the term can also refer to skewered food in general. Chicken is merely one of the plethora of choices when eating yakitori. Now if you’re thinking you only will have chicken meat (breast, thigh, etc.) in yakitori, you are mistaken. Some other yakitori dishes definitely not for the faint-hearted include: chicken heart, liver, gizzard, wing and tail. I think I’ll stop there so you don’t stop reading this post! Some non-chicken dishes are: scallion, tofu, mushrooms and asparagus. Strolling around the streets of Tokyo you will see heaps of yakitori places, all pretty casual so you can pop in for your yakitori fix while enjoying an Asahi beer and pop out.
Udon are thick, wheat-flour noodles usually served hot as noodle soup in a broth made of dashi, soy sauce and mirin topped with scallions. Some common toppings include tempura, prawns, kakiage (mixed tempura fritter). I find udon noodles to be perfect for lunch or dinner. We stumbled onto a funky, little cafe in bustling Harajuku, Bio Ojiyan Cafe, where we enjoyed some amazing udon noodles with a curry sauce and cheese. Oh my wow!
So if you find yourself in Tokyo I highly recommend trying some of the dishes and styles of Japanese cooking I shared here. Be adventures and open-minded, although you won’t find me passing judgment if you don’t try the chicken heart, liver or tail.
Have you been to Japan? Are you a lover of Japanese cuisine like me? I’d love to hear your favorites and also recommendations for other great dining finds in Tokyo and beyond.
Stay tuned for my next foodie post about our spectacular molecular dining experience at Molecular Tapas Bar at the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo. One of the most memorable dining adventures I’ve had in my life!