Food is the main reason that I travel. Planning what I’m going to eat and where I’m going to eat is the main thing that I research before a trip. I’ll happily admit to having found food gems in the most unsuspecting of places and by surprise, but still having a list of ‘must eats’ is always something I do. On my last trip to Japan I made a list of all the cuisines I wanted to try, and the best places to try them taking on advice from fellow bloggers, travel articles and the blessed Tripadvisor. My previous posts include Here we…devour Japanese Food Part 1 lists my top eats to try in Japan, but I know that there is more to Japanese than miso soup and sushi. This blog is about other food options that you should consider whilst in Japan.
Tonkatsu is the Japanese version of a Western schnitzel, and is one of my favourite Japanese foods to eat! It’s a thinned pork cutlet that has been dipped in egg yolk, covered in panko crumbs and fried in hot oil. It creates a juicy piece of meat covered in a crispy batter. Tonkatsu is served in three distinctive ways.
1) Pork with rice & salad. Freshly cooked tonkatsu pork fillet served with steamed rice, shredded cabbage dressed with a sweet tonkatsu sauce, and yellow mustard. This meal is substantial and filling, and usually comes with a serve of miso soup and pickled vegetables. Tonkatu Wako is a chain that can be easily found and does produce delicious meals.
2) Donburi style-which refers to it being served in a bowl of rice. The pork cutlet is cooked, mixed and set with a whisked egg.
3) Katsu-kare. The crispy pork is served on a bed of steamed rice, topped with a Japanese curry (which is a thick brown curry usually mild in flavour and filled with meat, potato and carrot).
It is very easy to find a restaurant that serves one of these items. It may not be the healthiest meal option but it certainly is delicious!!
Korokke- or Japanese croquette
This golden crispy mouthfuls of deliciousness can be easily found in Japan. They are filled with meat (beef or pork) and vegetable, (carrots, onions) and bound together with mashed potato. Then covered in breadcrumbs and deep fried to give a gorgeous crunchy outer coasting with a soft moist centre. I have seen vegetarian options with mashed pumpkin or sweet corn. These make a great snack.
I did find one eatery that didn’t cover them in breadcrumbs, but I think technically its not a croquette.
Sweet potato ice cream
Kamakura, the town famous for the Giant Buddha, is also well known for it’s ice cream. Now you’ll find all the traditional Japanese flavours- vanilla, green tea, but it is the sweet potato that is most iconic. I wasn’t exactly thrilled on the concept but I had read enough suggestions to know that this was something I had try. It wasn’t as bad as I thought. It’s a soft serve icecream which tastes like vanilla soft serve and has that sharp potato tang like if you bite into a raw potato. It was strangely appealing. It’s not something I’d necessarily order again, but I’m glad i’ve tried it.
Another not-so-healthy option for you, but one that is iconic to the Japanese cuisine. Pieces of meat (fish, pork, prawns, chicken) are rolled in tempura flour and then flash fried in hot oil. This process is also used on vegetables such as pumpkin, peas, eggplant or corn. This technique allows the food to have a light batter coating, whilst still retaining the moisture and crispness of the vegetable. I only tried this once in Japan, and to be honest I didn’t have the best experience. The place I went to served up super greasy food that didn’t have much flavour. I’m told when it comes to tempura it pays to go to a fancier restaurant for better quality. It’s something that I would love to re-try.
I was never a beer drinker before I went to Japan- but now I’m hooked. Japanese beer is predominately light pale lagers which are great summer drinks as they are crisp and easy to drink. Beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in Japan and is easily purchased from supermarkets, restaurants and vending machines. It’s cheap in comparison to beers available in Australia. Pilsner styled lagers make up most of the market with big labels such as Asahi, Kirin, Suntory and Sapporo having the industry cornered. I’m personally an Asahi fan. Microbrewery options are becoming more common. Also you can find strange beer combinations such as beer and tomato juice!
Food is the main thing that I miss about Japan. I can’t wait to go back so I can eat my way around the country! One can never have too much!