If travelling to Japan, the following are some of the best Japanese foods and beverages and should be on your must-try list:
- Sushi – Probably the Japanese food most loved by foreigners, sushi is made by preserving pickled fish in vinegar. It is available in different types, such as gunkan (made of dried seaweed, sushi rice and seafood), nigiri (rice balls topped with shellfish, fish, tuna, octopus and other seafood), and norimaki (rice wrapped in dried seaweeds).
- Ramen – Introduced to Japan by the Chinese, ramen is a type of noodle dish that is one of the most affordable and commonly available in the country. It is made up of noodles, soup, and toppings (meat, seafood and vegetables). Some of the most popular ramen types are the shoyu (ramen soup with soy sauce), miso (ramen soup with miso or soybean paste), and tonkotsu (ramen soup with pork broth).
- Japanese Curry – Typically served with steamed rice, Japanese curry, or curry rice, is a very popular dish all over the country. Its ingredients include meat (usually beef, chicken or pork), potatoes, onions, carrots and, of course, curry. It’s easy to eat and not really spicy like an Indian curry.
- Yakiniku – Yakiniku are prepared by grilling bite-sized pieces of meat (beef, pork, chicken and seafood), vegetables (mushrooms, carrots, onions, eggplants and cabbage) and other ingredients on a grill built into the tables in restaurants.
- Udon – A type of noodle that is made of wheat flour, udon is one of the most widely available noodle dishes in Japan. It can be prepared either hot or cold. Some of its most popular varieties are the zara udon, tanuki udon, kake udon and tempura udon.
- Okonomiyaki – A pancake-like dish made by frying batter and cabbage on a pan, okonomiyaki is very common around the country, most especially in Osaka and Hiroshima. It can be stuffed with shrimp, kimchi, pork, octopus and other ingredients, and topped with vegetables, wasabi, cheese and other condiments.
- Tonkatsu – Prepared by deep frying breadcrumbed pork, tonkatsu is a common Japanese dish served in restaurants throughout Japan. It can be served in various ways, such as in a set meal (with rice, pickles, cabbage and miso soup), curry (with Japanese curry and rice) and katsudon (ricebowl topped with onions and eggs).
- Tofu – A common sight in many Japanese dishes, tofu is a protein-rich food that consists of curdled soy milk shaped into blocks. One example of a popular tofu dish is hiyayakko, which is fresh tofu with soy sauce, green onions, ginger and bonito flakes as garnish. Tofu is also frequently used as ingredient in making soups, hot pots and noodle dishes.
- Soba – With noodles made from buckwheat, soba is a staple Japanese food that can be served either hot or cold, with meat, seafood and vegetables, and soy sauce or other dipping sauces. The most stripped down type of cold soba is called mori, which consists of only noodles and dipping sauce made of mirin, water, and soup stock.
- Yakitori – An inexpensive Japanese food that is frequently enjoyed with beer, yakitori is made of bite-sized chicken pieces, skewered, and grilled over charcoal. Among the most popular types include negima (chicken thigh), torikawa (chicken skin), and reba (chicken liver).
- Tempura – Made by deep frying battered vegetables and seafood, tempura is a traditional Japanese dish that is widely available around Japan, commonly prepared as a main dish, a topping for soba, udon, or rice bowls, and as a side dish. The most famous varieties are ebi (prawn/shrimp), sakana (fish), nasu (eggplant), kinoko (mushrooms), and satsumaimo (sweet potato).
- Shabu shabu – Shabu shabu is a dish made of thin slices of pork or beef boiled in water, mixed with vegetables, spices, and other ingredients. It is frequently served with a bowl of steamed rice or noodles and is dipped in sauces, particularly goma or ponzu.
- Tea – A beverage that has played a significant role in Japanese history and culture, tea is Japan’s most popular drink. It is believed to have been introduced by the Chinese in the 8th It is available in different types, such as green tea, roasted green tea, black tea, jasmine tea and oolongcha.
- Sake – A perfect companion for any Japanese dish, sake is an alcoholic beverage made from fermenting rice. It has been a staple drink in Japan for several centuries now and is available in many restaurants and supermarkets all over the country.
- Beer – As Japan’s most commonly drunk alcoholic beverage, beer is pretty much available everywhere — convenience stores, supermarkets, restaurants and vending machines. The country is home to four major beer brewing companies: Sapporo, Kirin, Suntory, and Asahi.
- Japanese Plum Wine – An alcoholic beverage known as umeshu, it is made from the ume plum that is still unripe and green, sugar and shochu (Japanese distilled alcohol). It takes about a year to make. It is a sweet drink and best served on the rocks. The most popular umeshu brand is Choya.