While I admittedly rarely tire of sushi and ramen, the depths of Japanese cuisine go far deeper than sashimi and tonkotsu (pork bone broth ramen). It only takes a few days in Japan to realize that Japanese food is more varied than the tempura and sushi we’re familiar with in America. Each region of Japan touts different styles of ramen and distinct dishes, like Nagoya’s misokatsu (fried pork cutlet smothered in red miso) and Kyoto’s renowned tofu.
Blaine and I have compiled a list of a few Japanese foods you should definitely check out on your next trip around the island.
As I mentioned above, misokatsu is a breaded fried pork cutlet drenched in a salty rich red miso sauce. When I learn to cook, red miso will be on the top of my “sauces to learn” list. Some of our favorite misokatsu in Nagoya was from Nagoya Kitchen, on the south side of Nagoya Station’s central concourse. It’s often served over cabbage with a side of rice and miso soup, which is made from white miso. It makes for a savory and filling dinner, but it’s not overly heavy.
Even though most of us have tried tempura before coming to Japan, I think it’s still worth mentioning. These lightly battered fried seafood and vegetables have been perfected in Kyoto’s meticulous food environment. We had asparagus tempura at a small restaurant, with modern interior and traditional floor level tables, along Kyoto’s Pontocho Alley. Pontocho is located along the Kamo River near Kyoto’s Gion district. The narrow street is lined by restaurants and teahouses with paper lantern decorated doorways. The street’s romantic ambience often includes geisha or maiko (geisha in training) en route to an event.
It took me a few months to try takoyaki. I’m not a big fan of octopus – it’s usually too chewy for my taste. I finally sampled the fried octopus dough balls from the food stalls in Ueno Park near Bentendo Hall. They’re usually covered in a sweet teriyaki-like sauce and mayonnaise and they’re a staple at Japanese festivals.
Going out for yakiniku, or “grilled meat,” means you’ll be cooking raw meat on a griddle in the center of your table. There’s debate about whether this food custom originated in Japan or Korea. Either way it’s delicious and fun. The first time Blaine and I went out for yakiniku it was purely accidental. We loved the look of Horumon Shoya (although we didn’t translate the restaurant’s name until we were waiting for our table) mainly because of the giant cow udder chandelier. The translation of horumon is pig and cow entrails. We ended up dining on cow jaw, sausage, and cow heart, and of course cooking it ourselves on our small table grill.
What’s your favorite Japanese food?
The Best Eats near Nagoya Station
Pintokona: Conveyor Belt Sushi in Tokyo
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Izakaya: The Amazing Japanese Bar
Our Favorite Cafes in Tokyo
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