Itadakimasu – delicious in Japan!
For many people, the only thing associated with japanese cuisine is sushi, Which already a few nice years ago conquered the palates of gourmets from the Vistula River. However, Japan is more than just fish rolls.
Going to Japan, we expected restaurants with boats on every corner, and in the markets themselves containers of ready-made sushi in the form of take away. We like sushi, and we geared up to finally try real Japanese rolls. Although we managed to taste them a few times, we tasted more of other dishes.
Although sometimes it can be problematic to get along, so you have to order what you can get, it's worth trying and discovering new flavors. It should be remembered that Japanese cuisine is quite different from ours starting from the way of preparing dishes to their seasoning. We will associate with Japanese cuisine primarily commonly and mightily used Teriyaki sauce, which by the end we were a little sick of 😉
So our idea of Japanese cuisine has changed a lot after an almost two-week stay in the cherry blossom country, but one step at a time…
Japanese noodles in a box and "fast" food
The first thing was the food on the plane: seafood, rice and powdered soups reigned supreme on the Dubai-Tokyo route. At any time you could ask for Japanese noodles, Which the stewardesses poured boiling water over.
Immediately after landing we were dazzled by the vending machines at the airport – the sheer number and variety of vending machines overwhelms, let alone when you look inside and try to order something: all kinds of drinks, snacks, cookies, ice cream, etc. To choose from – sometimes in Japanese, sometimes in English, but you go to understand what and for how much. Even then we did not know that the vending machines would bravely accompany us throughout the trip.
After a long and exhausting trip, we decided to go to the nearest chain restaurant 7Eleven to buy something to eat – our first thought was 'We're going to die of hunger here…'. And no, it wasn't that there was little food, poor choice or little meat, but mostly that we had no idea what was on the shelves and in the refrigerators! Being in a small store, standing in front of a shelf with something in plastic bags, we didn't even know if what we were looking at was food or not.
Nothing in English, German, Spanish or any language that we could at least read what it is. After much deliberation we took something that relatively resembled food 🙂 After this first traumatic experience, later it was downhill and more and more tasty 🙂
The hotel breakfast was more continental, the only touches were soup and green tea, so we won't waste time describing them 🙂
Eating in Tokyo
Many guides recommended for the first day a trip to the Fish Market In Tokyo, which we wrote about here. In fact, the amount and variety of fish or seafood sold here is enormous! Many of the animals we couldn't name or didn't even know existed. Everything fresh, barely fished out.
Not surprisingly, the Japanese pay very close attention to the freshness of the food. Trying a lot of things, several times we had the impression that they were tasteless, mainly because not much seasoning is used – the focus is on quality and just the freshness of the products.
Japan is a paradise for true gourmets – it is here that the largest number of restaurants decorated with three stars in the Michelin's prestigious ranking.
As you probably know, the Japanese are famous for their love of fish and seafood, and it shows at every turn. It is said that they eat everything alive and fished from the sea 🙂 Seafood can be found in all sorts of forms: baked, boiled, fried, raw – more than once we came across them where we didn't expect them at all, for example. in meatballs (link) or burgers (link). Also, numerous markets and stalls offer snacks and foods that we couldn't even name (our attention was mainly caught by octopus stuffed on sticks – like lollipops 😉 ).
When going to another country, we want to try as many regional dishes and delicacies as possible, especially those that we won't encounter at home. We ate sushi as a quick snack (you can buy ready-made sets), we also ended up at one Japanese restaurant serving typical sushi in the center of Tokyo. Apparently, the best Sushi is in the bars just outside the Fish Market, but we were deterred by the queues for about an hour of standing.
However, in the end we ended up m.in to the pub we wrote about here. Among the guests we didn't see any white people, no signs in English, but somehow managed to get along by sign language with an over-sympathetic elderly lady who was collecting plates. We were all sitting around the kitchen, with plates of sushi passing in front of our noses – this is the kind of restaurant it is called kaiten zushi. The plates were of different colors, and each one corresponded to a different price. To this day we don't know exactly what we ate but the important thing is that it was PERFECT! Plus green tea (served at will and for free). What was our surprise when on the way out we paid approx. PLN 30 and that's for two people (reminder: downtown Tokyo ;o ).
Food made of plastic?
Every day we tried to eat something new. As we mentioned, sometimes it was difficult to understand what the bar or restaurant was actually serving, but here small mocktails came to the rescue.
Well, in front of most places sample plastic dishes are displayed along with prices, so the matter is much simpler – pointing a finger at what exactly we want, we at least know what to expect 🙂 And mock-ups can be found of almost everything (e.g. ice cream, pancakes, ramen soups, tempura etc.). Here are some examples:
What else to try in Japan?
A must-try soup ramen (broth with noodles and side dishes, for example. egg – beware, sometimes the egg is raw)! Eaten with chopsticks, of course, and slurping is highly recommended 🙂 To this Tempura (fish, shrimp, breaded and fried vegetables), Gyoza (dumplings, served as an appetizer), noodles with side dishes – soba (buckwheat) or udon (wheat) noodles, whether tsukune with rice.
While in Yokohamie recommend going to the Chinese quarter, where buffets are popular – you pay once, eat as much as you want (including appetizers, main courses, desserts; but drinks pay extra). In Hiroshima, on the other hand, the delicacies are Okonomiyaki – Japanese pancakes with side dishes.
We also tried the chain-style burgers Terijaki, But to be honest, that distinctive aftertaste stopped tasting to us after a few times.
However, we are delighted by the other flavors and the unconventional ideas for combining them. You can buy e.g. Ice cream flavored with beans, green tea, potatoes, buckwheat etc. And it's hard to decide which to choose. We also saw a lot of departed types and flavors of various bars, cakes and chips known at home.
Japanese food is..
Summary: Japanese cuisine can be overwhelming at first, and more than once we had trouble understanding the menu, but after a few approaches it is easy to recognize the basic types of dishes. The owners and waiters offer help and advice on how to eat the dishes served, especially if you look like a confused foreign visitor 😉
We took a particular liking to the ramen, one serving of which was often enough for two people. On the other hand, after a few days we were fed up with the smell of Teriyaki, which we can often smell already at the entrance of the restaurant.
Japanese cuisine is very diverse and almost everyone will find something for themselves. Plus, it's considered one of the healthiest in the world, so take some inspiration.