The only guide you need to Japanese street food
When it comes to street food in Japan, there is a bit of a stigma as to what Japanese street food actually is. Although not commonly seen on all the crowded streets like in Istanbul, or in markets like in Taiwan, street food is still an essential part of Japanese cuisine – just not in the way that many think.
That being said, some dishes are the epitome of Japan and its local flavors. These are dishes that one might know, as well as others that take a bit of hunting to find, but are worth the effort.
Here’s what to know about Japan and its delicious version of street food, and how to find it.
Japanese street food and the etiquette that surrounds it
The misconception when it comes to street food, especially in Japan, is that many people walk its streets with Takoyaki while running to their next stop. In reality, it’s actually considered somewhat rude to walk down the street while eating, hence the confusion about “street food” in Japan. After all, isn’t that what street food is all about – to be able to ruminate around while enjoying quick and delicious food?
Although this has changed somewhat in modern times, it is still something that keeps many locals from doing it. Many food vendor stalls in Japanese markets will have signs asking customers to finish their food in front of the store the food was purchased from. Those who buy food from a convenience store or other local vendor often find a place in a nearby park to eat, or simply find a table in the store to sit down.
However, there are some markets, depending Will steal for food who have agreed to eat street food in a more traditional way, i.e. walking and eating at the same time. The term for this is tabe aruki, and it is increasingly accepted throughout Japan. With that label in mind, there are some “street” foods that visitors definitely add to their list when visiting Japan.
Takoyaki: fried dough stuffed with octopus
Takoyaki is easily found all over Japan, especially in Osaka where it’s practically a rite of passage to enjoy this delicious food. These are fried in large batches and consist of a light batter filled with chopped octopus, pickled ginger, tempura and green onion. The dough is also made with wheat flour, which gives it a unique flavor that perfectly complements the sweet octopus. These are topped with bonito flakes and Japanese mayonnaise, adding texture to an otherwise flawless dish.
Yakitori: a delicious chicken skewer
Some say everything tastes better when served on a stick and yakitori is no different. This easy snack consists of cured chicken on a skewer and marinated in a special lightly sweet and salty sauce. Although the umami flavor is unreal, it’s grilling the chicken over a charcoal flame that really adds incredible flavor to the meat. It is a common street food found throughout Japan and is also popular at festivals because it is easy to walk around with.
Many people recognize this cute snack because of its unique fish shape. Although these treats have nothing to do with fish, they resemble a waffle that has the texture of a dense cake. Inside the fish is a surprise which usually consists of red bean paste, sweet potatoes, chocolate, cheese or custard. These can also come in a more savory form and include fillings such as sausage or gyoza.
Find them from street vendors when visiting Fushini Inari Shrine in Kyoto.
Although not technically a street food, bento is considered a Japanese street food. These can be found at convenience stores and even Japanese vending machines! Typically made up of multiple compartments that store things like dumplings, rice, sandwiches, meat or vegetables, a bento box is the perfect way to try multiple things at once – all wrapped up in a nice package take care.
That’s right – ramen is another food that is technically considered “street” food in Japan. This quick and easy dish can be found at any ramen shop, and visitors can choose from anything from shoyu style to tonkatsu. With bowls of steaming broth, noodles, meat, and plenty of vegetables, from sprouts to bamboo shoots, ramen is a comfort food you can’t miss.
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