What food should I try in Japan?

Last time we mentioned some of the top foods you should try in Japan. We’ll continue this theme and probe some of the lesser known Japanese foods.

4. Okonomoyaki

Japan’s very own pizza type food, it’s base is made from cabbage, flour and eggs. It’s quite a cheap fast food, too. Generally it’s cooked on massive metal plates by a chef with a spatula in each hand. That’s right a dual spatula wielding chief. If you’re lucky he’ll have dyed blonde hair, too - possible moulded with gel according to some unlikely fashion.

okonomiyaki picture from flickr by laughlin.
Okonomoyaki’s great. "Okonomi" means "as you like", which refers to the ingredients. Generally there’ll be a few choices of flavour - seafood, chicken, perhaps a vegetable one and a mix one. Personally I like any of them with prawns the textures pretty good.

Okonomiyaki is generally topped with Japanese mayonnaise and Okonomiyaki sauce in a grid like fashion across the top. While being made the ingredients will be added so they’re mixed into the base – rather than lying on the top like a pizza. Additional ingredient may include Aonori a type of seaweed (fine powder like) and Katsuobushi very thin shavings of benito.

5. Takoyaki

Takoyaki is serving of squid balls. The balls themselves are quite doughy, inside there’s some squid usually a tentacle. Takoyaki is another dish that’s not made at home. Osaka is most famous for Takoyaki – and it does taste very good from the street vendors there.

Takoyaki, japanese octopus balls
If you’re ordering from a street vendor – they’ll probably know the English numbers but even if they don’t the size of orders will be written in Arabic numerals (i.e. the one’s we use). Usually the balls come in servings of eight or twelve or about four balls in a strange sandwich. So if you want eight you can point to the sign or if you’re feeling adventurous try hachi-ko onegaishimasu. Which is a request for 8.

Takoyaki are cooked in special metal plates over a fire. The metal plates have sphereical indentations. Some batter is poured in here and a little piece of octopus is place in the middle. Then they’re rotated till cooked and puffy. At this point you’ll be asked a million questions – say yes to them all. You’ll get mayonnaise, benito flakes, aonori and a special thick soy-sauce like sauce.

Wait for them to cool them eat them with the cocktail stick in your box!

6. Natto

Natto is something of a legend in Japan and most Japanese know that it is disliked by foreigners – it’s disliked by quite a few Japanese too. Still it’s very much worth trying even if it’s only to say that you tried it.

A close up of some natto, picture taken by sachama on flickr
Natto comes in a disturbing number of varieties. The most common variety tends to be a dark to light brown. It looks a bit like mushy peas but it’s quite sticky. If you grab a few of the beans with chopsticks when you pull them away there will be a lot of strands.

I remember my Japanese teacher back in England compared the taste to the variety of cheeses in Engalnd and France. Stilton’s and strong cheddars. Obviously time has proven him insane – there is no possible connection between cheese and natto. Natto doesn’t have strong taste – it’s light and not altogether unpleasant. It does smell quite unpleasant but so do onions and garlic.

The best way to try natto is at a sushi bar – ask for natto nori – or pick up the plate from the conveyor. It will look like a thin green sheet wrapped around brown beans. Natto is made by getting soy-beans putting them in straw cases and then leaving them outside for a few months. Still try it – it will endear to most Japanese people.

Check the top three Japanese foods to try out!

Check out the final japanese foods you should try!
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