Everyone knows about sushi; perhaps Japan’s most famous export, sushi has made its way across the globe, and you won’t find many large cities without a restaurant to offer you a few rolls. When it comes to Japanese cuisine, sushi is only the tip of the iceberg – any visitor to Japan should keep their eyes peeled for the following delectable dishes, favourites of The Luxury Travel Agency:
1) Ramen. Like sushi, ramen has made its way onto the world stage, but it doesn’t quite carry the same elevated reputation. One reason might be its stature as comfort food – you won’t find it on many five-star menus, yet it’s nearly impossible to walk more than a block through Tokyo or Osaka without spotting a ramen restaurant or stall. The only constants are wheat noodles and savoury broth; every region has their own spin on the dish, and even adjacent vendors might make the same dish in different ways. Toppings often include sliced pork or chicken, soft-boiled eggs, sheets of nori seaweed, bean sprouts, and much more!
2) Okonomiyaki. This is a “savoury pancake” whose origins lie in the Kansai region (Osaka and its surroundings). The batter is a mixture of flour and shredded cabbage, fried on both sides with a heap of ingredients and sauces. The name essentially translates to “how you like” – as in, “make it how you like” – so the possibilities are endless! Your author enjoyed a version with shrimp, octopus, green onion, local vegetables, and bonito flakes; warm, crispy, and stomach-coating, this is a comfort food to rival anything you have at home.
3) Wagyu Beef. While our previous two dishes are loved as “comfort food”, wagyu beef occupies the other end of the spectrum. Renowned worldwide as some of the finest meat found anywhere, wagyu most often refers to a specific type of Japanese cattle, who metabolize their fat within their muscle, rather than around it. This leads to cuts of meat with incredible marbling, tenderness, and taste. Many gourmands recognize “Kobe beef”, which is simply a type of wagyu from – naturally – the city of Kobe. As the country with (by far) the most awarded Michelin stars, you’ll have plenty of options for experiencing this melt-in-your-mouth delicacy!
4) Takoyaki. Also hailing from Osaka, Takoyaki are deep-fried “octopus balls” that are wildly popular amongst street vendors and their customers. A wheat batter forms the base, filled with diced octopus, tempura bits, ginger, and green onion, then brushed with a unique sauce used only for this dish. Pick up a plate of them while you wander the streets of Osaka – hot and crispy, these are the perfect street food to enjoy while exploring a terrific city!
5) Shabu-shabu. If you’re the type who loves cooking their own food, this dish is a must. Shabu-shabu is a meal for the whole table; servers will bring a pot of broth and plates of sliced meat and vegetables, which you can add piece by piece to the broth as you wish. Few other dishes provide a social aspect the way this one does – the perfect combination of a restaurant experience with the control of cooking from home.
A trip to Japan is a journey into a culinary tradition like none other – and The Luxury Travel Agency can open doors into a world of food that you’ve never known. Let’s plan a trip to the “Land of the Rising Sun”!
If you like Asia, you might enjoy this article about some lesser-known spots in Thailand.