• Okonomiyaki


Japanese Cuisine and Street Food


Fresh, healthy and meticulously prepared, Japan's cuisine has to be one of the main reasons its people have the highest life expectancy on the planet. Staples like rice, seafood, miso (fermented soy bean), tofu (soy bean curd), soy sauce and pickled vegetables are used to create delicately flavoured dishes based on seasonal ingredients. The most decadent Japanese dining experience is kaiseki cuisine—a beautifully presented banquet that starts with appetisers and soups, moves on to steamed, grilled, and fried dishes, and finishes with a simple rice dish.

Sushi and Sashimi
Growing more and more popular in the West, sushi is a light and delicious Japanese classic of raw fish or seafood combined with sticky, cooked, vinegared rice. Other ingredients vary, but the seafood and rice are often rolled and wrapped in paper-thin nori, made from seaweed. Slices of raw fish and seafood served without the rice or nori is known as sashimi, which is often dipped in soy sauce.

This lip-smacking cooking technique takes meat or fish marinated in a sweet soy sauce and then seared on a hot plate. The marinade is traditionally made by reducing soy sauce, sake, sugar, honey and sometimes ginger. The Japanese prefer to use fish such as yellowtail, marlin, tuna, salmon or mackerel; but you will also find teriyaki chicken, pork, lamb, beef and even hamburgers. Teriyaki can also be served cold, typically in bento boxes.

These simple but delicious delicacies are either seafood or vegetables deep-fried in a light batter of cold water and wheat flour. Lumps are left in the mixture to keep the batter fluffy and crisp, and much care is taken not to overcook the ingredients. Traditional tempura uses favourites like prawn, scallop, crab, aubergine, sweet potato and mushroom.


Traditionally, eating on the street has been considered rude in Japan, but things are changing. Found in cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, yatai are small mobile food stalls selling dishes like noodles or yakitori, a type of skewered chicken, and sweet cakes such as taiyaki, castella and imagawayaki. Set up on pedestrian streets and in alleyways, they are usually surrounded by office workers slurping ramen and drinking beer. Be careful to only order street food from vendors whose food is clean, fresh and cooked right in front of you.

In Japan, the louder you slurp this noodle dish the more you like it. Wheat noodles are served in a meat or fish-based broth, often flavoured with soy sauce or miso and topped with sliced pork, dried seaweed and green onions. Almost every town has its own ramen recipe to try so get slurping.

A little like Chinese pork buns, these petite, plump packages of wheat-flour dough are filled with cooked ground pork and steamed for ten minutes or so. Tear one open to release that comforting salty pork smell and eat it before it gets cold.

Another ball-shaped street food favourite, these consist of minced or diced octopus, pickled ginger and green onion cooked in a wheat flour batter in a special takoyaki pan. The balls are then brushed with takoyaki sauce (a lot like our own Worcestershire sauce) and mayonnaise, and sprinkled with seaweed and dried fish.