In Japan the food options are endless, try ordering noodles from a vending machine, picking sushi from a conveyor belt or even ordering crazy Japanese food from a waitress dressed as a maid. Below are some of the best food items that we tasted during our trip to Japan.
The Japanese version of fish and chips. Prawns, fish, asparagus, lotus flower, aubergine, or anything else they can lay their hands on, are dipped in a light fluffy batter (which has been mixed using chopsticks), then, plunged into boiling sesame oil. As soon as this has been fried to golden perfection it is topped in a bowl of steamed rice and usually served alongside cold soba (buckwheat) noodles which are coated in a gloopy raw egg mixture. Rather than the traditional option of ‘peys’ or ‘beyns’ to go with their fish and chips, the Japanese opt for a slightly different approach and instead can be found topping their lunch time treat with a salt/powdered green tea combo or, if feeling saucy, served with a tentsuyu something you probably won’t find on the shelves next to the tommy k. Expect to pay around 780 yen (£5.57) for a tray with bits of everything.
The omlette of all omlettes. Okonomiyaki consists of a thin crepe like batter which is fried then topped with various ingredients including beansprouts, cabbage, green onion, octopus, squid, pork, cheese or, as you can see on the picture below, a bit of everything and sometimes even fresh oysters. Whilst cooking the Okonomiyaki, the ingredients are seasoned with a salt/dried seaweed mixture, which if not used carefully can leave a very strong smell of the seaside. Okonomiyaki are predominantly served in a hole in the wall type venue where customers will sit around the hot plate whilst the chef prepares the food in the middle, and are the perfect food for tucking in to with a cold beer and a couple of mates. 700 yen (£5.00) should see you get a good portion.
Ramen Noodle Soup with Gyoza
The lunch choice of the people, the ramen noodle soup offers the noodle connoisseur more variations than pot noodle and super noodles put together. Not at all comparable to the UK version where you add boiling water and leave for 2 minutes, these soups consist of chinese style noodles served in either a meat, or fish based broth, and is nicely topped with sliced braised or barbeque pork. If the soup couldn’t get any better, the soup is often served with a side of Gyoza, a japanese version of the chinese dumpling. Minced pork, cabbage, garlic, ginger, salt and soy sauce are wrapped in a thin dough like paper then fried until golden brown. Whilst eating your soup it is essential to follow local customs, and not to be bad mannered, this means that anyone eating a bowl of soup has a license to slurp, the louder you slurp, the more polite you are, one thing for sure, there is never a quiet moment in a ramen noodle house. If you come at lunch you can get a noodle set with a side of Gyoza and a top up of noodles for about 800 yen (£5.70).
An Osaka institution, minced or chopped octopus is put alongside green onion, pickled ginger, tempura scraps and mixed in a flour batter mixture which isn’t too disimilar to that of yorkshire puddings. This mixture is then placed in a special takoyaki pan, which contains dozens of moulds in the shape of half a ball, and is then carefully fried, worked and flipped to complete a round ball by using nothing else than what else, a pair of chopsticks. Once cooked through, 8-12 balls are placed in a cardboard tray and are topped with takoyaki sauce, a brown tangy affair, and topped with dried onions. Anyone caught eating a McDonalds as the fast food of choice when these octopussy delights are on offer should be shot, and at 350 yen (£2.50) for half a dozen there’s no excuse.
Probably the most famous of all the Japanese food, sushi in Japan can’t even be compared to that you get in the UK, especially the stuff you pick up in a boots meal deal. Whilst in Japan we made a special effort to get the freshest sushi of all, that can be found at the Tsukiji fish market, the biggest fish and seafood market on the planet. A handful of local sushi bars set up shop within the fish market, and every morning between 6 and 9am hundreds of people will pass through their doors, picking up Japans best sushi before they go to work. After encouraging Claire to swap coco pops for raw seafood, we joined the queue and before we knew it had our own personal sushi chef serving us fat belly tuna, season squid, sea urchin, amberfish, sea eel and many other great and crazy things. Everything was brilliant and so so tasty, at 3,500 yen per person (£25) it isn’t a breakfast you can afford everyday, but was worth every penny!
Saving the best until last, there was no way we could visit Japan without visiting and tasting the home of the worlds best beef. Specific rules are set out by the Kobe Beef Association which ensures that only certain cuts of beef from the Wagyu cattle raised in the Hyogo region cuts the bill. Kobe beef is known by carnivores as the best steak there is, a perfect mix of flavour and fat creates the perfect marbled steak, the path to any mans heart. We travelled to Kobe specifically for lunch and to eat on this cows ass, and it didn’t disappoint, steaks of Kobe beef were grilled, sliced and seasoned to perfection with nothing more than salt and pepper. Its a big call to say any steak is the best you’ve ever had, but this was definitely up there, the flavour, the company, the occasion and the end to one of the best countries we’ve visited puts this as one of the best pieces of cow I’ve ever eaten. Kobe beef comes at a price, but if you’re willing to have it as the best lunch ever, you can get a 200g Kobe steak set with noodles et al for 2,980 yen (£21.30).