Five Dishes You Must Try While In Japan Five Dishes You Must Try While In Japan Japan Travel Guides SHARE Ricky , June 8, 2014 / 0 There are lots of reasons to visit Japan – a beautiful country, a unique culture, a fascinating history, and of course a cuisine that is famous for its freshness, flavour, and flair. These days, most cities around the world will have a good selection of Japanese restaurants where you can sample some of the most famous types of Japanese food, but it wasn’t until I visited Japan that I really began to appreciate the huge range of different types of food that form the cuisine of Japan, but also the incredible geographic and seasonal variety of food. Each region has its own specialities and every season sees different ingredients and flavours being featured. Everyone knows how good sushi and sashimi are, but in this article we take a look at some of the other key dishes that you are going to want to try when you visit Japan. 1. Yakitori Yakitori is one of those dishes that you will see on the menu in restaurants outside of Japan, but I was blown away by eating the authentic version while I was in Tokyo recently. Head to Yurakucho station in the heart of Tokyo – it is here that you will Yakitori Alley, a strip of small restaurants built into the arches underneath the railway line. Yakitori is simple food, designed to be eaten after work, with a drink. It is skewers of cubes of meat, grilled over a charcoal fire. Traditionally the meat used is chicken and every bit of the chicken would be used, but these days you will find all sorts of meats and vegetables on offer. A special sauce, or “tare”is drizzled over the skewers while they are cooking. Yakitori 2. Tempura A proper tempura restaurant is an impressive operation. In Kyoto recently I used to have tempura for lunch nearly every day. There was a guy cooking noodles, this was your base, there was a woman cooking tempura – a range of different delicious things dipped in a super light batter and then deep fried. I usually got a piece of chicken, a prawn, and a piece of pumpkin. You paid for your tray of food and then added some spring onion and chilli to the top before finding your table and tucking into your lunch. It sounds simple but it is incredibly delicious. Tempura 3. Shabu Shabu Kyoto claims this dish as its own, but it is quite similar to the steamboat style of cooking that can be found in many countries across Asia. This is a very social style of cooking and eating, because it gives everyone a chance to get involved. The restaurant presents you with a bowl of stock, a plate of raw vegetables, and a plate of thinly sliced raw pork. You then get to work and cook what you want, dipping the cooked pieces in a sauce before slurping it down. This is a test of your chopstick skills. Best enjoyed with a beer. Shabu Shabu 4. Okonomi-yaki This is a dish that is synonymous with Osaka. The easiest way to describe it would be as a cabbage pancake – the base is thick and then all sorts of flavours and toppings can be added. Generally you will sit at the grill and watch the chef cooking the dish for you. The Tokyo version of this dish is called Monja-yaki, similar ingredients but the base is much looser – so it never really sets. In Tokyo you can go to Tsukishima to Monja Street where there is a street full of restaurants where you can cook your own Monja-yaki. Okonomi-yaki 5. Tai-yaki Dessert time? I really love Tai-yaki. This is fried batter with a sweet filling. They are called Tai because the batter is always in the shape of a fish. Traditionally Tai-yaki have always been filled with sweet red bean paste, but you can now get them in all sorts of delicious flavours. There’s a chain of Tai-yaki shops that is run by JR Railways that cooks mini Tai-yaki fresh to order and you can choose from fillings that include chocolate, strawberry, or custard. Tai-yaki Experiencing the food of a country is a great way to connect with a culture and a people that you may not be familiar with. The great thing is that when you return home you will be the resident expert whenever you eat at the local Japanese restaurant. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as saying: “It’s good, but not quite as good as the food we ate in Tokyo.” Book your food expedition to Japan now!