You can get sushi anywhere in the world. Yet, one of the first things people ask me when they discover I live in Japan is, “How is the sushi there?” As if the tuna here is the Christian Dior of all tuna. Unless you wake up at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning and hit up the Tsukiji Fish Market and grab a slice of tuna sashimi from a tuna that is still kicking, you aren’t going to know the difference between your local Rockin Sushi joint and the sushi restaurants in Japan. Except for the fact that you won’t find many Americanized versions of sushi here (that means no cream cheese rolls, avocado rolls, etc.).
Japan, particularly Tokyo, is a culinary lovers delight. The chefs here take immense pride in cooking only the freshest meats and vegetables. Whether it is the smallest treat or an extravagant 7-course teppanyaki meal that pisses on Beninhana, after eating out in Japan, you’ll wonder no more why so many Japanese people seem to do it every night.
I’ve been living in Japan for more than two years and I think I’ve tried enough “let me try this just to try it” foods to say that I can put together a nice list of foods/drinks that you gotta get before you leave.
After tweeting and facebooking with one of my inspirational travel friends, Kristin Luna, yesterday, I began thinking about foods people should get when they are here. Since her and her husband, Scott, were in Kyoto yesterday, I recommended that they must get the first item on my list.
5. Green Tea Flavored Kit Kits
I wrote about the different varieties of Kit Kat flavors in Japan here. There are 98 of them. You read that right, 98 different flavors of a chocolate bar that you’ve probably only seen in, well, chocolate. From normal tasty delights like a caramel macchiato or tiramasu flavor to the weirdness you expect from Japan flavors like, wasabi, aloe cream and cucumber, Japan has found a way to put everything into a Kit Kat bar. You can literally make your own sushi roll out of the Kit Kat flavors sold here.
Because the flavors are regional, like with everything in Japan, people will travel far to collect as many as they can. Kyoto’s regional flavor is green tea. If you’ve been to Kyoto, you’ll know why green tea was selected to represent Kyoto. If you don’t make it to Kyoto though, wherever you travel to in Japan, be sure to break yourself off a piece of a local Kit Kat bar, even if it happens to be lemon vinegar flavor.
4. Ramen Noodles
Despite the fact that they recently opened a friggin Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama- where you can make your own cup noodle flavor (best believe I’m going there). And despite the fact that you are alive today because your once broke, trying to get your degree arse use to eat instant ramen noodles and grilled cheese like they were filet mignon; what you think are ramen noodles are in fact nothing like the authentic ramen noodles here.
In fact, if you’re traveling Japan on a budget, a ramen noodle restaurant is one of your best bets for eating on a budget. Like the Kit Kat bars, every region in Japan has their own unique ramen style. One of the most popular throughout the country is from Sapporo.
You do not have to travel all the way north to Hokkaido for some authentic and delicious ramen though. You will find a ramen restaurant on nearly every block. Order it with an Asahi beer and some gyoza and warm your hungry belly.
3. Frozen Cucumber On A Stick
When it starts getting hot here and you find yourself going to festivals, concerts and sporting events, you’ll start to notice that people are eating lots of frozen fruits on a stick. I’m not talking about the Dole fruit Popsicle kind either. I mean, straight up frozen pieces of pineapple, watermelon and mango… on a stick. If that doesn’t seem odd to you, you’ll also start seeing Japanese citizens skipping the fresh fruit and opting for frozen cucumber on a stick.
I’m not sure if this “treat” is unique only in Japan, but I never saw it until I moved here. I must say that on a hot, humid August day in Tokyo, a frozen cucumber is pretty good.
2. Your Favorite Food As Ice Cream
Keeping alive the tradition of staying cool while enjoying your food, the Japanese have made just about every thing into an ice cream. Now I won’t admit that I’ve tried many of these myself. Heck, I can’t even stomach purple sweet potato or sweet red bean ice cream. Everything from Indian curry to horse meat (basashi) is frozen and made into ice cream. Don’t believe, read this article about it.
1. Pancake In A Can
I can’t begin to describe the obsession they have with vending machines here. Despite not finding the urban legend used-panties vending machines in Akihabara, I’ve practically seen every thing else you can think of sold in a vending machine here. Just looking at the basic things vending machines sell in the first place- drinks and snacks- the Japanese have something for every taste.
My favorite has to be the pancake in a can drink. It literally is, a pancake in a can. As I wrote in that blog post:
“It’s a liquid pancake. A pancake in a can. Instant diabetes. And it is served hot. That’s right, comes out of the machine hot. The first thing I did after popping the top was sniff the contents. Instantly, a rush of syrup aroma filled my nostrils. I smelled hot syrup and butter. I took a sip and a rush of sugar sent a jolt through my body.
The drink was exactly like eating a pancake. Except this pancake is laced with sugar and smothered in butter. I took another sip and couldn’t drink any more. I was nearly shaking from the rush of sugar. I can’t imagine that a person could drink an entire can. It’s good, taste just like a pancake but instead of tasting like a pancake with syrup and butter on top, it taste like you ate the pancake and then chased it down by drinking Aunt Jemima’s straight from the bottle.”
Despite my review of it, you have to try it for yourself. After that, feel free to drink instant corn in a can.
Hope you enjoyed this post. Please show your love by commenting, sharing and liking. Thank you! And don’t worry Kristin and Scott, I’ll take you to a normal restaurant tomorrow, ha ha.