Tokyo food. For some this means weird, wonderful and exotic experiences. For others it means finding a taste of home amongst the myriad of Japanese food on offer.
Worried about not being able to find something you like? Don't be. You can get just about anything here. Spicy, sweet, bitter, salty, raw, cooked, broiled, fried, grilled, stewed.... should I go on? Here we'll look at some of the most popular Japanese recipes you'll find in Tokyo and help you decode what the words mean.
Tokyo Food Menu
So here's a breakdown of the most common Tokyo food you are likely to run into during your stay in the big T. Click on the names to find out what they are, how they are cooked and how to eat them. Trying the food should be part of the adventure of any trip to Japan.
- Sushi - raw fish rolled in rice with wasabi and often wrapped in dried seaweed.
- Sashimi - raw fish in thin slivers. Mix up some soy sauce and wasabi, dip, and off you go.
- Tofu - dried bean curd served in a variety of ways. My favourite is the silk tofu option.
- Yakitori and Yakiniku - meat, and lots of it, on a stick or on a grill.
- Unagi - apparently a stamina building food for when Tokyo is hot and your energy is running low. Welcome to the culinary delights of eel.
- Okonomiyaki - the picture above shows what this one looks like. It's a lot of fun to make too.
- One pot meals - nabemono is the Japanese equivalent of a winter warming stew.
- Shabu Shabu - slivers of raw beef that you will quickly brown at the table before eating.
- Ramen Noodles - unhealthy but a favourite amongst Japanese, especially when the Tokyo weather gets colder.
- Soba and Udon - different forms of noodles. Local shops can be found in and around train stations and local areas.
- Tempura - battered vegetables - and no I don't mean beaten up! This is not like the batter to be found on UK fish and chips. This is light, dry and golden.
- Miso Soup - a Tokyo breakfast dish for many Japanese families. If you like a salty taste this could be the one for you.
With most Japanese dishes there are some regular features, mainly rice or noodles along with a range of pickles. Rice has been the staple food of Japan for centuries. The style of cooking is slightly different to other countries though and the rice is supposed to be a little sticky. That's how they manage to roll those wonderful sushi rolls.
Plastic Food Displays
When you're deciding what you want to eat, don't forget to take a peek at the window and table displays that can be found outside almost every Japanese restaurant. If you're anything like my fella, you won't be able to resist having a gentle poke just to see if they are real or not.
This is state of the art use of plastic food replicas to illustrate the Tokyo food on a menu. It does help you to see what you're getting and it's a handy reference point when you first arrive. The picture shows a variety of lunch sets on display in a busy office block.
Tokyo Food Firsts
I remember my first experience of raw fish in Tokyo. It was my welcome party hosted by my company at a very fancy restaurant in Ebisu. I was presented with a still breathing, tail flapping, mouth gaping fish. The chef proceeded to slice pieces off for me as the fish took its last gasps and it was my job to eat it. It would have been extremely rude if I hadn't and somehow I managed to keep it down.
The funny thing is, I love both sushi and sashimi now. I would say try to leave your regular food habits at home and sample some of the dishes you will find here. After all, Japanese food is considered to be some of the healthiest in the world.
The other thing I love here is some of the concoctions of ice-cream to be found. This picture was taken on a day out in Kamakura. Green tea and red bean ice-cream - and this was the rich and creamy home-made variety. Seriously delicious!