10 Japanese Street Foods You Must Try

Posted on March 23, 2024

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Japan’s street food culture is a unique combination of flavours, textures, and traditions. Japan’s street foods are not just snacks but an integral part of the country’s rich cultural heritage, showcasing regional specialties and time-honoured cooking techniques.

Whether you’re a foodie seeking authentic flavours or a curious traveller eager to immerse yourself in the local culture, Japan’s street food scene promises a delightful journey for your taste buds.

If you’re looking to travel to Japan or are eyeing a local Japanese restaurant, here are 10 Japanese street foods you must try!

Savoury Street Foods

The savoury side of Japan’s street food scene is a delightful fusion of bold flavours, aromatic spices, and cooking techniques passed through generations. From grilled skewers to sizzling pancakes, these portable delicacies embody the country’s culinary ingenuity, combining traditional ingredients with innovative twists.

Takoyaki (Octopus Balls)

Takoyaki is a quintessential Japanese street food that originated in Osaka. Ranging from an inch in diameter to something as big as a baseball, these balls of batter are filled with chunks of tender octopus, cooked in specially moulded pans to create their unique spherical shape. These are then drizzled with savoury-sweet takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise, then topped with crunchy bonito flakes as well as a sprinkle of nori seaweed. The combination of the warm, fluffy batter contrasted with everything else creates an explosion of flavours inside your mouth!

Yakitori (Grilled Skewers)

Featuring a variety of meats, vegetables, and even cheese, yakitori is the epitome of Japanese grilled skewers. As the yakitori cooks over the charcoal grill, the aroma of the smoky charcoal combines with the scent of the grilling chicken and the caramelising tare sauce typically made from soy sauce, mirin (sweet rice wine) and sake (Japanese rice wine), sugar and other spices. From the classic chicken yakitori to the more adventurous beef tongue and crispy chicken skin skewers, each bite is infused with the smoky flavours of the charcoal grill and tare sauce.

Okonomiyaki (Japanese Savoury Pancake)

Often referred to as the “Japanese pizza,” okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake made with a batter of flour, eggs, and shredded cabbage, grilled, and topped with a variety of ingredients like pork belly, seafood, and a tangy-sweet okonomiyaki sauce. Regional variations, such as the famous Hiroshima-style and Osaka style, add to the diversity of this beloved street food.

Yakisoba (Fried Noodles)

A beloved street food classic, yakisoba features chewy wheat noodles stir-fried with a medley of vegetables, bite-sized pieces of meat (usually pork), and a savoury sauce similar to Worcestershire sauce called “soba sauce”. Translating to “grilled noodles”, the noodles are cooked to perfection on a sizzling hot plate, creating a sweet and slightly tangy aroma and flavour that will leave you craving and sipping more.

Sweet Street Foods

Japan’s street food scene isn’t just about savoury delights – it’s also a paradise for those with a sweet tooth.

Taiyaki (Fish-shaped Cake)

These adorable fish-shaped cakes are a beloved Japanese treat. Traditionally filled with a sweet azuki red bean paste, taiyaki has evolved to include creative fillings like custard, chocolate, and even savoury options like cheese or curry. The crispy exterior and warm, gooey filling make for a delightful contrast in every bite.

Dango (Japanese Sweet Dumplings)

Made from rice flour and served on skewers, dango comes in various flavours like plain, sweet soy sauce, and matcha green tea. These chewy dumplings are often enjoyed as a snack or a dessert and can be found at festivals, shrines, and street stalls throughout Japan.

Ringo Ame (Apple Candy)

 Also commonly seen in festivals, ringo ame are whole apples coated in a sweet, sticky toffee glaze. The apples, often with the stem still attached, are dipped in a hot sugar syrup that is then allowed to cool and harden, creating a glossy, crunchy candy shell around the fresh fruit.

Kakigori (Shaved Ice Dessert)

On hot summer days, kakigori offers a refreshing respite. This Japanese shaved ice dessert is made by shaving a block of ice into thin, fluffy layers and then topped with various flavoured syrups like strawberry, melon, or condensed milk, as well as sweet azuki red beans or mochi rice cakes.

Whether you’re seeking savoury umami flavours or indulging your sweet tooth, Japan’s vibrant street food scene offers an endless array of delectable options. Have you ever tasted one? If so, what’s your favourite?

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