Japanese food is without a doubt my favorite. Sushi, noodles, gyoza and melon pan? Yes please!! Of course I couldn’t try all traditional dishes during our vacation in Tokyo and Kyoto (don’t worry fluffy cheesecake in Osaka, I’m coming back for you!), but here are some mouth watering foods, drinks and snacks that we ate during our unforgettable trip in Japan. Enjoy!
The number one dish you have to try when in Japan! On the first day, we went for a cheap and fast dinner at a ramen restaurant (see first photo). We had to place our order using a ticket vending machine, which was completely new for us. But it turned out to be pretty convenient, even if you don’t speak a single word Japanese. You can see the pictures from every dish before ordering, press the buttons from the dishes you’d like and pay. The ticket machine will give you your ticket, which you simply hand over to the chef or staff at the counter.
Tip: if you don’t know which dish to choose from a ticket vending machine, go for one of the dishes on top of the list. These are the main and most popular dishes, so you can’t go wrong with them!
We also tried ramen at other restaurants (with gyoza as side dish, mygoshh I am seriously addicted to these!!), and I have to say that they were delicious everywhere we ate. But there is one restaurant on top of our list (see pictures above). It was the smallest restaurant in Kyoto where you could only choose between a few ramen dishes. The staff didn’t really seem to speak English and since I don’t speak a word Japanese, we just pointed at items on the menu. Which worked pretty well haha!
This restaurant is called Asakusa Ramen Yoroiya and is one of the most popular restaurants in Asakusa, Tokyo. It’s close to the Sensō-ji temple and locals plus tourists love to eat the Futago Tamago Ramen here, which translates to Twins Egg Ramen. I didn’t even knew how popular this restaurant was until I started with writing this blog post!
I truly believe that little, more traditional restaurants like these are the best places to eat if you really want to try good and authentic Japanese food. The restaurants might be hidden and sometimes they even look like they’re closed, but trust me, they aren’t. And when you see a giant line outside the restaurant with locals, it means that the food is seriously good.
Okay, maybe THIS is the number one dish to try when in Japan: sushi. I have eaten a lot of sushi in my life, but never in sushi paradise Japan. And the two restaurants were we ate were so much fun! You don’t just order what you like from a menu, but you sit around a giant rotating conveyor belt. The plates with the sushi are placed on the belt and you just grab whatever you want to try. It is also possible to make special orders.
When you are full and finished, the bill is calculated by counting the number and type of plates of sushi. The plates usually have 3 or 4 different colors, and every color stands for a different price. The sushi is super fresh and it is not expensive compared to what you get. Keep in mind that these sushi belt restaurants can be very (VERY) busy and you might have to wait in line outside the restaurant for a while.
Okonomiyaki is a savory version of Japanese pancakes which we discovered in a little restaurant called Okonomiyaki Machiya in Kyoto Station, and it tastes like HEAVEN. There are two types of okonomiyaki: Kansai or Osaka style (made with cabbage) and Hiroshima style (often made with Yakisoba noodles). We tried the Hiroshima style ones. You can choose from lots of delicious toppings like scallions, pork, tempura crisps, eggs plus sweet okonomiyaki sauce or Japanese mayo on top.
The chefs prepared the dish right in front of us and placed it on a hot plate where we could add some extra sauce and dig in! If you love savory pancakes, you will most definitely love this dish. I surely do, and I am planning on eating this again on my next vacation to Japan.
Omurice is a popular Japanese dish where they mix the Western omelette with Japanese fried rice inside, topped with ketchup. It is a quick and easy recipe and is perfect for when you have some leftover rice. I know, sounds like a weird dish right? If I’m being honest, I don’t think I would order this again. This portion was enormous (I couldn’t even finish half of it) and it tasted kind of bland. Maybe I need to try it in a different restaurant, but for now I’m not a huge fan. We ate the Omurice in Kyoto Station, in a restaurant named Mollette.
Homibing is a great cafe with shaved ice and the fluffiest pancakes you’ve ever seen in your entire life. Not to mention they’re very Instagrammable as well. You can find this cafe in Shibuya, Tokyo. We decided to try the Tiramisu Pancake and the Berryberry Pancake, and man they were SO GOOD! Of course we had to wiggle our plates first to watch them bounce and jiggle and let me tell you, it’s was very entertaining haha!
While two Japanese girls next to us did a little jealous stare, we dug into our piles of fluffy heaven. The pancakes were very light and airy and you could easily eat this as a lunch or snack as well. I can definitely recommend this dish. The shaved ice flakes – that we did not try – looked amazing as well. The perfect way to cool down on a hot and humid summer day!
On the picture above, you can see tiramisu with beans inside and topped with matcha, together with some kind of sweet bean parfait (and an iced tea). I am not sure where we ate this, but I think it was in a restaurant in Kyoto Station. The matcha tiramisu was pretty good, but the bean dessert was a little crazy. Okay, very crazy. Maybe it’s because we’re not used to eat beans in a sweet dessert, but it just tastes strange. There’s sweet bean paste, bean ice cream and jelly in the dessert with – of course – a bean flavor. A little too much bean if you ask us, but it was fun to try. In Japan, they use sweet bean paste in a lot of pastries and desserts!
Did someone say ice cream?! During the hot and humid summers in Japan, ice creams are the perfect way to cool down a little. They have the cutest ones like the pig ice cream we tried at Eiswelt Gelato in Harajuku, Shibuya, but also soft serve ice cream like the ones below. We loved the vanilla/green tea mix and the one on the bottom right that tasted like vanilla/lemonade sorbet.
We tried the the ice cream on the right side during our climb up at the Fushimi Inari Shrine (with 10,000 Torii Gates). With the high humidity and heath, it seemed like an impossible climb. But this little stop where they sold ice cream at the top of Mt. Inari appeared at the exact right time! And the combination of vanilla with this fresh lemonade flavor was THE BEST.
Little ice cream shops like these often have a few flavor combinations to choose from. For example, if they sell green tea and vanilla ice cream, you can either go for one of these flavors – or just mix them together! We loved mixing the flavors, since green tea ice cream can be a bit strong by itself, but the vanilla part makes it a delicious combination!
Japan is known for their crazy snacks, and you definitely have to try some during your vacation here. Crispy cookies with creme brûlée on the inside? They have is. Pretzel sticks or ice cream with a cheesecake flavor? Not a problem! You can also find the weirdest toppings on crepes and pancakes, but they still look very delicious though. I need more time here, I want to try it all!
The little round breads above were my favorite snack during our time in Japan: melon pan or melon bread. They make these Japanese sweet breads with dough, covered in a thin layer of crisp cookie dough. Yes, you heard that right. A LAYER OF CRISPY COOKIE DOUGH! I expected it to taste like melon at first, because hey, it’s called melon bread for a reason right? But the name is just because of the shape. It’s crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside and has a nice, sweet flavor which is not too sweet. Love love love! If only I could buy this in Europe…
We did not really tried a lot of hot drinks during our time in Japan since it was a hot summer, but we did had a lot of lemonades and refreshing drinks from vending machines. It is super important to hydrate yourself during the humid summers, especially because you might not feel thirsty, but you are sweating a lot and losing many electrolytes because of this. Luckily, you can find vending machines with drinks EVERYWHERE you go in the big cities and the drinks aren’t expensive at all.
There are special drinks like Pocari Sweat (and no, it doesn’t taste like sweat lol), but we found a different favorite: peach flavored Aquarius, which you can see on the first picture in the vending machine. I tried to search for this drink on the internet and could not find anything about it, but I think that this is a limited flavor to celebrate the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Sadly, the Olympics are now moved to 2021, but maybe this means that you can try this special drink for longer!
See the bright, green drink on the pictures above? I know, it kinda looks like toxic waste haha, but this was by far our favorite drink in Japan: melon soda! It’s actually a special Fanta flavor that they only sell in Japan I think, but other brands also have this flavor. You can find it on almost every restaurant menu in Tokyo and Kyoto and it’s so good!
Before heading back home, we wanted to take a little souvenir with us for our parents and found Sweet Plum and Strawberry wines in a store with luxury (and expensive!!) Japanese fruit. We took one of each with us and man, these are delicious. I don’t really like the taste of wine, but these are very sweet – like a dessert wine I think. The Sweet plum one was my personal favorite, but I know that they also have Peach wine (which was completely sold out when we were in the shop). Guess we just have to try that one next time!
Xxx Kirsten ♥