Welcome to Japan! – My guide to different types of Japanese Cuisine.
In England, I think it is safe to say that, we are extremely ignorant about the vast variety of Japanese food, it isn’t just sushi!
I was astounded by how many different types of Japanese restaurants there are here in Tokyo. The Japanese love to eat out, and I don’t blame them. On every corner and down every little alley there are thousands of restaurants. They range from a traditional street bar style to huge multi floored emporiums in department stores and train stations. The chefs take utmost pride in their work, continuously smiling through their long hours.
These are a few of the types i have discovered and adored!
Tonkatsu (originated in the 19th Century) – I am a huge fan of this type of cuisine that I have only recently tried for the first time. It consists of whole pieces of pork, ranging in cut, covered in panko breadcrumbs and deep fried. It’s served with raw cabbage and different sweet/savoury thick brown sauces. The main sauce is almost similar to our Worcestershire sauce but thicker. Prices range from cheap cuts used for sandwiches to whole pork tenderloin which is around 3000 Yen (£18). It comes with salad, miso and rice, of course. Lemon juice and mustard are served on the side
Teppanyaki – This is when the food is cooked on a hot plate. Each table can have their own to cook on or the chef can cook the food in front of you, almost as a performance to the diners. Benihana is an example of this.
Yakatori – This is almost like a Japanese barbecue. It consists of different types of meat on skewers, however it specifically refers to chicken. Chicken liver and heart Yakitori are common delicacies. The sauce that accompanies them is a sweetened and thickened soy called tare. The skewers are grilled over a charcoal fire.
Sushi and Sashimi – In Japan you will find everything from tuna to sea urchin, octopus, blow fish, and squid innards. I have tried it all! Sushi is fish and rice together such as nigiri or maki (the rolls) however sashimi is simply the pieces of sliced raw fish.
Tempura – This is fish and vegetables covered in a batter of panko breadcrumbs and then deep fried. This morning I had deep fried oyster, shrimp and crab coated in béchamel. These were served with raw cabbage and tartar sauce. Tempura was brought to ‘Japan during the 16th century by the Portuguese in Nagasaki, tempura has developed over the centuries into a popular Japanese dish both inside and outside of Japan.’ Tempura pops up at all of the different specialty restaurants.
Noodles – You can choose between a few different types of noodle restaurant. You have your typical ramen bars, ramen is a wheat noodle soup which often includes egg, meat (most commonly fatty slices of pork) and a mixture of vegetables. It’s extremely affordable and delicious. Soba and udon noodles can both be served in a variety of ways, hot or cold. Most commonly I have eaten them hot in a broth with sliced spring onions. Soba noodles are darker in colour as they are made out of buckwheat flour. Udon noodles are the fat white noodles that are chewy. A restaurant I went to in Tokyo let you choose whether you wanted to times the amount of udon noodles in your broth by 1, 1.5, 2 or 2.5 at no extra cost. This turned dinner into an eating contest.
There are obviously many more Japanese cuisines but those are just a few to begin with.
(Shirasu are little white fish – sardines in their infancy.)
What makes eating out in Japan so special is the great care that each restaurant, no matter how big or small, takes over the food and their guests. You feel special whilst dining and each meal time is a completely unique experience. I struggled through, pointing at pictures and using sign language at restaurants where not one word of English could be found. It always ended up being a huge success, even if there was always a lot of giggling from the staff at me, especially when I unintentionally ordered ten times the amount of food needed. All of this is accompanied by lots of fantastic sake and beer in noisy and smoke filled restaurants. When you enter the chefs and waiters will shout greetings to you very loudly and you must always exit bowing until you have backed out almost on to the road. ‘Arigatou!’