8 everyday foods (that aren’t sushi or ramen) we loved in Japan
1. Soba dipped in spicy hot soup
Asian cuisine never really gets properly represented internationally, which is why travelling to eat such foods is always such an eye-opener (no such thing as chop suey!). We discovered this soba in a hot dipping soup by accident when exploring the fancy business district near the Tokyo Station Hotel. Perfect with sake and sticks of kushikatsu.
The name literally means meats and vegetables "deep fried in bread crumbs". It's perfect drinking cuisine with beer or sake. You'll find a lot of these places lining Shinjuku and Shibuya with standing tables outside the most cramped little stalls. All your deep fried goodies come with a container of dipping sauce.
I could eat this all day. It's a simple, clean meal of fresh vegetables and your choice of thinly sliced meat cooked in a savoury soup. It comes with a typical peanut-y sesame dipping sauce and a side of rice or noodles. It's usually a set meal, very reasonably priced, so you get dessert with it. We loved Shabusen in Ginza.
You probably have an imported version of this in your nearest mall food court or a passable version in your neighbourhood restaurant. In Tokyo, instead of the more well-known drench in mayo and goopy sweet sauce, we discovered toppings of fresh spring onions, seaweed strips and salty seafood roe. SOO delicious.
5. Salary man fare
Yoshinoya is freaking awesome in Japan. It's a giant chain of restaurants but there are also tons of mom and pop stalls that open till the wee hours of the morning serving up bowls of soba or katsu rice. We were walking around our hotel around 2am and it was just amazing because you still see salarymen with their briefcases wandering around, walking in for a meal at that time. It's basic but very comforting food.
The Japanese do pasta very well, I have to say. There are a lot of fusion versions as well as those who stay true to its Italian roots. This one above was on the seasonal menu at Fujiya 1935.
Just because it's a fried item doesn't mean it can't be done to a level of incredible quality and taste. A crust of crunchy breadcrumbs tightly packing in the juiciness of a tender pork fillet by Maisen is by far one of the best we've come across. I've had this a few times and it is never EVER greasy.
8. Omu rice
The most interesting omu rice I'd ever had was one that came with a slightly sweet, savoury uni sauce. It was SO freaking delicious, but it was SO rich, and very difficult to eat after awhile. It's flavoured rice wrapped in a fluffy omelette (omu + rice, get it?) with a demi-glace or tomato gravy. You can dress it up with a hamburger steak or chicken karaage.