100 Japanese Foods to Try

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across a blog called Just Hungry, written by a Japanese expatriate living in Switzerland. I found her blog while searching for a recipe for 中華そば (Chinese Cold Noodle); anyway, today Maki has posted a long, interesting, and delicious-sounding list of Japanese foods that people should try. The list includes foods widely available throughout Japan with various price ranges. I thought I’d share the list here, but also link you guys to her blog as well. The blog is really handy in terms of Japanese food explanations and healthily adapted recipes.

Enjoy!

P.S. I’ve highlighted the ones that I have tried so far, although there are a few I’m not sure about since I don’t have the kanji/explanations available.

A List of 100 Japanese Foods To Try At Least Once

  1. Properly washed and cooked, top quality new harvest white rice (shinmai)
  2. Freshly made tofu, as hiyayakko or yudofu
  3. Properly made misoshiru and osumashi
  4. Properly made homemade nukazuke
  5. Very fresh sanma (saury), sizzling hot from the grill, eaten with a drizzle of soy sauce and a mound of grated daikon radish
  6. Homemade umeboshi
  7. Freshly made, piping hot crispy tempura. I prefer vegetable tempura like shiso leaves, eggplant and sweet potato.
  8. A whole grilled wild matsutake
  9. Freshly made sobagaki with sobayu
  10. Mentaiko from Fukuoka, or tarako
  11. Onigiri with the three classic fillings: umeboshi, okaka, shiozaki
  12. Assorted fresh-as-possible sashimi
  13. Saba oshizushi
  14. Mugicha
  15. Kakifurai
  16. Morinaga High-Chew candy, grape flavor
  17. Karasumi
  18. A pot of oden, preferably with homemade components especially ganmodoki, boiled eggs and daikon radish
  19. Ika no shiokara
  20. Calpis
  21. Ankou nabe
  22. Unadon
  23. Komochi kombu or kazunoko
  24. Yamakake, either with maguro (red tuna) cubes or a raw egg
  25. Properly made gyokuro shincha
  26. Milky Candy
  27. Wanko soba
  28. Omuraisu with demi-glace sauce
  29. Handmade katayaki senbei
  30. Yohkan (yokan) from Toraya
  31. Ishi yakiimo – sweet potatoes cooked in hot stones, available from street vendor carts
  32. Natto
  33. Fresh seaweed sunomono (can also have some tako in it)
  34. Ikura or sujiko
  35. Tonkatsu
  36. Goma dofu
  37. Chawan mushi or tamago dofu – the same dish either piping hot or ice cold
  38. Freshly made mochi, with kinako and sugar, grated daikon and soy sauce or natto
  39. Gindara no kasuzuke
  40. Hoshigaki
  41. Inarizushi
  42. Chikuzen-ni
  43. Surume
  44. Yakinasu with grated ginger
  45. Tamago kake gohan
  46. Kabuki-age
  47. Nikujaga
  48. Spinach gomaae
  49. Fuki no tou
  50. Okonomiyaki
  51. Yakitori
  52. Ohagi
  53. Japanese style curry, with rakkyo and fukujinzuke as condiments
  54. Kenchinjiru
  55. Yakult
  56. Kakipea
  57. Takoyaki
  58. Sakura mochi
  59. Buta no kakuni
  60. Daigaku imo
  61. Kappa Ebisen
  62. Chicken tsukune
  63. Hakusaizuke
  64. Hayashi rice
  65. Goya champuruu
  66. Dorayaki
  67. Ochazuke
  68. Sakuma Drops
  69. Stewed kiriboshi daikon
  70. Takenoko gohan (or in fall, kuri gohan)
  71. Cream or potato korokke
  72. Fresh yuba
  73. Real ramen
  74. Monaka
  75. Ekiben of all kinds
  76. Edamame
  77. Chicken karaage
  78. Kuzumochi
  79. Mitarashi dango
  80. Konnyaku no dengaku
  81. Yukimi Daifuku
  82. Sukiyaki
  83. Nama yatsuhashi
  84. Panfried hanpen
  85. Nozawanazuke or Takanazuke
  86. Kiritanpo
  87. Amanatto
  88. Narazuke
  89. Aji no himono
  90. Baby Ramen
  91. Kobucha
  92. Kasutera
  93. Tazukuri
  94. Karintou
  95. Sauce Yakisoba
  96. Kamaboko
  97. Oyako donburi
  98. Atsuyaki tamago
  99. Kuri kinton
  100. Japanese potato salad

(Source: Just Hungry)

Maid Cafe in America?

I’m a bit turned off by the concept of this “maid cafe” in Culver City, CA. Not saying that I support the authentic maid cafes of Tokyo either, but after reading the article about Royal/T, it actually annoys me to understand that the owner had never stepped foot into a maid cafe in Japan, and that the cafe is decked out in the stereotypical/American view of what “Japan” is. It sounds like a place of real fusion, with tea, curry bowls, and other things included in the place. A real mish-mash, it seems.

The place has only been opened for a month now, so I wonder how well the business is doing. I personally think that if Ms. Susan Hancock (the owner) had wanted the place to be a “Japanese-style” maid cafe, she should have stuck with more Japanese pop culture items rather than make it into some weird fusion.

American sweets in Japan.

Well, well. Looks like Cold Stone Creamery and Krispy Kreme Donuts made their way over to Tokyo. Yeah, I realize I am a little behind on the news, but that’s okay; when I did live in Japan two years ago, I didn’t really pay attention to American foods since I wanted to eat more Japanese foods. However, during this trip, I came to Japan equipped with a little more knowledge about marketing/exporting products/services/etc. overseas thanks to my marketing classes from last year. I was curious to see–what did these companies adapt on their menus in terms of appealing to local tastes? What did they keep the same? How’s it different from in the US?

As you may have noticed in my blog posts from this trip, I have done a lot of comparisons between the American and Japanese cultures. It’s no doubt an interesting topic to talk about, think about–heck, I’ve been discussing differences with my Japanese friends since I’ve arrived here.

Anyway, I digress.

Since the Cold Stone Creamery shop opened downstairs in LUMINE at Tachikawa station, I decided to go check it out today. The line was decent; today’s a Friday, so it’s probably best that I came before the weekend rush. The set-up is different, of course; instead of just ordering at the counter, there’s a “waitress” standing around with menus and a scribble pad. We customers have to wave her down when we’re ready to order (as is customary in most Japanese restaurants). She fills out the sheet of paper with the type of ice cream, size, cone/cup, etc., and then hands the paper to me.

Then, when it’s my turn to approach the counter, I hand the worker behind the counter my piece of paper. She repeats the order back to me to confirm it; then, the ice cream is made. This part is pretty much the same as in the US.

The menu is slightly modified as well; the seasonal special right now is “Green Tea Party”, which is a mix of fluffy yellow cake, green tea ice cream, and some cream. Really Japanese, if you ask me. I looked through the menu carefully and looks like there is no “Birthday Cake Remix,” which is my favorite one in the US. Well, that creation is very American, if you ask me: after all, what’s more All-American than a Birthday Cake? Japanese have birthday cakes, too, but they’re not the same as what Americans eat. Plus, their cakes are not as iconic I guess; I can say that “Green Tea Party” is the Japanese equivalent of the “Birthday Cake Remix”, albeit this creation is probably only available in the spring.

Oh yes, and the portions were smaller (as expected).

Now, my interesting story about Krispy Kreme Donuts.

Well, I was walking down the steps of LUMINE, on my way to Cold Stone for my ice cream; suddenly, I saw some young teenage girls running up the steps with Krispy Kreme boxes and bags, and I felt confused; I had thought that the Krispy Kreme store in Tachikawa was not set to open for another week! So, I felt like I needed to figure out what was going on.

It didn’t take me long to figure out this mystery–I walked outside briefly, and was bombarded with several Krispy Kreme workers shouting out “Free Krispy Kreme donuts!” and directing people to a long line. Well, actually, I wasn’t sure what the women were saying, but people around me were growing really excited and running to the line (!!), so I decided I would follow suit. Got into line, approached the front, and voila–they handed me a large bag with a box of donuts. At first I was skeptical of what exactly was in the box, but after I came home, I found that the box contained a dozen Original Glazed Krispy Kreme donuts. A DOZEN. The regular price for one dozen in Japan is roughly 1600 yen (around $16)!

It’s insane that they were giving out these boxes for free. And what amused me more was just watching the frenzy–why do Japanese love Krispy Kreme so much? When I tried the donuts out, I was expecting the flavor to be slightly altered, but no–these are THE Original Glazed donuts. All-American flavor. This discovery made me feel even more confused–I thought maybe Japanese did not like overly sweet things? I guess my assumption was wrong–I asked a few of my Japanese friends, and they couldn’t explain the phenomenon either. They did mention, however, that the Krispy Kreme store in Shinjuku is always packed–minimum 2-hour wait in line. All for American donuts!

I don’t think I will understand this for awhile; maybe I need to do a little more research. I’m still in shock over the free dozen of donuts….

Japanese pastries.

On Saturday, I discovered the delicious smells and tastes of Japanese bakeries all over again. I had forgotten how convenient bakeries usually are in Japan; you walk in, take a tong and a plate, walk around and grab whichever baked goods you want with the tongs. No need to tell someone behind the counter what you want; just grab the pastries and pay up at the register.

Since I discovered this, I went a little overboard this morning with my treats. I actually had the “Mega Muffin” at McDonald’s beforehand, but I still craved something sweet. So I decided to stop by Bakery Crown on the way back to the apartment–went inside, found these treats, and bought them.

Turns out, four baked goods was probably way too much for my half-full stomach. The twist donut was so tasty; the chocolate croissant and the strawberry pastry were also very delectable. The remaining roll was actually filled with spinach, which I didn’t know when I bought it. It was still good as a “meal” roll; however, by the time I got to the fourth roll, I was feeling way too full. I probably should have just bought two, or even just one bread. Sigh…as the saying goes, “People eat with their eyes”; I felt overwhelmed with seeing all the available treats that I couldn’t narrow down my choices enough.

"Ladies’ Set" on Japanese Menus

I took several pictures of my lunch from today, but this is the only one I shall feature. It was the dessert, and I’m not sure if you can tell or not, but this little dessert was really tiny. It would probably not even pass as a kid’s dessert in the US; probably would pass for a toddler’s portion.

Anyway, as the title says, today I discovered that in some restaurants in Japan, there are designated sets for men or women; this little tidbit of information stunned me a bit as I listened to my Japanese friends explain the difference between the two sets. Men’s sets are bigger in portion, have certain foods that are more “manly”, etc. Meanwhile, with the majority of Japanese women who actually diet as a “hobby” (!!), the women’s set is usually a lot smaller, healthier (which is a good thing), and a few other things that I forget.

I feel like such set menus would not/could not exist in the US; after all, the society in the US is a bit more balanced (in some ways) when it comes to gender. Both men AND women want to be healthier, eat better portions, etc. With the idea of sets for each gender in Japan, it goes to show how different and more traditional the society still is.

I mention this fact since my friends and I actually ordered the women’s set at the pasta restaurant we went to. It came with a generous portion of pasta with a salad and this dainty dessert. I forget what the men’s set had–don’t think it had salad though.