Tokyo, Japan is one of the most popular tourist destinations around the world, and most definitely one of the most visited cities in the Asiatic regions. Many people from Western nations like the US and the UK have fallen in love with the culture and people of Tokyo. And for good reason!
The city has much to offer, including beautiful national and local parks where Sakura – or cherry blossom trees – put on an incredible show. There are temples and holy sites in Tokyo that you simply could not see anywhere else in the world. And there are massive arcade gaming houses and malls that would make your jaw drop. But these are not the only reasons that people visit the city of Tokyo…
It would not be an over-exaggeration to claim that the food in Tokyo is a good enough reason alone to visit this Japanese city. In fact, the culinary arts of Japan and the dishes that have been created in the country have become so widely loved across the planet that sushi, sashimi, poke bowls, and seaweed wraps are now common foods in most countries. Japanese food is wholly unique and the variations of the meals just mentioned are a lot different in a city like Tokyo than anywhere else.
To experience real Japanese cuisine and eating styles, foodies should book a trip to Tokyo asap. But what is traditional Japanese food like?
What Does Typical Food In Tokyo Look Like?
If there’s one thing that is completely undeniable about the food in Tokyo, it’s the fact that it is very distinctive. Many food lovers will most likely be able to differentiate a meal from Japan from any other meal from around the world. This is because much of the traditional food in Japan is cooked using common ingredients and preparation techniques.
Of course, many of the Western variations of Japanese food have started morphing and changing the ways we see traditional Asian food, but much of it still remains correct.
Some of the most common ingredients used in popular food in Tokyo includes:
- Rice vinegar
- Soy sauce
- Sushi rice
- Miso paste
- Bonito flakes
In general, the cuisine in Tokyo and the rest of Japan tends to incorporate many umami flavours and ingredients including soy and miso sauces and pastes, along with fishy ingredients. These are then combined with some kind of starch, normally in the form of sticky sushi rice or noodles. Fresh herbs, oils, and vegetables are combined with these ingredients to make some of the most delicious and unique meals on the planet.
Let’s start looking at some of the dishes that you need to try when you visit Tokyo!
Traditional Food in Tokyo
One thing that every tourist must do when visiting another country is to try a few of the more traditional, local meals, before trying speciality dishes or desserts. This will help you to understand what the people of Tokyo eat on a day-to-day basis and what they tend to cook for themselves at home. This will also give you a feel for the culture and will help you to gain some respect for the culinary arts of the city.
Here are 3 traditional foods in Tokyo that you simply must try:
Edomae Tempura has fast become a much-loved, popular food in Tokyo. Many tourists and foodies will highly recommend trying this if you’re going to try something traditional in terms of food from the city.
Typically, a dish of Edomae incorporates fresh seafood from the bays of the city, which are then coated in batter and deep fried. This fresh, deep-fried seafood is served on a skewer, which shows its more western influenced roots. The story of this dish is that the Japanese got some culinary ideas from Portuguese settlers back in the days of ocean roaming and made them their own.
All in all, Edomae Tempura is a must-try for anyone looking to dip their toes into the local cuisine of Tokyo, while remaining mostly traditional in terms of the culinary sciences of the city.
Now, for the most famous food in Tokyo. And while this pick might seem a little bit safe and boring, the ramen noodles that you’ll eat in Tokyo are completely different from the typical ramen noodles you’re eating at home, unless you’re cooking them in an authentic Japanese style.
Most ramen dishes in Tokyo start off with some sort of soy sauce base and are built up using other ingredients like miso, pork belly, bones, and eggs. These traditional ingredients truly bring out the umami flavour that the chefs in Japan seek to achieve. The ramen noodles that you decide on in Japan, will blow your mind as to the conception of what ramen noodles really are.
Furthermore, proper Japanese ramen noodles are an everyday staple for the citizens of Tokyo, and when you’re visiting you simply should not miss out on this experience. You’ll also find vegan food in Tokyo that incorporates ramen, but the broth and everything else added is animal-product-free.
Chanko Nabe is a dish that many people who have visited Japan either love or hate. But it is traditionally a popular food in Tokyo that you must try if you ever decide to visit. Chanko Nabe refers to a type of broth-like soup that incorporates many different types of foods but it’s most typically prepared with chicken, pork, sardine balls, salmon, fresh vegetables, and mushrooms.
Chanko Nabe has cultivated a reputation for simply being a hotpot of ingredients that people normally wouldn’t combine in more Western nations like the United States or the United Kingdom. Chefs in Tokyo like to combine many different meat choices into Chanko Nabe, meaning that the flavours while eating are extremely varied and interesting.
Street Food in Tokyo
The next category we’ll be tackling is street food in Tokyo, which is extremely popular in the city. There are entire streets and parks cut off by street food vendors in certain parts of Tokyo, and finding delicious, fast, carryable food in the city shouldn’t be much of a problem at all.
Here are 3 top street food options you need to eat while visiting Tokyo:
The street food culture in Tokyo is booming, and many people, not just tourists, seek out street foods like Takoyaki while roaming the many side street and pathways scattered throughout the city. Takoyaki can be translated into what English-speaking people would call octopus balls.
Takoyaki, or octopus balls, is typically prepared by street food vendors in Tokyo by combining fried octopus meat along with some kind of doughy bread and various other fillings such as fresh herbs and vegetables. All of these ingredients are hand rolled into small balls and pan-fried in oil to create the perfect, delicious bite-sized street snack.
If you’re in Tokyo and want to experience a real taste of the street food culture, you simply cannot miss out on Takoyaki.
Harajuku crepes are a relatively new addition to the street food culture and menu in Tokyo but have quickly become a popular and trendy food to buy in the city. Harajuku crepes are usually prepared as a dessert and served in the form of what we would call dumplings.
Usually, the crepes in this dish are pan-fried to become a little bit crispy on the outside, coated in cinnamon sugar, and offered with a variety of different fillings, including strawberry jam, whipped cream and custard, chocolate sauce, and many other sweet delicacies.
If you’re roaming the streets and are in the mood for a sweet hand treat, then you should look no further than a delicious Harajuku crepe.
The last entry to our list of Japanese street foods is the one and only Tamagoyaki. This food is well known to both the people of Tokyo and tourists and foodies who come by to visit the city. This unique dish has become an extremely popular choice for both visitors and locals due to its nutritious and delicious nature.
Tamagoyaki is typically prepared using a rolled omelette that is soft, light, and fluffy, and then filled with various interesting and out-of-the-ordinary ingredients. These ingredients often include soy sauce, sugar, dashi, and more. This creates an extremely interesting blend of flavours that those eating will either love or hate. One thing is for certain, Tamagoyaki provides traditional Japanese flavours via a street food medium.
Tamagoyaki is typically served cut up and placed on a skewer, but it has also become popular for use as a topping on sushi.
Try Top Food In Tokyo
It’s not an easy task to encapsulate all of the good food in Tokyo into a small list. The entries here are a mix of both the traditional foods that you should try when you visit, as well as the more contemporary street foods that are becoming popular in the culture.
Japanese cuisine is world-famous and has transcended boundaries, but the adjacent food that you eat in your home country might be quite a lot different from what you actually find on the streets of Tokyo. You’re in for a blast of interesting flavours, ingredient combinations, and masterful dishes when you eat food in Tokyo!
Penny is a sought-after wedding and party planner, known primarily for her exquisite culinary knowledge, sharp palette and inventive pairings of wine and drink.
She has traveled the world hunting for the best food and drink to share with her clients on their special day.