Top 5 foods to try in Japan

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The East Asian island is also home to some deliciously fresh cuisine.
The East Asian island is also home to some deliciously fresh cuisine.

With its stunning natural landscape and strong cultural identity, Japan is a once-in-a-lifetime holiday destination. The East Asian island is also home to some deliciously fresh cuisine.

Unique and beguiling, Japan is a country of binaries. It straddles both the traditional and ultra-modern, and hosts buzzing cities alongside stunning natural landscapes. Its food is notoriously nutritious, with a diet based around super-fresh, seasonal products. We’ve picked ten dishes to seek out when visiting Japan. The following is Top 5 foods to try in Japan.

Sushi

Sushi
Sushi

Put simply, sushi is raw fish served on rice seasoned lightly with vinegar. It’s in the variety of flavours and textures – like tangy, creamy uni (sea urchin roe) and plump, juicy, ama-ebi (sweet shrimp) – that things get interesting. Despite sushi’s lofty image, it has a humble origin: street food.

Ramen

Ramen, egg noodles in a salty broth, is Japan’s favourite late night meal.
Ramen, egg noodles in a salty broth, is Japan’s favourite late night meal.

Ramen, egg noodles in a salty broth, is Japan’s favourite late night meal. It’s also the perfect example of an imported dish – in this case from China – that the Japanese have made completely and deliciously their own. There are four major soup styles: tonkotsu (pork bone), miso, soy sauce and salt. Fukuoka is particularly famous for its rich tonkotsu ramen; pungent miso ramen is a specialty of Hokkaido.

Tempura

Tempura
Tempura

Light and fluffy tempura is Japan’s contribution to the world of deep-fried foods (though it likely originated with Portuguese traders). The batter-coated seafood and vegetables are traditionally fried in sesame oil and served with either a tiny pool of salt or a dish of soy sauce-flavoured broth spiked with grated radish for dipping. Do not miss out on ebi-ten (tempura prawns).

Soba

Soba
Soba

Soba – long, thin buckwheat noodles – has long been a staple of Japanese cuisine, particularly in the mountainous regions where hardy buckwheat fares better than rice. The noodles are served in either a hot, soy sauce-flavoured broth or at room temperature on a bamboo mat with broth on the side for dipping. Purists, who bemoan soup-logged noodles, prefer the latter.

Kaiseki

Part dinner, part work of art, kaiseki is Japan’s haute cuisine.
Part dinner, part work of art, kaiseki is Japan’s haute cuisine.

Part dinner, part work of art, kaiseki is Japan’s haute cuisine. It originated centuries ago alongside the tea ceremony in Kyoto (and Kyoto remains the capital of kaiseki). There’s no menu, just a procession of small courses meticulously arranged on exquisite crockery. Only fresh ingredients are used and each dish is designed to evoke the current season.

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