What to eat in Japan?
Japan is known for many things: the polite attitude of people, diverse landscapes, anime, and also the complex history between my home country. But for three days in Tokyo, I got to experience arguably the best thing about Japan: food. We arrived in Tokyo on November 2nd, which is a day after my birthday. What’s a better way to celebrate your birthday than by eating lots of delicious food?
People around the world have different color, religion, and way of living, but we all share one thing in common: the passion for fried food. We deep fry anything we can. Because? It tastes good!
Add tempura to your ‘deep-fried food I love’ list. Tempura (天ぷら) is a Japanese dish that battered and deep fried seafood or vegetables. The ingredients and price range can vary as it is widely popular for everyone. But tempura is not just ordinary fried food. The light and flaky batter is the distinct characteristic of Japanese tempura. The batter is made with cold water or sometimes ice cubes to result fluffy and crispy structure. There’s nothing like biting into a scorching hot shrimp covered with the oh-so-crunchy batter.
Interestingly, the etymology ‘tempura’ can be traced back to 16th century by the Portuguese in Nagasaki. Tempura has been developed over the centuries into a popular Japanese dish both in and outside of Japan.
Tempura can be found in many types of restaurants across the country, but to experience the best kind, find a tempura-ya which specializes in the dish. There are many classes of tempura-ya from the high-end that costs 5000 yen or more, to more affordable ones that costs 1000 yen (more less). Tempura-ya serves the fresh tempura right from the pan. The minimized cooking method creates the best tempura, as you can see from your chef at tempura-ya. Tempura is also served with udon (noodle soup) or a bowl of rice (don), and it is a popular side dish for drinking at izakaya.
Ah, sushi. How can we discuss Japanese cuisine without mentioning sushi? It is the most well known Japanese food and the popularity is through the roof. In any city around the world, it’s not hard to find a few sushi restaurants. But, nothing beats the fresh sushi served right at the fish market early in the morning.
Sushi is made with vinegar rice combined with other ingredients, mostly seafood. Traditionally a chef puts small amount of wasabi between rice and seafood. It comes in various forms and with countless ingredients, and it is worthwhile to discover and explore.
It’s a stressful process to pick out a good sushi restaurant where you can experience the process and enjoy the food as a tourist. Chatting and taking photos of the food are frowned upon in really traditional restaurants, so be careful. When in doubt, go to fish market like Tsukiji Market in Tokyo and find the sushi restaurants nearby. The wonderful world of sushi starts there.
Growing up in Korea, ramen noodles were something that we weren’t allowed to eat often. It was not a healthy food. We were granted to have ramen, rarely, as a snack food. Instant ramen noodle is one of the most popular snack food in Korea to this day. When I was in high school, I encountered the not-so-instant ramen noodle for the very first time. It was at a Japanese ramen restaurant in Seoul.
Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup dish that served in a meat broth served with wheat noodle, sliced pork, seaweed, and vegetables. Every region in Japan has its own variation of the meal with different styles of broth, toppings, and so on. The soup is the best part of Japanese ramen. Ramen soup is generally made from chicken or pork stock, combined with variety of ingredients such as garlic, beef bones, onions, miso, etc.
Japanese ramen gives a snack food-like satisfaction but it is actually real food! For that, I love ramen. It is also quite tasty.