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5+ Unexpected Food You Need to Eat in Japan

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An Ode to Japanese Delicacies

It seems impossible to describe all the culinary gems that Japan has to offer in a way that does it justice. But of all that Japan has to offer, here are 5+ unexpected food you NEED to eat in Japan! As you read along, I’ll add my two cents throughout, but if you have any further questions, drop a comment below and I’d love to share more! And if you’re looking for things to do in Japan, check out our 5 Epic Things To Do in Japan (psst: it includes more delicious Japan eats!)

Food to Eat in Japan #1 – PABLO: Japan’s Best Cheese Tarts

If you’ve been in Japan for at least 5 minutes, chances are good that you know PABLO is one bakery to try. As one of the most famous chain bakeries in Japan, PABLO specializes in cheese tarts: a combination between cheesecakes and tarts. You can get a full sized tart of all sorts of different flavors, or you can opt for a sample of mini tarts (which is what I ordered). And here’s the cool thing: when you order your cheese tarts, they’ll ask you if you want it baked rare or medium-rare! Personally, I liked it medium-rare because it gives it more of a bite. While not exactly the same, these cheese tarts reminded me of the Balinese milk tarts I grew up eating. Pablo is definitely the food stop you NEED to make while visiting Japan. YUM!

Food to Eat in Japan #2 – Anagomeshi Ueno

Tucked near the Miyajima ferry wharf, Anagomeshi Ueno serves the popular Conger Eel (aka Unagi) Rice Box. While I was hesitant to try this fish (sure doesn’t look like one alive), I gave it a go, and it was DELICIOUS! In case this white fish tastes like a cross between lobster and chicken. When paired with the iconic sweet-salty sauce, unagi takes on a whole new level of flavor, especially when served under a bed of perfectly-fragrant rice cooked in a special broth. Truly umami at its finest.

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OYSTERS & U•NA•GI 💯

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Food to Eat in Japan #3 -Miyajima Steamed Buns

I came across this tiny little shop on the streets of Miyajima. Their specialty? Steamed buns. While they are known for their “Anago man” (Eel Steamed Bun), they also sell steamed buns with other filling options, namely beef and yuba (tofu) for those who are vegan/vegetarian. Since I just had unagi for lunch at Anagomeshi Ueno, I went with a Hiroshima Beef Bun, and it did not disappoint!

Side note: while language barrier was definitely a thing, I think the shop ladies and I became friends 🙂

Food to Eat in Japan #4 -Ice Cream, Ice Cream!

Need I say more? While this may not be 100% accurate, it seemed to me that there was an abundance of ice cream shops of varying kinds and flavor waiting for you to enter in every street of Japan. I maaaay have tried my fair share. Here’s the most important details you need to know:

  • Matcha Ice Cream: Japan is known for its high quality green tea, otherwise known as Matcha. Nearly every ice cream shop sells this flavor, and it was my personal favorite! I tried this in a Malebranche popsicle form, in a monaka form (the Japanese variation of an ice cream sandwich), and in (several) soft serve forms.
  • Egg Ice Cream: Akita prefecture considers its Hinaidori chickens to be a national treasure. So they invented the infamous egg soft-serve, a yellow-hued cone of decadent creaminess. I tried this for the sake of trying it, and while the texture was great and the egg flavor not dominant, this was not my favorite.
  • Gold-foiled Ice Cream: Kanazawa is known to be the largest producer of gold leaf in all of Japan. But not only that, they also sell gold-foiled soft serves for $9. While I did not shell out for this one, here’s the idea: take a perfectly swirled cone of vanilla ice cream, then gently place wrap a thin square of edible gold on top.

BONUS: A Birthday Dinner Course at The Tokyo Peninsula

I’m fairly confident that I take after my grandma in a lot of ways. A true wanderlust and foodie at heart, my grandma is one of my best friends and kindred spirit. As I explained in my last post, all my grandma wanted for her 85th birthday was to take all of us on this trip of a lifetime. I would love to be just like her one day, and have even half of the generosity that she shows us on a daily basis. But, that’s another story for another time.

The day she turned 85 ended with the most grand time of family fellowship, well-crafted culinary treasures, and most importantly, the celebration of my beloved grandmother. A short glimpse of her birthday dinner course looked a little like this:

  • Tuna, sea bream, and salmon Nigiri sushi; California roll with crab; Kampachi yellowtail, scallop, and squid Sashimi
  • Double consommé Royal with Edamame and Yuba Sashimi
  • Oven-steamed sea bream wrapped in traditional Japanese paper and Yuzu pepper, Ponzu, and fleur de sel
  • Braised beef cheeks in Miso, creamy mashed potatoes, simmered daikon and carrots, steamed green beans and green onion
  • Fruit cocktail with Kabosu citrus jelly; Matcha ice cream
  • Birthday Cake
  • Petit fours; Coffee/Tea

with the beloved birthday lady herself!

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Are there any other must-eats I need to include in this guide? Feel free to leave a comment below!

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