OkonomiyakiOkonomiyaki is a dish that’s hard to explain to someone who has never had it before. The most common description is that of a “savory pancake”, but okonomiyaki tastes much more delicious than this description might make it sound. They are usually made out of lots of cabbage, meat stripes, eggs and the characteristic dough mixture, topped with special Okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise. It is one of the most famous Japanese dishes and there are many local variations, for example scrambled Okonomiyaki or Okonomiyaki mixed with noodles.
TakoyakiTakoyaki is a street food that tastes at least as great as it looks like. These small dough balls are filled with pieces of squid (Tako in Japanese) and garnished with sauces or different spices. They are easy to share and a great snack on the go that you can enjoy one ball at a time. Be careful though, freshly made Takoyaki can be scalding hot inside!
YakitoriYakitori literally translates to fried bird or more precisely, fried chicken. It is a street food that is great in its simplicity and can be enjoyed by tourists from lots of different cultures. The pieces of fresh chicken are pinned on a wooden stick, covered in different kinds of special sauces and fried freshly in front of your eyes. A great quick snack for cool summer nights!
DangoAt this point you might think to yourself that Japan only offers different kinds of fried street food. This might be true for most cases, but there is definitely more to Japanese cuisine than savory snacks - dango is a great example. Dango is a Japanese dessert made out of rice flour. It is not too sweet and the chewy consistency makes it stand out from other snacks. There are countless variations, ranging from the famous three-coloured dango balls on sticks, to dango covered in sweet red beans or even a salty paste made out of soy sauce.
SenbeiWhen it comes to cheap and simple snacks, Senbei is one of the first Japanese street food that comes to mind. These rice crackers can be found all over Japan in numerous variations. They come in different shapes and sizes and their consistency ranges from dense and crunchy to soft and light, depending on where you purchase them. Even though they can be bought in most supermarkets and convenience stores, it is best to enjoy Senbei from a food stall, where it moves from the hot grill directly into your hands.
OdenOden is the staple meal for Japanese winters and one of the best ways to warm up your freezing body. Like many other snacks on this list, Oden comes in great varieties. The basis of this hot stew-like dish is a light broth that is mixed with different kinds of vegetables as well as meat and fish, depending on your choice. Oden can even be bought in many convenience stores where the hot stew boils right next to the cashier.
NikumanNikuman is another dish that charms many tourists despite its simplicity. These steamed buns are filled with seasoned and spiced pork and are best enjoyed fresh out of a bamboo steamer. They are inspired by Chinese pork buns, but long since belong to traditional Japanese cuisine. Other variations include Kareman, filled with meat and curry seasoning, and the sweet Anman, filled with sweet red bean paste.
TaiyakiWho wouldn’t fall in love with these charming fish filled with delicious creams and pastes? Taiyaki is another traditional dessert that can only be found in Japan. In order to make this snack you will need special molds that form the delicious batter into its characteristic fish shape. Once the outside is golden and crispy, the dough can be filled with anything the heart desires. Traditional Taiyaki are filled with the sweet red bean paste we have already mentioned before, but nowadays you can also find custard or chocolate filled Taiyaki.
BentoLast but not least we just have the mention the one dish that really incorporates Japanese street food. Bento boxes have become so popular that they can be found in any Asia-inspired restaurant all over the world. These beautifully packaged boxes contain a whole meal, consisting of rice, vegetables, usually fish or meat as well as several other side dishes. They are everywhere in Japan and their variations range from convenience store quality up to gourmet dishes.
We hope these delicious pictures and descriptions didn’t make you too hungry. Japanese street food is truly amazing and one of the main reasons why many foreigners keep coming back to Japan. The snacks and dishes we presented today are outstanding in their simplicity which makes it possible for them to be reinvented and altered over time without losing their special charm. We have limited our choices to traditional Japanese recipes, but of course Western food like crepes, fried potatoes or burgers can also be found on Japanese streets. Have you ever had the chance to try Japanese street food? If not, what would you definitely like to try if you had the chance? Let us know in the comment section below!