Photo via Flickr CC
Japanese cuisine is unlike any other and Tokyo is one of the best places to try it. Fizzing with relentless energy, Japan’s capital is a feast for the senses. In Tokyo, you can slurp from bowls of steaming hot ramen, delicately savor sashimi, or munch on traditional Japanese sweet treats, all in one afternoon.
From crispy tempura to smooth soba noodles, Tokyo is a city of delicious food. Street vendors whip up local delicacies, while regional restaurants offer dishes from all over Japan. You can dine on a budget by stopping at cheap chains and casual noodle bars, which are easy to find on main streets and in department stores throughout Tokyo. Or take things up a level and enjoy dinner in a Michelin-star restaurant, some of which tower over the city in sleek skyscrapers.
But it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by Tokyo’s seemingly endless restaurants and diverse menus. So to make things easier, we’ve rounded up some of the best traditional dishes to try while you explore the capital.
Photo by Saigon Time via Flickr
Although sushi is now popular around the world, there’s no better place to eat it than in Japan. There are thousands of sushi spots in Tokyo, ranging from conveyor belt chains to fine dining experiences. The city’s main source of fresh seafood and fish is Tsukijii Market, most of which is delivered directly to the new Toyosu Market. So if you make your way to Toyosu, you can expect to dine on high-quality sushi fish. For a Tokyo twist on sushi, try nigiri-zushi. A local delicacy that’s become popular around Japan, nigiri-zushi consists of a piece of seafood on a ball of rice.
Photo by City Foodsters via Flickr
In Toyko, you won’t have to go far before coming across a ramen restaurant. A staple in Japanese cuisine, ramen is hot, flavorful broth, that’s packed with noodles and topped with meat or vegetables. Usually cheap and always satisfying, ramen is a wonderfully warming meal on a chilly day. Recipes vary according to the region, but Tokyo-style ramen consists of a chicken broth with thin, curly noodles and a little dashi for extra flavor.
3. Okonomiyaki and Monjayaki
Photo by Ted Barrera via Flickr
If you’re looking for more Japanese comfort food, don’t miss the chance to devour okonomiyaki. A savory pancake, okonomiyaki is popular throughout Japan. The flour-based pancake typically contains cabbage, scallions, and slices of pork belly. Meanwhile, Tokyo is one of the best places to sample monjayaki – another savory Japanese-style pancake. Less firm than okonomiyaki, monjayaki is made from softer batter. While exploring the Tokyo Bay area, make your way to Monjo street, which is home to over 60 monjayaki restaurants.
Photo by Chris Gladis via Flick
Among Japan’s best-known noodles, soba is a standout. After gaining popularity during the Edo period, soba is now served all over Japan. Made from buckwheat, these silky smooth noodles can be eaten hot or cold. Soba is typically served with simple toppings, like nori, or alongside heartier dishes, such as tempura. A refreshing soba dish is mori soba, which consists of cold, boiled noodles, served with a soy dipping sauce. And don’t be shy when you eat soba noodles in Tokyo – slurping is expected!
Photo by Toshihiro Oimatsu via Flickr
Tempura is a crispy, delicious dish that features frequently on Japanese menus. Introduced to 16th-century Japan by Portuguese missionaries, tempura underwent lots of development in Tokyo. Traditionally, Tempura consisted of vegetables fried in a batter made from eggs and flour. But these days, tempura restaurants also offer seafood versions. The best way to enjoy tempura is to go to one of Tokyo’s many tempura restaurants and enjoy it as a freshly-cooked dish.
Photo by Leon Brocard via Flickr
Nutritious and satisfying, chankonabe is a hot pot dish. Thanks to its high protein content, chankonabe was originally served to sumo wrestlers. Now, this traditional dish is served at specialized restaurants in Tokyo and it’s an ideal cold-weather meal. Chankonabe is often made up of a chicken-based broth, vegetables, tofu, and/or fish. And if you’re looking to try more traditional but nutritious Japanese food, treat yourself to dinner at Kigi in Tokyo. Kigi’s focus is on using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients and the dishes are beautifully presented.
7. Tokyo Candy
Photo by Evan Blaser via Flickr
Satisfying your sweet tooth is almost too easy in Tokyo. When it comes to traditional Japanese sweets, known as wagashi, the city has endless options. Ningyo-yaki are small cakes that come in a variety of shapes, including dolls, birds, and pagodas. Filled with red bean paste, these sweet cakes make for a delicious snack. Another traditional treat is dorayaki, a pastry that consists of layers of sweet pancakes and bean paste. Or keep it simple and get your hands on some popular mochi. Mochi is made from rice flour and comes in a range of flavors that taste as good as they look.
Photo by Toshiyuki IMAI via Flickr
A Tokyo specialty, Tsukadani hails from Tsukadajma Island in Tokyo Bay. Tsukadani consists of small pieces of food, such as seafood, seaweed, or beef, which are simmered in soy sauce and sweet sake. Tsukadani is often enjoyed as a topping on rice and it’s an adventurous choice for visitors who want to dive deeper into Toyko’s cuisine.
Tokyo is one of the best cities in the world for foodies, so expect to have your mind blown as you explore the cuisine. The blend of traditional and ultra-modern dining keeps things interesting, while high-quality ingredients and an emphasis on perfection takes Tokyo food to the next level.