The rich culinary history of Japan has spawned a marvelous wealth of what are commonly called street foods. Location and preparation methods lend individuality to each dish, even if the name happens to be the same. Common denominators of all these foods are availability for a decent price, and casual, relaxed settings, such as street carts or homey cafes. Street cuisine, like its pricier relatives, is seasonal ingredient driven, and offers the freshest of whatever is available, meaning parts of the meal might change from season to season. Some dishes are prepared by the person selling the dish, but some are prepared by the person who orders!
Let's look at some of the most popular of these tempting treats!
This is udon with a wonderful dense, smooth and chewy texture. It's found in Kagawa Prefecture on Shikoku Island. The soup is made from kelp and gently flavored with light colored soy sauce. You may enjoy the udon hot or cold, and with a variety of toppings.
Meaning "grilling as you like," this is similar to a cross between a crepe and a frittata. The Hiroshima style is a 6-layered wonder, containing pork, seafood, veggies, flour, noodles and a fried egg to top it off, all made on a hot grill, and topped with a savory sauce and bonito flakes. The Osaka style, has all the ingredients mixed together (ingredients will vary). The Tokyo version is similar to Osaka, but uses soup stock to moisten as opposed to water and is served in triangular slices.
Osaka is the home of these fluffy round dumpling-like balls stuffed chock-a-block with chunks of octopus, scallions and cabbage, and some pickled ginger. They are crunchy outside and delightfully soft inside. Toppings are usually powdered laver, bonito flakes, a sweet thick sauce, and oftentimes, mayo! Don't forget to visit the Takoyaki Museum!
These delicious stir-fried noodles (quite different than regular soba) are found all over Japan, but it is in Fujinomiya city in Shizuoka prefecture that the best of the best can be found. Mixed with meat and veggies, these down-home style noodles are not to be missed.
From Okinawa, this dish, which means "to mix," is a flavorful combination of meats, tofu, eggs and vegetables, with vegetarian and meat lovers' versions available! Bitter melon is found in many versions of this dish during the summer, as it's said to have restorative properties.
Ramen may well be Japan's most internationally well-known street cuisine. There are 2 basic broths: meat based (pork bone broth or chicken stock broth) and fish based, or dried bonito broth. The soups are flavored with miso, soy sauce or salt. Hokkaido style ramen uses miso (which originated in Sapporo) flavor soup, corn, and oftentimes it is topped with a patty of butter. It's a thick, rich and substantial broth. Swooping down south to Kyushu, Hakata ramen, often sold yatai, or street vendor style, is made with pork bones and thin white noodles. It can include spicy red pickled ginger, topped with sesame and garlic.
Wherever you go in Japan, mouth-watering street cuisine can be had for reasonable prices, and in relaxing, casual environments. Regional twists add a special something to each dish, and the pride taken in preparing each of the dishes will doubtless add to your enjoyment!
For more information on local cuisine, please visit here.