One of our favorite activities in any trip is trying the local food. And Japan has obviously so much to offer. Beyond the freshest sushi, the yummy tempura, and the sublime box of mochi we brought home, here’s a roundup of our most memorable bites and meals in Tokyo and Kyoto.
10. I didn’t think I would like edamame (soybeans harvested at the peak of ripening), but these boiled (sometimes steamed) pods are soft, a little salty, and a really addictive snack with Japanese beer. Kampai!
9. Lawson’s, Family Mart, 7-Eleven—the kobini or convenience stores in Japan abound and in its racks are the dependable (hey, you never know at what street corner you’re going to get hungry) and surprisingly tasty rice balls. Whenever P and I were in the mood to eat in our room or in the guesthouse, we would buy a stash of konbini goods—the rice balls, rice crackers, sandwiches and all sorts of beverages—and we were happy campers.
8. I first read about them in Kyotofoodie.com, which had me dreaming about them for a couple of months until we made our way to Nishiki Market in Kyoto. These tonyu or soy milk doughnuts (tofu doughnuts at the signboard) are crunchy, chewy, and just with a hint of sweetness. Best eaten when they have just rolled out of the hot oil. I love them to bits. So do a lot of people that there’s often a line to get a bag (starts at ¥250 for 10 pieces).
7. From our first day in Japan, we were pestering our friend C to take us to Yoshinoya, a gyudon-ya chain we were familiar with. He would always shake his head in disapproval. On our third day in Tokyo, right before we headed off to the Anime Fair, he took us to another gyudon (beef bowl) place. “This is better,” he assured us. It turned out to be Matsuya and its beef bowl (referred to as gyumeshi on its menu) was one satisfying meal. The beef and onions had just the right blend of sweet and salty and it was perfect on the bed of fluffy, hot rice. It is served with raw egg, which is typically beaten and mixed with the beef–I passed on that; I was happy putting a generous amount of beni shoga (pickled red ginger) and the red chili mix on my beef bowl.
6. C took us to a number of restaurants he liked around Tokyo. One of which was to Bamboo, a restaurant, within walking distance from the Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills. The sizzling plate of sautéed Eringi mushrooms in butter was the highlight of the dinner. Simple, succulent and rich. I know it doesn’t sound so Japanese, but how can you go wrong with butter?