こんにちは! It’s me again. In my previous post, I wrote about some of my favorite things about Japan thus far. After the amazing 人達, my second favorite thing about Japan is the food, or tabemono (in romaji), たべもの (in furigana), and 食べ物 (in kanji).
Living in the multicultural hub that is Toronto certainly exposes you to all types of food. So while Japanese food was not new to me, I definitely had not seen such a large variety of it. Izakayas, sushi and tepanyaki restaurants, exposed me to certain dishes, however, like many places, there is a difference in the dishes that are cooked in other countries and the actual country of origin.
When it came to food, my biggest initial challenge was understanding the menu. While some restaurants have English menus, the majority that I have been to don’t. Which is why, my preferred dining experience is to eat with other people. Besides the obvious social aspects of this, it is also very helpful to be with a Nihongo speaker. I am almost always open to trying new foods (I have no allergies, and I will try ALMOST anything once).
So, here are a few of the foods thus far that have teased my taste buds, made my mouth water, and left me wanting more. In no particular, they are:
Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) and monjayaki (もんじゃ焼き).
The best way that I can think of describing okonomiyaki is as a sort of savory pancake. (Okono means “what you like”, and “yaki” means “grilled or cooked”.) It consists of a batter mixed with shredded cabbage, and other ingredients that you can add depending on your preferences, which are all grilled together, in front of you. Monjayaki is very similar to okonomiyaki, except that the ingredients are grilled prior to being added to the batter. I had both, with my friend Kumiko, and they were delicious.
Another favorite is Yakitori. Meat on a stick, is always a good idea, and so is yakitori! It is prepared by skewering meat on a kushi, a bamboo type skewer. Chicken (prepared in so many ways) is standard, however you can also have liver pate (my favorite), various vegetables, grilled quail and other game birds.
An honorable mention goes to my first and only Ramen experience so far.
I was hesitant to try Ramen so quickly, as I didn’t know where to go, and what to ask for, and didn’t want to ruin the experience. During a day trip with friends, when looking for a place to eat, I mentioned that I had yet to try ramen. That made the choice of places to have lunch easy, and we found a really nice place in Shibuya. The fact that there was a line of people waiting to go eat in the place (also, capacity was for less than 20 people) indicated that it would be good. And it was more than good, it was amazing!!! おいしい!!!
CONVENIENCE STORE FAVOURITES…
I will dedicate a future post to convenience stores, because they are literally that…convenient. Whether looking to get a coffee, buy singles of alcohol, grab a quick meal (snack, breakfast, lunch or dinner), you can just about find anything in convenience stores. The two that I frequent (but also the most commonly found) are 7-11 and Lawsons. Much like the 7-11s in North America, 7-11 has the 24-hour flexibility. Missing though, or the slurpees and beef jerky, which are replaced with various food items, and small grocery items. Below are a few of my favorites.
Onigiri is a rice ball, formed into a triangular shape, and wrapped in nori (seaweed). It comes with various fillings and flavours, my favourites being salmon and tuna and mayo.
Natto are soybeans that have been fermented, and have a gooey texture. This one definitely grew on me, but once I got over the slimy appearance and the strong smell, really enjoyed them, especially when seasoned with soy sauce and mustard. They are my go-to as a quick pre- or post-workout snack. Not only are they extremely healthy, but they are also extremely cheap, and pack of three will set you back 100 yen (approximately $1).
So there you have it! What are some of your favourite Japanese dishes? Feel free to comment or share in the comments section. 🙂