We’ve had lots of Soba and Udon noodles, tried different sushi and sashimi, but the dishes that were most memorable to me were the following:
I’ve tried for the first time ever Okonomiyaki, which is a Japanese savoury pancake containing a variety of ingredients. The batter and ingredients changes depending on where in Japan (or outside) you’ll try it. We’ve had it in Kyoto and the batter was made of flour, grated yam, water, eggs and shredded cabbage. We added thin pork belly and vegetables.
The dish was grilled in front of us – the waitress came with a bowl of raw ingredients that she mixed in front of our eyes and then placed on the hotplate in front of us. She used metal spatulas to fry the dish on both sides.
After 10 minutes (together, on both sides) she added Katsuobushi, which is the dried, fermented and smoked skipjack tuna. As soon as the dried shavings touch the heat waves of the hot food, they start to move like they were dancing.
We then added Japanese mayonnaise and okonomiyaki sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce but thicker and sweeter) the pancake, cut it in smaller pieces and started to eat it. It was sweet and savoury at the same time, crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. There was quite a lot of cabbage and just a little meat, but overall I really liked this dish. Plus it is a fun experience to cook it in front of you.
Then we tried lots of different tempura, which is vegetables or seafood fried in light batter. There were lots of small stores, some at the markets in Kyoto and Tokyo, others just in front of food stores, selling freshly prepared tempura.
In some noodle shops you could pick the soup base, noodles and then select what kind of tempura to add to your dish.
For instance, in Kyoto I had this fantastic Udon with fresh tempura. I could even mix the tentsuyu sauce myself – it’s made from dashi (stock base), mirin (rice wine) and shoyu (soy sauce).
I’ve actually had quite a lot of udon with tempura during our stay in Japan – some were better than others, but most of the time they were all pretty good. They were all freshly prepared and made ready to order.
Finally, my favourite treat is taiyaki. This tends to be a fish-shaped waffle, freshly baked and often in a fish form.
The most common filling is red bean paste that is made from sweetened azuki beans. Other common fillings that I’ve tried were chestnut, chocolate and sweet potato.
The waffle is lightly sweet and the filling tends to be a little more sweeter – but not too sweet.
The waffle batter is poured into a fish-shaped (or sometimes different shapes are used, like a Buddha, rabbit or dragon) mould for each side. The filling is then put on one side and the mould is closed. It is then cooked on both sides until golden brown.