The 5 Most Underrated Street Food You Must Try in Tokyo
Some Japanese street food have become so ubiquitous in Singapore that you can see them everywhere from high-end restaurants to school cafeterias. While California rolls and gyoza are yummy, there’s still more to Tokyo’s delicious street food that you may not know about.
To give you a leg-up in your next Japanese culinary adventure, here are five quintessentially Japanese street food from the capital of Japan!
Sashimi? Street food? No, I’m not kidding. If you’re in the mood for an over-the-top portion of fresh sashimi, head to the famed Tsujiki Fish Market, Tokyo’s central wholesale market, for breakfast. Take your pick from the dazzling array of freshly caught seafood and get them expertly sliced and seasoned right in front of you.
Prices are very much in the “street food” category. The portion you see in the picture above would normally set you back SGD20 or more in Singapore but at Tsujiki, this is only ¥1000 (SGD12.23) – a crazy, delicious deal, if you ask me!
Since you’re already in the Tsujiki vicinity, why not sample another Tsujiki delicacy? While you can get this grilled egg dish almost everywhere in Japan, it is here at Tsujiki that you can truly witness the expertise required to make tamago – a delicate, crepe-like, savoury omelet cake.
It has been said that those who cannot perfect the tamago cannot be considered a master sushi chef. With such a tall order, you’d think that each piece would probably cost a fair bit. Judging from the lines snaking out of the 10 tamago shops at Tsujiki, this dish is not only delectable, but also very pocket-friendly at only ¥100 (SGD1.22) a piece.
3. Nikumaki Onigiri
This next feat of human ingenuity is available at most street food enclaves, but a particularly tasty rendition apparently exists at the Sensoji Temple in Asakusa. Skip the usual rice-wrapped-meat options and get a real protein kick with a meat-wrapped-rice nikumaki onigiri.
Sink your teeth into a juicy, grilled, meat-wrapped [mostly bacon] rice ball, drenched in sweet barbeque sauce, topped with your choice of shredded dried seaweed, sesame seeds and chili powder. At about ¥300 (SGD3.67), this dish is rib-sticking, toothsome and a complete meat lover’s dream.
As with most of the foods on this list, this next street food is simple in theory but complex in practice. There are 15 steps to process natural mochi and don’t even get me started on how many varieties of mochi there are.
Essentially a rice cake with a red bean filling, this traditional snack dates back to A.D. 794. Since its initial role in New Year’s festivities, mochi is now available all year around in any possible variation you want: sweet or savoury, toasted, deep-fried or as-is, rolled in peanut dust or wrapped around a scoop of ice-cream, you name it, they probably have it.
Prices vary but the best mochi are available at street vendors that make the mochi fresh each day. It may get a bit sticky and chewy but trust me, you can’t get any more Japanese than this.
Taiyaki has been making waves across the US for substituting waffle cones in outrageously Instagrammable ice-cream creations but like mochi, they go way back in Japanese history and were considered a symbol of good luck and prosperity.
Basically a crispy pancake baked into the shape of a sea bream [an expensive fish back in the day], stuffed with red bean paste, this cheap eat [about ¥300 (SGD3.67)] is perfect for a day of shopping or other fun activities.
While the fish shape hasn’t changed much over the years, these days, taiyaki is available stuffed with other things like custard, melted chocolate, okonomiyaki [a vegetable-based stuffing] and cheese, fueling foodies on their Tokyo travels.
What’s first on your list?
There you have it, five totally underrated Japanese street food that you need to try the next time you’re in Tokyo. Which handheld goodness is top on your list?