Food You Need To Try When You're In Japan Part 1
Tonkatsu (Deep fried Pork)
Deep fried pork is a family favourite in Japan. Tonkatsu is pork covered in breadcrumbs that’s been deep fired, usually served with raw cabbage and rice. I make them relatively often at home, but as with many dishes, eating it in a restaurant is special in its own way. This is why I’d always visit a Tonkatsu Restaurant when I’m in Japan. You can usually choose from two cuts of pork: loin or fillet. Loin is the most traditional cut, but fillet is great because it is softer than loin. In most restaurants, you can also refill your rice, miso soup, and cabbages as much as you want, so you always leave satisfied from a Tonkatsu restaurant.
I’m not particularly picky about which store I go to, I usually find a place in or near a station, Wakou Yamai Izumi (和光やまい泉) and Tonkatsu Saboten are popular choices. There are both restaurants and kiosks that sell Tonkatsu, so you could also order as take-away if you’re in a hurry.
The thing that can be difficult to find, which is indispensable for Tonkatsu, is soft cabbage. When I first came to the UK, all that I could find in stores where very hard white or purple cabbage, which was unsuitable for eating raw with Tonkatsu. Recently, sweetheart cabbage has begun to become more and more available in supermarkets in the UK, and while they are still different from Japanese cabbage, they are soft enough to be eaten raw.
Tonkatsu sandwitches are also commonly offered in Tonkatsu restaurants
One thing I must eat when I get to Japan is Sushi. There’s conveyor-belt and counter sushi restaurants, and I usually go to one of each type. Conveyor-belt restaurants are usually franchised, with the quality not being quite as good as a proper counter restaurant, but they’re usually very affordable, with all dishes usually being 100 yen each (100 yen is around 70 pence at time of writing). They’re basically the fast-food chain-store version of Sushi and are called “Kaitenzushi”. In one of these chain-stores you can eat as much of the toppings you like as you want, with many stores having a touchscreen at each seat that lets you order your desired plate, and have it sent to you via a separate high speed belt, if you can’t find it on the rolling on the belt. Many stores these days even offer hot food, like ramen, chips, and curry, as well as deserts such as ice cream and cake. One brand of conveyor-belt sushi that stands out to me is “Kantaro”, which boasts toppings of higher quality than average for 150 yen a plate, as well as some toppings usually not found in cheaper stores and is usually found in Northern Japan.
Crab and raw salmon caviar isn’t something you find in every Kaitenzushi restaurant.
According to my friend who lives in Sendai, “Sushi Tetsu” is the place to go for good counter sushi in the Miyagi Prefecture. They serve their sushi on large Arita ware porcelain dishes, which sets the mood for a great dining experience.
I love Ramen. I love all the different kinds: the different types of broth, the wide variety of noodle thickness… Ramen is a dish available basically anywhere in Japan, with all most areas having their own distinct flavour; so when I visit friends and family in different regions, I get them to take me to their preferred Ramen restaurant, and taste their favourite kind of Ramen. Everyone believes that their favourite kind of Ramen is the best in the world, Ramen is that kind of food.
Siu Mai dumplings
I’m quite fond of siu mai dumplings, and I like to get them in a bento whenever I ride a Shinkansen bullet train. The bento with a variety of side dishes, including dried apricots that are a great pallet cleanser, and comes in a classical wooden bento box.
You could take these sui mai home if you get them in vacuum sealed packs, but the taste leaves something to be desired. This is why I try to eat this bento as much as I can. These bentos are the easiest to find in Tokyo station.