The street food or street food that often characterizes the place where we are seems to be the new trend of the moment. These dishes prepared in the open air, cheap and to be consumed standing up, have recently become increasingly popular in Europe as well. In the countries of South America, the East, and Asia they have been part of the tradition for many years and often allow tourists to taste what is the typical cuisine of the place.
Obviously, with modern times (and with the increasing interest in this regard) street specialties have in some cases been modified to be more appealing to the mass and in some cases created specifically to satisfy the different tastes of tourists. This means that the offer of this gastronomy sector is continually amplified and diversified, satisfying both the more traditional palates and those in search of new flavors. Personally, I think street food is fantastic, a kind of “modern return to origins” that allows every trip (especially in Asia) to taste always different delicacies.
Obviously, Japan, which like all Asian countries gives great importance to food, has its own characteristic and famous street food , and even if not at the level (at least cultural) of that of most of the countries of Southeast Asia and China, allows you to taste a multitude of truly incredible dishes !
The fact of being an “advanced” country compared to the countries of Southeast Asia, almost “western” in some cases, means that the laws imposed on health and hygiene regulations are slowly making all the famous Yatai disappear, or the dedicated itinerant kiosks precisely to the preparation of street food.
Unfortunately, Japanese street food can now be found almost only during the famous matsuri (Japanese festivals) or on celebratory occasions (or in some neighborhoods of some cities such as Fukuoka in Kyushu).
So what are these famous specialties so delicious and cheap?
12. Karaage (About 300 Yen 8 pieces)
That is battered and fried chicken nuggets. The unmistakable scent of frying recalls the patrons and the crunchy texture combined with the intense flavor make it one of the most consumed dishes during the holidays.
11. Baby Kasutera (about 500 Yen for 20 pieces)
Less frequent, but very popular, these sponge-like morsels (typical of Nagasaki) are one of the Japanese favorite street foods during the Matsuri.
10. Chocolate Banana (About 200 Yen)
A dessert that is much more Western than Japanese, but increasingly popular with local young people. A simply peeled banana, skewered and dipped in melted chocolate, and then sprinkled with various sweet ingredients (sugar flakes, candied fruit, etc.) that make it look very inviting.
9. Taiyaki (about 120 Yen)
The very famous “dolcetto” filled with azuki bean jam (Anko). Prepared with a batter similar to that of waffles on a plate that gives it the typical shape of sea bream (Tai-yaki = grilled sea bream).
8. Yakitori (About 100 Yen)
There isn’t much to say about these now world-famous grilled chicken skewers. You can find them everywhere (mainly in the Izakaya) and they are a common and highly appreciated street food. Originally they were prepared only with parts of the chicken (Yaki-tori = grilled chicken), but currently, they are declined in many versions and with the most disparate ingredients, but always cooked on charcoal.
7. Steamed potato with butter (about 300 Yen)
A peeled and steamed potato until soft to which is added a Western ingredient, butter, which makes it velvety and delicious (and significantly increases the price).
6. Kakigori, the Japanese granita (About 300 Yen)
Great summer classic of Japanese street food. The very fine crushed ice is sprinkled with the most disparate syrups, from the most “natural” (strawberry, matcha, etc.) to the most “chemical” (blue Hawaii, bubble gum, etc.). There are two versions, that of Kansai, more common, with the syrup poured on ice and that of Kanto where the syrup is at the base and ice is placed on top.
5. Grilled sweet corn (about 400 Yen)
I have a weakness for this dish! The sweetness of the corn and the light aroma of the brushed soy sauce that caramelizes during cooking, make the flavor unmistakable and delicious!
4. Grilled squid (About 500 Yen)
This famous dish, also called “Poppo” because of the crackle it emits when grilled, is certainly one of the symbols of the Matsuri stalls. It is represented in all the anime and manga that depict these events and there is no party without a stand featuring this delicious street food.
3. Okonomiyaki (About 500 Yen)
Who does not know Okonomiyaki means that he has never been to Japan !! Together with Sushi and Ramen, it is certainly one of the most famous dishes abroad and certainly a must during a Matsuri. The ingredients change depending on who prepares it (Okonomi-Yaki = what you want-grilled), but it starts from an egg base, shredded cabbage flour, to which bacon or seafood (or both) is added and which is finally sprinkled with Otafuku, Katsuobushi, Kewpie and sansho sauce. There are mainly two versions: that of Osaka, described above, and that of Hiroshima which also adds soba to the aforementioned ingredients. The latter version is also called modanyaki.
2. Takoyaki (About 350 Yen for six pieces)
Another emblem of Japanese street cuisine. If you see a stand marked by an octopus sign during a Matsuri, go straight to it, it’s a Takoyaki stand! At first, you will be hypnotized by the lightning-fast movements with which the cook turns the spheres on the plate, then you will be burned by the first bite that thanks to its extreme internal heat reap victims among the unsuspecting and finally, you will be conquered by its creaminess and its succulent flavor, so much to want another portion immediately! Prepared with a base of crepe batter, boiled octopus, and chives, this dish is a must-try!
1. Yakisoba (About 400 Yen)
And here we are at the top of the podium, the Japanese street food par excellence, his majesty the yakisoba. Always present, abundant, cheap, delicious, whose sizzle attracts the attention of all those present and whose scent draws hordes of hungry customers, this dish is definitely number one (and my favorite) among all street foods. In their simplicity, these grilled noodles with cabbage, Otafuku sauce, and a few other ingredients undoubtedly represent what a real street food must be. Do yourself a favor, try it at least once during a Matsuri, you won’t forget it.
During a trip to Japan the opportunity to taste different dishes will always be present, the number of excellent restaurants (even in the form of chains) at often moderate prices is high, and you can satisfy your appetite according to your tastes very easily. However, if you have the opportunity, perhaps during a summer Matsuri, to try the “street” specialties in one of the typical stalls, it will most likely become one of your best memories of the trip