Since visiting Japan, I am always craving a good ramen or tonkatsu. Having developed a taste for Japanese variety of food I am always looking for a good and authentic experience away from the sushi conveyor belt restaurant chains. So walking pass Machiya a few months ago and seeing the queue of people, a lot of them being Japanese (always a good sign), I knew I had to try it!
I used the excuse of a girly-date with a friend to head there. Being aware of how long the queue could get, we got there for an early dinner and lucky us, we got the last table before the queue started to form itself.
The restaurant is compact and simple, very much like the small eateries you find in the streets of Tokyo. Machiya menu consists mainly of simple traditional dishes such as tonkatsu, noodles and donburi. Everything is also very reasonably priced so Machiya is a great place to eat out if you are on a budget!
I loved how they have on their menu the green tea which is served as a default drink (often instead of water) in most restaurants in Japan. It felt right, authentic and reminiscent of my days in Japan so I ordered it!
To start, my friend Ras and I decided to share the handmade gyoza filled with Australian wagyu beef. They were very tasty and fairly spicy. It was a little eye-watering for someone who doesn’t handle spice well, aka all French people me included, but I still enjoyed them very much. All those years in England eating and crying over spicy curries seem to finally have paid off!
Ras ordered the chicken katsu with shredded cabbage, served with tonkatsu sauce and mustard. The meat serving is generous so it is a good thing that it is served with cabbage. If you are a small eater you probably won’t need a side of rice.
I went for the tonkatsu, chicken and egg with sweet and savoury sauce and steamed rice. It was very good and the addition of the egg reminded me of a lot of dishes in Japan served with an egg on top. A nostalgic gourmet trip back in time…
The serving was very generous and I actually struggled to finish it!
We were so full that we actually had to skip dessert which is my biggest regret. They all looked amazing and I will definitely be back soon for a matcha roll cake!
Kyoto is amazing, that’s a given. It is full of history, world-famous sights, shops, and it is a foodie’s heaven. If you like to eat, and you are not afraid to try new things, the first place you have to head to once in Kyoto is Nishiki Market.
You will find the market in the centre of Kyoto a few back streets away from Daimaru. The market is covered which is fortunate as it was raining when we got there.
Walk along the gallery and get overwhelmed by choice and smells.
Note that you can shop for anything related to food there. Ingredients, serveware, the world renowned Japanese knives – the perfect destination to shop for some Japanese souvenirs!
Our strategy, after seeing how big the market was, was to walk the full length of it to see what all the options were, then walk back the whole way and start ordering some food. Doing so you won’t miss a thing AND you will walk off the calories – win!
Nishiki market is a very busy place and the main challenge is to reach the counters and then find a little corner to nibble, most of the time standing.
What is also fascinating about the market is that it has been around for several centuries, and a lot of the shops have been owned by the same families for generations. You literally cannot do more authentic than that, even if you were trying!
On the hunt for our lunch, we knew we very much wanted some seafood. Some were a little too weird or almost too alive for our liking.
Eventually, we settled for some Takoyaki, also known as octopus balls or doughnuts.
Looking at the guy cooking them is entertaining in itself! I mean, how fast can one human being move?
We also went for some ‘not too sure what it is but it’s delicious’ corn dog like seafood stick.
We grabbed a few more things, some crab legs, pickled vegetables, and others, but we got too hungry and I stopped taking pictures. Ooops!
So if you are a foodie like us, Nishiki will be right up your street! Be curious, try new things, and come home with some packs of dry mushrooms and kimchi.
It is not all about sushi in Japan, far from it! I would almost compare Japanese cuisine to French cuisine, there is so much diversity! Meat dishes, fish dishes, pastries, Japanese food is varied and you won’t get bored while eating there.
Now it can be a little overwhelming and intimidating to order in a Japanese restaurant. What does that mean? What should I try? Is that even fish?
If you are planning to visit Japan and are a bit of a foodie like me, keep reading! I listed below the 14 Japanese foods you have to try. Some you will probably be familiar with, some you may never have heard of, all are delicious!
***FYI, the list below is not a ranking order, it is simply in the alphabetical order***
Now, are you hungry? Good, keep reading!
Yes, you read that right, curry is one of the most popular dishes in Japan. You will find curry houses at every street corner. Coco Ichibanya is one of the most popular rice curry restaurant chains. The most famous type of curry is the katsu curry which is made of rice, curry sauce and breaded meat, usually pork.
Also known as breaded and deep-fried pork cutlets, it may not sound very healthy but it is absolutely delicious! It is a popular lunch option served with rice, miso soup and shredded cabbage. The best tonkatsu we had was at Katsukura in Kyoto train station!
Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course meal. You know those delicate little eatable pieces of art you see in any guide about Japan? That’s kaiseki!
The first time we had it was for breakfast in Kyoto in our ryokan, and we felt a little overwhelmed as to what should be eaten first on the tray. Luckily we then had lunch and kaiseki again with one of my Japanese friends in Tokyo, she explained to us that there is no formal order, you eat from the little plates as you wish!
Matcha tea may only be a recent trend in the western world but it is a very traditional ingredient in Japan. You can drink matcha tea of course, but you can also have matcha sundae, matcha cakes, matcha mochi, matcha ice cream, the list goes on and on and on!
One of my favourite snack in Japan. It’s sweet, filling and has the weirdest chewy texture, I love it! Made of mochi, a rice paste, and stuffed with various fillings, it is the perfect mid-afternoon sweet treat when walking around Japanese cities.
My favourite? The mochi and red bean paste daifuku. Soooo good!
A savoury pancake/omelette is the best way I would describe Okonomiyaki. It is a traditional dish from Hiroshima, so if you are in the area make sure to have one! It is extremely filling so it worth coming to the restaurant with an empty stomach for this one.
Our favourite on-the-go lunch option while in Japan! It is super filling, tasty AND low in calories. I developed an addiction to the tuna and mayo one, I also promised to learn to make them at home as soon as we were back from Japan. The latter has still not happened…
After spending two weeks in Japan, I have honestly no idea how Japanese people remain so thin. The food is rich and there is an endless variety of pastries. Rice-based, wheat-based, banana cream filled, red beans paste, name it and it probably exists in Japan!
The dish that doesn’t need more introduction and a very popular meal in Japan. It is delicious an there is a surprising amount of variety! We loved Ichiran’s classic ramen and the ‘burnt’ one from Kyoto Gogyo Ramen.
Red bean everything
Similar to matcha, red beans seem to be a go-to ingredient in desserts. I had mochi and red bean paste, red bean milkshake, pudding, etc.
Now if you think of red beans you may not think of delicious sweet treats, but don’t be deceived by the look and the name! It is delicious and the taste is similar to candied chestnuts. Yum!
Surprisingly a lot less popular than we thought it would be! Sushis are eaten by Japanese people but probably not as much as ramen or any rice dish. The best place to get some is at Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo.
Tempura is originally a Portuguese dish, not a Japanese one (thanks Wikipedia!). However, the battered and fried dish has been made very popular by Japan after the recipe was imported there. Fish, vegetables, everything can be ‘Tempura-ed’. It’s also a great way to try new things, for instance, this is how I tried eel for the first time (picture below), and I loved it!
Now when talking about beef in Japan, we are talking about an ingredient more than an actual dish. There are plenty of ways to eat wagyu beef, it can be prepared as a grilled steak, a sashimi, sukiyaki and many other ways!
Flavoursome and melting in the mouth, the quantities are usually small but the quality is incomparable!
Last but not least, Yakitori, a grilled skewered meat dish. It is commonly served with a miso soup, soy sauce and some rice. It is also one of the more accessible Japanese dishes for westerners who are new to Japanese cuisine. If you are around Shibuya in Tokyo, make sure to have some yakitori at Toritake!
Here you go, you now have your food menu for your trip to Japan! So buy that plane ticket, a bib and cutlery (if like me you are helpless with chopsticks) and go discover Japanese cuisine!