In recent years, street food has gained far more respect and appreciation. Across the globe, entrepreneurial chefs have the freedom to create their own mobile eateries rather than struggling to finance a restaurant, bringing their food to the people rather than vice versa.
In Japan, street food (or ‘yatai’) may not be as big as it is in some other countries, but you can still find a great selection of dishes on offer. Street food is especially common during Japan’s festivals, and is viewed as a welcome treat for tourists.
Which are the most popular street foods you have to try?
This savory pancake is filled with varied ingredients, with regional preferences affecting the toppings and type of batter used.
The most popular form of okonomiyaki comes from Osaka, where it’s made with eggs, seafood, vegetables, flour, cheese, and yam. Generally, ingredients will be combined into a mix or simply placed one on top of the other.
This is especially popular during Japan’s winter, often sold in convenience stores or (of course) at street vendors. You’ll typically find boiled eggs, yam cakes, radish, and fish cakes all put into a broth.
Takoyaki is a traditional dumpling, made with rolled octopus formed into a ball. You’ll taste green onion, Japanese mayo, pickled ginger, and other touches depending on the vendor you choose. This has been around for about 80 years, and looks unlikely to go anywhere soon!
You’ve likely heard of bento. This popular take-out usually features portions of vegetables, meat, rice, or fish, all served in a convenient, lightweight box of variable sizes.
Bento’s easy to find across Japan, sold at many a street-stall.
Along with bento, Ramen is another incredibly popular Japanese street food. This noodle-based meal usually features soy sauce, miso, dried seaweed, onions, and numerous other ingredients. This may be well-known and widely-available outside of Japan, but the authentic home-grown variety is above and beyond its imitations.
While yaki imo isn’t quite as popular as it used to be, it’s still fairly easy to find (and no less delicious!). Consisting of baked sweet potatoes prepared over a traditional wood fire, yaki imo looks different to the sweet potatoes Westerners may be used to. These are closer to an off-white tone inside than the orange kind, and are considerably sweeter.
Dango are delicious dumplings, formed into a soft rounded shape, made with water and glutinous rice flour. These are usually served on a skewer, with three or four dumplings seasoned with sauces; these may be sweet or savory, depending on which sauce is used, with a soy-based option one of the most popular.
Preparing street food for potentially hundreds of customers is no easy feat, and chefs need to rely on the best tools. Investing in professional-grade knives gives street-vendors the power to chop ingredients quickly, safely, and with unbeatable precision, enhancing their finely-honed skills further.