When people think of Japan, or the fancy Tokyo cuisine, they would probably think of sushi, sashimi, or more common food such as okonomiyaki or udon. If you are tourists and this is your first time been to Japan, then this below top 10 local food in Tokyo will sure amaze you, not only because of their uniqueness – since even some Tokyo residents living in metropolitan area have likely never tasted these foods before, and also because of their significant Tokyo taste!
Monjayaki is commonly known as the other version of Okonomiyaki, but with different fillings. Monjayaki is simple but complicated: it has just a few easy ingredients and can be made in under three minutes yet it requires instructions to make. Must be noted that, if sometimes you can eat okonomiyaki with chopsticks, then Monjayaki should be served with moji-bera – a tiny spatula, on a hot plate called “teppan“.
Although the ingredients for monjayaki vary, but these ingredients are placed in each bowl; underneath the main ingredients in the bowl were shredded cabbage and a liquid made by combining wheat flour (komugiko) and fish broth (dashi). In some restaurants which serve Monjayaki, you are recommeded to make your own Monjayaki, which mean you can mix all the ingredients and put them on the teppan plate, just exactly the same when you make your own Okonomiyaki. However, unlike Oknomiyaki, will be served on your own dish when it’s cooked, Monjayaki tastes best when it is piping hot, so eat it straight off the teppan plate with the moji-bera!
Especially, Okoge is the burnt stuff on the hot plate, located around the perimeter of the liquid, remains when you leave your Monja for too long, don’t waste it, because it tastes good with beer!
Sounds interesting? “Tsukishima”, a district near Tsukiji is the most famous districs of Monja. There is “Monja street” with over 100 monjayaki restaurants! So note down these restaurants below to discover your creative with Monjayaki on the grill and sharing it among friends and family.
The most popular monja resturant in Tsukishima is “Iroha”
Sun Granpa Bldg. 2F, 3-4-5 Tsukishima, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
12:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.
Not only a traditional preserved food, but it also goes quite well as a side dish when serve with rice. Long time ago, Tsukudani was traditionally and simply assorted seafood all together with salt. Nowadays, due to the change in taste, people use small fish, shellfish or seaweed cooked with soy sauce and a little bit of sugar. You can have Tsukudani as a side dish with such popular meal: Ochaduke (Soaked rice in hot tea), Takikomi Gohan (Seasoned rice with various vegetables, fish and meat with soy sauce), Onigiri (rice balls), and many people enjoy it with liquor.
Recently, Tsukudani is used for various recipes and are developed by a company called Funasa, with the extension up to 6 kinds of seafood are used to make Tsukudani, they also have packages as assorted version for tourists as souvenirs. Therefore, it’s not hard to enjoy Tsukudani and I’m sure you can easily find it as souvenirs or in any traditional restaurant in Tokyo local area.
Funasa is one of the famous tsukudani store in Asakusa. It’s walkable distance from the Thunder Gate, if you are interested.
2 Chome-1-9 Asakusabashi, Taitō-ku, Tōkyō-to 111-0053
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
3. Fukagawa-meshi/ Fukagawa-don
Originated in the Fukagawa area, near Sumida River, where in the Edo period, gathering a lot of clam. Therefore, Fukagawa-meshi is a kind of fast food for fishermen working in this area, it’s a bowl of rice topped with a miso-based stew of Japanese littleneck clams and chopped leeks, especially with fat clams in season (spring).
The flavor of the stock from the clams mixed with miso creates a delicious taste that some restaurants in this area still offer Fukagawa-meshi. So if you hesitate with the crowded Tokyo, just go to these restaurants and enjoy this traditional meal!
1-6-7 Miyoshi Koto-ku Tokyo
11:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Closed on Mondays
4. Dojo nabe/ Yanagawa nabe
Winter is coming and what are the best dish for this weather? To enjoy local taste and delicious dish at the same time, Dojo-nabe and Yanagawa-nabe are definitely good choices! Dojo-nabe is a loach hotpot dish which main ingredients are (dojo) loaches and it’s cooked in soy sauce-flavored warishita broth, served with chopped leeks. Yanagawa-nabe is also a hotpot dish which has loaches but cooked with shaved burdock (gobo) and beaten eggs.
The simmered dojo is soft and will practically melt in your mouth, so you end up not worrying about eating even the bones and head. The taste is light and delicious. While Unagi (eel), sometimes compared with dojo, has a stronger taste that goes well with rice, then the light flavor of dojo goes best with sake. Nowadays, a number of dojo recipes were developed, so if you want to experience the taste of dojo in this perfectly suitable weather, go to Komagata Dojo in Tokyo’s Asakusa district. Or Ryogoku Dozeu Kikyouya (Ryogoku).
1-7-12 Komagata Taito-ku Tokyo
11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Ryogoku Dozei Kikyouya
1 Chome-13-15 Ryogoku Sumida-ku, Tokyo
11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
4:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
5. Edo Amamiso
Miso is a bean paste made from steamed and mashed soy beans along with salt and koji (rice malt). It is highly preservable and is one of indispensable seasonings for Japanese cooking. Compared to salty kinds of miso such as Sendai miso and Shinshu miso, Edo amamiso contains a half of salt and twice of rice malt, which makes it very sweet. It’s easy to enjoy Edo Amamiso and you can easily have it in any Japanese traditional restaurants around Tokyo street.
6. Ningyo yaki
Ningyo-yaki is a snack cake baked in iron mold which traditionally has the shape of Japanese doll, in Japanese, ‘ningyo‘ means ‘doll’, therefore the name of this sweet calls ‘baked dolls’. Some of the cakes are just normal sweet cake batter of flour, sugar, and eggs, while others are filled with sweet red bean paste ‘anko‘.
Ningyo-yaki is a popular souvenirs of Tokyo, especially nowadays they are baked in different shapes, for instance, giant lantern, Asakusa Kaminarimon gate, etc; and you can watch Ningyo-yaki being made and try them fresh in different shapes in different shops. If you want to buy Ningyo-yaki as souvenirs, they are sold from a single cake to a big decorated box. The cakes will keep for a few days and do not loose their shape.
Excited and eager to try? When you are in Tokyo, go to Asakusa district and discover yourself!!!
7. Kaminari okoshi
Kaminari okoshi is a traditional Japanese sweets crispy rice is mixed with sugar and syrup, with peanuts pressed down into a flat shape and cut into squares, nowadays there are more options when people add more ingredients such as sesame and matcha green tea in order to give different colors to the sweets.
It’s a very popular souvenirs in Tokyo’s Asakusa district, there are many shops around Senso-ji temple near Asakusa station sell Kaminari-okoshi. Especially, in these shop, you can watch the making of the sweets here and try them fresh. I’d recommend you to watch for a while and try while they are still warm because this sold immediately and very fast. A full small cup costs 100 Yen.
If you want to buy Kaminari-okoshi as souvenirs, they sell boxes and packs, which are often decorated with Raijin, the god of thunder and lightning, also is one of the big statues standing on the left side of the big lantern inside the Kaminarimon gate.
8. Tokyo Sayama tea
This tea is not just any other tea, but it is harvested and produced in Musashimurayama City, Mizuho Town and Higashiyamato City, where has been known as the area of producing good-quality green tea since the Edo period. Harvest season of Tokyo Sayama tea is twice a year, during spring and summer and although the mount of tea harvested fewer than in other area of Japan, nevertheless, people still believe Samaya-cha in these areas mentioned above has more richness in flavor.
9. Islands’ cuisine (soups, shima-zushi)
Although far away from the main island, Izu Island Chain and Ogasawara Island Chain are still part of Tokyo and with their rich resources from the ocean, the two most famous local food here are seafood Soups and Shima-zushi, specialities sushi.
With various kinds of seafood, island’s citizens have come with their menus including many soups: enbai-jiru (seasoned with fish sauce of muroaji or Japanese mackerel) from Oshima, akaba-jiru (roughly-chopped red fish soup), tataki-jiru (seasoned fish cake soup) from Niijima, dango-jiru (soup served with fish balls of tobiuo or flying fish) from Hachijojima, onji-jiru (crab soup) from Shikinejima, etc.
Known as the best local dish of Hachijojima, shima-zushi is a sushi made with fish caught near the islands (Japanese mackerel, Kanpachi, flying fish). Because the weather in the islands is warm, fish meat is marinated in shoyu-based sauce as well as the sushi rice is flavored a bit sweeter and stronger. One more thing that makes Shima-zushi different from other sushi, is they are served with mustard or hot pepper, instead of wasabi.
Namerou is a traditional dish of fishermen from Chiba Prefecture. Although its bonus point is not on appearance, but its taste and healthiness is really amazing. The fish (normally Japan mackerel, flying fish) is cut into small pieces, with miso added; leeks, ginger and green basil are (used to eliminate the fishy smell) placed on top and chopped finely to form the paste, all served with hot rice.
Don’t forget to bookmark this list and enjoy Tokyo local taste yourself! it’s truly once in a life time experience I must say!!
Thumbnail image is from Flickr