Japan – Land of the Rising Sun and for us, Island of Incredible Eats!
Last week, I came back from a life altering trip, exploring Japan via a Contiki Japan Unrivalled tour. Traveling through 5 cities, this trip gave me a more open mind, a bigger friends list and the opportunity to eat some amazing and weird things. An experience I recommend you do for yourself.
Firstly, for those of you who have no idea what Contiki is or who they are – they are firm believers that life’s greatest experiences are made better by the people you share them with. That’s why Contiki invented group travel for young people in 1962 and have spent the past 53 years perfecting it. You’ll explore amazing destinations with a group of 18-35 year olds from around the world who share your passion for adventure, good times and creating memories that define what it is to be young, wild and free. So basically, they put together memorable and awesome trips around the world where you can explore insane places, do incredible things, eat some delicious food and make amazing new friends. If you want a life changing experience, do a Contiki trip.
Secondly, don’t diss till you try it. Though it might not look so appetising, it may well be the best damn thing ever. Leave your fears at the airport, give the food a try and if you don’t like it – be boring and go to McDonald’s.
Let’s start with…
What is Ramen? It is a Japanese noodle soup dish consisting of Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat or fish based broth, flavoured with soy sauce or miso, and topped with goodies such as sliced tender pork, dried seaweed, kamaboko, boiled eggs and green onions. Almost every region in Japan has its own variation of ramen so do yourself a favour and try to taste a few of them.
Most Ramen houses/restaurants in Japan are small, seating approximately 5-20 people and turn around these dishes pretty quickly. To order, there is a vending style machine at the front where you choose what you want, pay in cash and it spits out a ticket for each item. The waiter/waitress will grab the tickets off you and make sure you order is served to you properly and promptly. A glass of craft beer, either Asahi or Kirin, and a plate of pork Gyoza turns it into an epic feast.
If you’re in Kyoto, be sure to visit the Ramen Alley located a few levels above Kyoto Station – I lost count on how many Ramen restaurants there were in there.
2. Ama Ebi/Sweet Shrimp
4. Kuro-Tamgo/Black Eggs
Tastes just like your regular boiled egg, the Kuro-tamago (黒卵 lit. “black egg”) is a local specialty where they are hard-boiled in the active sulphur vents and hot springs of Ōwakudani Valley of Hakone.
The boiled eggs turn black and smell slightly sulphuric; and consuming the eggs is said to increase longevity.
That guy above is Hayden Quinn, MasterChef Australia Contestant 2011 and a pretty cool bloke.
5. Cherry Blossom Ice Cream
6. Kit Kat Burger
7. Ramen Burger
8. Fried Fish Paste Stick Wrapped in Cheese and Bacon
9. Rice Burger with Fried Oysters or Fried Pork
10. Grilled Oysters Topped with Cheese
11.Rice Ball Skewers Soaked with Sweet Soy Sauce
12. Okonomiyaki / Japanese Savoury Pancakes
Eating this pancake feels like a 3 course meal in itself.
The Okonomiyaki is usually made with a batter of flour, grated nagaimo (a type of yam), water or dashi, fried eggs and a lot of shredded cabbage. And contains other ingredients such as thin pork belly, squid, octopus, vegetables or cheese.
13. Grilled Calamari and Squid Skewers
14. Custard Filled Strawberry Macaron
15. Green Tea Oreo Bits
You’re bound to jump on the Bullet Train so why not grab a few snacks, such as these Green Tea Oreo Bits Sandwiches.