15 Japanese Food you MUST try when visiting Japan

Planning a trip to Japan and wondering what to eat in Japan? There is so much more to Japanese cuisine than just sushi and ramen! Here are 15 foods you must try when visiting Japan. And yes, you will have no trouble finding vegetarian food in Japan.

Matcha Green Tea with a Japanese wagashi  | Outside Suburbia
Matcha Green Tea with a Japanese wagashi

Japan has amazing Michelin star restaurants, street food and everything in between. You easily could spend months visiting Japan to try all the different regional dishes. One of the best food experiences in Japan is enjoying a warm bowl of matcha green tea with a Japanese wagashi, hand-made from mochi and fruits and molded into adorable little shapes. At the bottom of this article, you can find a great Japanese company that organizes cooking classes and food experiences.

15 Japanese Food you MUST try when visiting Japan | Outside Suburbia
Crepes galore!

1. Ramen

Ramen is one of Japan’s most popular dishes that you can find absolutely everywhere in Japan. Ramen consists of a soup broth filled with noodles and topped with egg, pork, vegetables and other condiments. There are four major types of ramen you can find: shio (salt-based broth), miso (soybean paste-based broth), tonkatsu (pork bone-based broth), and shoyu (soy sauce-based broth).  My favorite is the miso-based ramen.

15 Japanese Food you MUST try when visiting Japan | Outside Suburbia
Vegetarian (Miso) and Tonkatsu Ramen

Ramen is a relatively inexpensive Japanese dish and the perfect food to enjoy in the winter. You can even find vending machines in Tokyo where you can order ramen.

Easy Vegetarian Ramen Recipe

I always have a hard time finding Vegetarian Ramen when we dine out and wanted to create it at home. This easy vegetarian ramen recipe is the result of some trial and error and in the end I was happy with how it turned out.

Easy Vegetarian Ramen Recipe | Outside Suburbia

Ingredients for making Vegetarian Ramen

  • Vegetable Broth
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Vegetables like carrots, broccoli, greens like spinach
  • Boiled Eggs
  • Air fried or baked Tofu (Firm Tofu)
  • Butter
  • White miso paste
  • Mirin aka Japanese rice wine
  • Mushrooms, preferably shiitakes
  • Egg Noodles or other ramen noodles
How to make vegetarian ramen | Outside Suburbia

How to make Vegetarian Ramen

It takes a little time and a few steps to make this delicious vegetarian ramen, but everything is easy to do. Here’s how to make it.

  • Pour some good vegetable broth into a pot and add dried shiitakes. Bring it to a boil, then turn the heat off and let it steep for about 30 minutes.
  • Cook the noodles and set aside.
  • Soft boil the eggs.
  • Drain the water from the tofu, add salt, pepper and cornflour to coat. Spray with oil and air fry or bak.
  • Chop up the reconstituted shiitakes. In a blender, puree the chopped mushrooms with one cup of the broth, and add it back to the pot along with some soy sauce. The broth can be stored at this stage for up to a few days in the fridge (or in the freezer for a couple of months) if you’d like to do this part in advance. You can also buy mushroom broth.
  • Sautée onions, garlic, and ginger in a little bit of oil and add that mixture to the stock.
  • You can add some vegetables like carrots and broccoli if you like.
  • Right before serving, whisk in butter, a spoon of the miso paste, and a splash of mirin.

To assemble the ramen, place some cooked noodles in each bowl and ladle in some broth. Add mushrooms, spinach, tofu slices, and an egg. Garnish with scallions, and your favorite hot sauce.

2. Sushi

Sushi is the first food that comes to mind when people think about Japanese food! Sushi is probably the most popular Japanese Food and best enjoyed with some sake, a fermented rice wine. One of the unique ways to experience sushi in Japan is at a conveyor belt sushi restaurant where you can pick plates of sushi off the conveyor that catch your attention. This is a great way to order sushi, especially if you are a tourist. The plates are priced based upon the color of the plate and added up when you are done.

15 Japanese Food you MUST try when visiting Japan | Outside Suburbia

If they don’t have vegetarian options on the conveyor, you can request for rolls with cucumber, soybean and other vegetables. Just learn to say:
I’m a vegetarian “Watashi wa bejitarian des”
I don’t eat meat or fish. “watashi wa niku toh sakana wo taberarimasen” “Taberarimasen” means “I don’t eat”

We found some great conveyor belt Sushi place near the Shinjuku station in Tokyo.

3. Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake, popular in Osaka and Hiroshima. This Japanese dish is almost like a Japanese pizza than a pancake! The Osaka-style Okonomiyaki made with flour, eggs, grated yam, dashi and shredded cabbage cooked into a pancake. The pancake is then topped with strips of bacon, sauce, seaweed flakes, and Japanese mayonnaise. You can opt out of the topping if you want a vegetarian version.

Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake that is popular in Osaka and Hiroshima, Japan | Outside Suburbia

Okonomiyaki in Hiroshima is layered on top of each other instead of mixed. It is made from a noodle base, topped with layers of cabbage, bacon, egg, the special okonomiyaki pancake batter, sauce, green onions and pickled ginger. Fish flakes are also added giving it a fishy taste.

4. Soba

Soba is long and thing buckwheat flour noodles. In the winter it is enjoyed in a bowl of hot soy and dashi broth. In the summer, soba noodles are served cold with a dipping sauce. We had the best bowl of Soba when we went to see Mount Fuji in the Fuji Five Lakes area. We stopped at a small place per the recommendation of our guide to enjoy these Yamanashi style Soba.

Another popular dish in Japan, yakisoba, which literally means “fried buckwheat”. This is not made with buckwheat noodles but ramen-style wheat noodles. It is usually stir-fried noodles cooked with pork, vegetables, and topped with yakisoba sauce, fish flakes, pickled ginger, seaweed powder, and some Japanese style mayonnaise.

5. Udon

There are so many types of Japanese noodles you need to try while visiting Japan, and Udon noodles is definitely one of them. Compared to soba and ramen noodles, the Udon noodles are thicker and chewier. They are made from wheat flour noodles. In the colder months, a bowl of udon is had best in a hot broth made of dashi, soy sauce, rice wine, vegetables and other toppings. During the summer, udon noodles are best enjoyed cold with a soy-sauce dipping sauce.

Best Luxury Ryokan in Kyoto Review - OutsideSuburbia.com
I don’t have a photo of Udon Noodles, so here is some warm Green Tea instead 😉

6. Shabu Shabu

Shabu shabu is a popular hot pot dish from Japan consisting of thinly sliced meat, mushrooms and vegetables cut into bite-size cooked in steaming hot broth. It gets its name from the “swish swish” sound that the meat makes when simmering in the broth. The flavorful broth called kombu dashi. It is a communal experience where everyone at the table takes part in the cooking and you can enjoy it with different dipping sauces.

15 Japanese Meals to experience in Japan - Shabu Shabu | Outside Suburbia

We had the best Shabu Shabu on the way to Shirakawa Go in the Japanese Alps. I opted for the vegetarian version which you can see in the photo.

7. Keishi, a traditional Japanese Meal

Food culture in Kyoto is influenced by environmental factors and its long history and culture as it was Japan’s capital up until the Meiji Restoration. Kyoto is the best destination to see the Zen Temples and Gardens, experience traditional Japanese culture and enjoy some local Japan Food.

A traditional Kaiseki meal in Kyoto | Outside Suburbia
Our Kaiseki meal in Kyoto

Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese meal, best enjoyed in Kyoto, where diners kneel on rice straw tatami mats and sample a series of small dishes made from seasonal ingredients. Here Japanese Food is made with 3 principles ki – Kisetsu(season), Kikai(chance) and Ki (dishes). The menu changes every month and dishes are usually selected with a monthly theme.

A tradtional Japanese meal in Kyoto | Outside Suburbia
All dressed up for a traditional Japanese meal for Christmas

We had the best Kaiseki Christmas meal prepared for us at the Michelin Star Restaurant, Kanamean Nishitomiya.

8. Onigiri

Onigiri is a snack that you will find anywhere, from airports to convenience stores and even in some restaurants. They are basically flavored balls of rice that are travel well. I was not a big fan, I could not get used to cold balls of rice! Sorry, Japan!

9. Gyoza, my favorite Japanese Food

Crispy on the outside, warm and filled with vegetables, Gyoza is my favorite Japanese food! You can find these dumplings filled with vegetables and meat. Based on the Chinese potstickers but the gyoza is smaller and has a thinner wrapper which makes for a crispier texture.

15 Japanese Foods you MUST try when visiting Japan | Outside Suburbia

They are the tapas of Japan and can be found in many dishes at ramen shops and izakayas (Japanese pubs). Did them in sauce and gobble them up in one to two bites. The dipping sauce for the gyoza is typically vinegar, sesame oil, and spices, with ponzu sometimes added for a citrusy flavor.

10. Tempura

Tempura is another Japanese dish I lived on when we were in Japan! Deep-fried pieces of battered vegetables such as eggplant, mushroom, pumpkin, sweet potato and lotus root. Yum! You can get meat and shrimp as well. It can be found all over Japan and can be eaten appetizer, main dish, or as a topping over ramen, udon, or soba noodles. Tempura is available at many restaurants as a starter dish or in bento boxes.

Sushi Bento Box with tempura and seaweed salad - 15 Japanese Food you MUST try when visiting Japan | Outside Suburbia
A typical Bento Box with sushi, tempura, seaweed salad and fruits

Seek out the specialty Tempura restaurants for those unique ones. You can eat the crispy tempura either by dunking it into the dipping sauce or sprinkle some of the provided salt over the tempura before enjoying them.

11. Tonkatsu

Tonkatsu is basically slices of pork that are breaded and deep-fried similar to a German schnitzel or fried chicken. When ordering a Tonkatsu, you can select if you want the lean pork tenderloin or filet or juicier ‘rosu‘ which uses pork with more fat.

Tonkatsu can also be enjoyed in a variety of Japanese dishes like katsudon a Japanese curry with tonkatsu pieces, katsu sandwich which is basically a sandwich made with Tonkatsu. And you can always have tonkatsu with your ramen or udon bowls.

12. Yakitori

Yakitori, especially Chicken yakitori is a tasty Japanese appetizer served on skewers. The meat is typically basted with a savory-sweet sauce as it cooks over a hot barbecue grill. You can find them in street shops and pubs. Order a few at a time and eat them right off the skewers. A great combination of umami and sweet flavors, you can also find pork belly yakitori in some places.

Enjoying some Yakitori in the Japanese Alps | Outside Suburbia
Enjoying some Yakitori in the Japanese Alps

13. Mochi

Mochi is basically a Japanese rice cake where the rice is steam, pounded and mashed to make cute round buns. They are soft, chewy and have different fillings. I love the ones that are filled with ice cream, especially Lavender and Strawberry ones! Be careful though, if you don’t chew but simply swallow the sticky mochi, it can get stuck in the throat and can lead to suffocation. So chew, chew, chew! But don’t miss trying all the different flavors of mochi! Sakura-mochi is cherry blossom mochi that is filled with red bean paste and wrapped with a pickled cherry leaf, a special treat to try if you are vising Japan in Spring.

Lavender Mochi | Outside Suburbia

14. Dango

Dango is a chewy steamed dumpling with three sweetened rice flour balls skewered on a stick. Similar to mochi, Dango is made with rice flour, but the dough isn’t pounded like in a mochi. This delicious sweet is also available in different flavors depending on the season and region. The most popular Dango is the Hanami Dango, it even has an emoji. Available during cherry blossom season, it consists of pink, white and green Dango balls on a stick.

On my list to try when we make a Spring trip to Japan!

15. Macha Ice Cream

Other than the mochis, the most popular Japanese desserts seemed to be soft-serve ice creams. They come in so many different flavors like matcha green tea, even wasabi, miso, soy sauce, and squid ink!

If you want to get something quick and sweet, you can find many shops selling colorful snacks, and vending machines dispensing warm teas. We loved the array of crepes choices and tried a few sweet snacks when people watching on Takeshita Street, in Harajuku, Tokyo.

Book a Japanese Food Tour & Help Children

If are planning your first trip to Japan, I highly recommend doing a food tour with byFood. They not only organize in-depth tours to help you experience Japanese Cuisine but also help children in developing countries. When you participate in a byFood experience or dine at select restaurants by making a reservation on the platform, they will donate a portion of the revenue to the Food for Happiness project of the month. Win-Win!

Warm Jasmine Tea straight out of a vending machine | Outside Suburbia
My favorite part: Warm Jasmine Tea straight out of a vending machine!

Save this Vegetarian Ramen Recipe

Vegetarian Ramen Recipe

Vegetarian Ramen might be hard to find but it is easy to make at home.

Ingredients
  

  • 3 cups Vegetable Broth
  • 1/2 Onion
  • 2 Garlic
  • 2 inches Ginger
  • 1 cup Vegetables like carrots broccoli
  • 1 bunch Greens like spinach
  • 4 Boiled Eggs
  • 1 package Air fried or baked Tofu Firm Tofu
  • 1 tsp Butter
  • 1 tbsp White miso paste
  • splash Mirin aka Japanese rice wine
  • 1 package Mushrooms preferably shiitakes
  • 4 package Egg Noodles or other ramen noodles

Instructions
 

  • Pour some good vegetable broth into a pot and add dried shiitakes.
  • Bring it to a boil, then turn the heat off and let it steep for about 30 minutes.
  • Cook the noodles and set aside.Soft boil the eggs.
  • Drain the water from the tofu, add salt, pepper and cornflour to coat.
  • Spray with oil and air fry or bak.
  • Chop up the reconstituted shiitakes. In a blender, puree the chopped mushrooms with one cup of the broth, and add it back to the pot along with some soy sauce. The broth can be stored at this stage for up to a few days in the fridge (or in the freezer for a couple of months). You can also buy mushroom broth.
  • Sautée onions, garlic, and ginger in a little bit of oil and add that mixture to the stock.
  • You can add some vegetables like carrots and broccoli if you like.
  • Right before serving, whisk in butter, a spoon of the miso paste, and a splash of mirin.
  • To assemble the ramen, place some cooked noodles in each bowl and ladle in some broth. Add mushrooms, spinach, tofu slices, and an egg. Garnish with scallions, and your favorite hot sauce.
Keyword Ramen Recipe, Vegetarian Ramen

You might also like: Our 2 week Japan Itinerary

You might also like these other Food Diaries: 
11 Portuguese desserts you must try
Best ice cream shops in Plano
French Pastries you will love
Spanish Dishes, Drinks & Desserts
10 Moroccan dishes you must try
20 Iconic Food in Italy you can’t miss

PIN IT FOR LATER

Note: This post may contain affiliate links, partnership or sponsored content. If you purchase an item via one of these links, we may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you. But as always images and opinions are our own. For more information on our affiliates and privacy policy at Outside Suburbia see here.

Follow OutsideSuburbia
Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Tripadvisor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating