When the average person thinks of Japanese cuisine, foods like mochi, ramen and sushi probably come to mind. However, the truth is, Japanese cuisine isn’t as standard as many people might imagine. Japanese cuisine is varied, but it does tend to focus on fresh, seasonal, and regional ingredients.
A wide array of uniquely delectable dishes can be found in different regions across Japan. Though there are too many amazing Japanese foods to list, here are seven of our favorite regional Japanese foods.
1. Ogura Toast (Nagoya)
Ogura toast from the city of Nagoya is as delicious as it is simple. Commonly served in cafes and restaurants, ogura toast is primarily a breakfast food, but it also makes a tasty snack.
Ogura toast is made using thick cuts of shokupan, a type of fluffy Japanese bread. The bread is toasted, before it’s smeared with some sweet red bean paste, also called anko, and then topped with butter. Fresh whipped cream is also sometimes served on the top or on the side of ogura toast.
The crave-able tastes and textures of the crispy toast, creamy butter, and sweet bean paste make this regional dish a great way to start your morning.
2. Benishoga Tempura (Osaka)
Benishoga tempura is a Japanese street food from the city of Osaka. Benishōga is made from pickled strips of red ginger, while benishoga tempura is made when the shredded red ginger is coated in a tempura batter and fried.
This crispy snack is full of color and flavor. Some people though say true benishoga tempura is made with just one large piece of ginger, not the smaller shreds used for condiments. This style of benishoga tempura is actually quite rare, even in Osaka, because such large pieces of ginger aren’t always available.
If you find yourself in Osaka with an opportunity to get benishoga tempura, you should give this Osaka specialty a try!
3. Karashi Mentaiko (Fukuoka City)
Karashi means spicy in Japanese and mentaiko is pollock roe (fish eggs). This means karashi mentaiko is spicy pollock roe.
Karashi mentaiko is typically an egg-filled membrane that’s cured with salt before being marinated in seasonings like red chili pepper. The dish comes in a variety of spice levels and colors, ranging from dark pink to bright red.
Karashi Mentaiko can be found in many Japanese foods as an addition to steamed rice or used as a filling for rice balls, or onigiri. Fukuoka City is known for having the very best karashi mentaiko, so don’t miss it when you visit.
4. Sakura Shrimp Kakiage (Shizuoka)
Sakura shrimp come from Suruga Bay off Shizuoka Prefecture, and these little pink crustaceans are celebrated during the Yui Sakura Shrimp Festival. They’re a specialty of the prefecture, and sakura shrimp kakiage is one of the regional dishes that celebrates it.
Sakura shrimp kakiage is made when sakura shrimp is combined with chopped vegetables before being dipped in tempura batter and fried. The kakiage tempura is deliciously crispy, and the sakura shrimp are renowned for their slightly sweet aroma and taste.
5. Yudofu (Kyoto)
A warming hotpot dish, yudofu or “hot tofu” can be an appetizer, a side, or a full meal. Kyoto winters are especially cold and enjoying a bowl of yudofu is a great way to stay warm.
The main ingredients of yudofu are kombu (kelp)—which flavors the broth—and tofu—which is warmed and softened by the broth. Toppings like ginger and scallions are optional garnishes also with sesame- and soy-based sauces.
Yudofu became one of Kyoto’s regional foods because it was originally popular among Kyoto’s Buddhist priests since it is high in protein while being vegetarian.
6. Goya Champuru (Okinawa)
Goya Champuru is a stir fry dish featuring Japanese bitter melon, also called goya. Although melon may sound like a strange addition to a stir fry, goya champuru is Okinawa’s iconic dish.
This savory stir fry is typically made with tofu, vegetables, and some kind of meat or fish, along with the bright green goya, which is also said to have special health benefits.
Although bitter melon isn’t for everyone, trying it in a tasty stir fry could be the best way to give this regional food from Okinawa an honest try.
7. Sanuki-Udon (Shikoku)
Sanuki-udon are wheat-flour noodles that originated on the Japanese island of Shikoku, though they have grown in popularity across the country. These noodles are notable for their nice body and smooth texture.
Sanuki-Udon is typically served in a simple broth, made from kelp and soy sauce, that really highlights the noodle itself. This dish is sometimes garnished with sesame seeds and ingredients like egg, ginger, and leeks are also other optional additions.
Although trying a popular, world-renowned Japanese food—like ramen or sushi—isn’t a bad idea, the country’s many regions have their own unique dishes to offer. Whether you’re looking for a crispy tempura-battered snack, a delicious soup, or a one of a kind breakfast, Japan definitely has something for you, as long as you’re ready to explore the wide world of its regional cuisine.