Traditional Japanese Foods (and Snacks) to Eat in Winter
After the sweltering summer months in Japan, everyone is eager to welcome the cooler autumn weather. Fall and winter in Japan can get really cold and dry, with most of the country experiencing snowfall, and Tokyo seeing temperatures drop down to 30-40°F (-1-4°C). With the drop in temperature, there comes many changes. For example, koromogae, the changing of clothes with the seasons, happens at the beginning of October. For students in Japan, this means swapping out their summer uniform for their winter one. At home, this means family members are digging out their winter wardrobe from storage, and sometimes even switching out furniture! A lot happens when the seasons change in Japan, and that includes food. As the weather cools down where you are too, find comfort in some of these traditional fall and winter Japanese foods and savory snacks.
There’s nothing like a hot bowl of ramen to warm you from the inside out! Heartier broths such as tonkotsu (pork base) ramen, or Hokkaido-style miso corn butter ramen are especially popular in the colder months. Though most people have tried tonkotsu or miso ramen, another winter favorite is chicken ramen. This was popularized by Nissin, the company that brought instant cup ramen into every home. Nissin’s Chicken Ramen is available in instant cup ramen form, so it’s ready to be enjoyed quickly and easily whenever you want. Reluctant to leave your warm cocoon of blankets even to make instant ramen? Fret not, Nissin created chicken ramen-flavored potato sticks which taste exactly like a hot bowl of ramen!
A selection of oden, a type of nabe or Japanese hotpot.
Ingredients include daikon and a variety of fish cakes
Good food and good company is one of the best ways to stay warm! Nabemono (literally “pot” plus “things”) is Japanese hotpot, a staple winter meal for many Japanese families. Nabe is a communal meal where people sit around a boiling pot filled with meat, vegetables, noodles, and any other choice ingredients. Though nabe can be eaten at restaurants, Japanese people often enjoy it in the comfort of their own living room with a portable stove.
Oden, a type of nabe, comes out in the fall and winter in Japan, and you can see it everywhere from convenience stores to food carts. Think of oden as a fast food version of nabe, where you grab a bowl and get to choose ingredients that go in a light, soy-based broth. The most common oden choices are daikon, konjac, boiled eggs, and fishcakes.
Snacks and sweets to stay warm
Did you know that most Japanese homes don’t have centralized heating? Typically, there is one main room, such as the living room, which has the main heater. That’s why most families gather around the kotatsu, the traditional low table frame with a heater underneath. The top of the table is covered with a blanket, then the table top, to trap the heat. People sit with their feet tucked under the kotatsu to stay warm.
The kotatsu is a social space for families and friends where you do everything from eating meals, watching TV, or snacking and chatting together. Because of that, you’ll usually see some sort of snack on top of the kotatsu in a Japanese home, such as mikan, or satsuma oranges. Other common cold month snacks include Japanese rice crackers, or senbei, a wonderfully light snack for when you’re curled up under the blankets with a good book. These savory snacks come in a wide variety of flavors like soy sauce, seaweed, and other interesting seasonal flavors to keep you entertained. To really keep the cold at bay, try out rice crackers flavored with red pepper that will be sure to bring you back to the summer months!
After dinner, wind down with a black tea-flavored donut, which is reminiscent of hot milk tea, another winter favorite. This flavorful donut pairs well with a cup of smooth and sweet gyokuro green tea, the perfect companion to sit with in front of the fireplace.
For the long, cold months ahead, bundle up with some blankets and a stash of savory snacks straight from Japan, with our Japanese subscription snack box!