Man, it’s been 4 months already since I last posted? Time flies insanely fast. I apologize, as I’ve been writing a lot more non-food stuff on my personal blog lately (CLICK HERE TO CHECK IT OUT), mostly about travel and life.
It wasn’t all for naught though, as my travels have given me many opportunities to stuff myself silly with anything that glistens under the sun. Between business trips and personal vacations, I have had my fair share of unfamiliar food in the months I wasn’t able to update, which means more ideas for this site!
The first thing foodies prepare when planning a trip is a list of things that are MUST-EATS since a journey is only as good as its culinary experiences. Researching is the easy part, as Google is the perfect sidekick. But with all the suggestions on the internet, barring taking a sabbatical from work, it really is impossible to go through all of them.
That’s where I come in! Inspired by a billboard outside Maxwell’s Hawker Center in Singapore’s Chinatown, I’d like to present to you The 10 Best Things I Ate in Japan! (In 5 days, I got to try 8/10 on Singapore’s list. Glutton, I know.)
Disclaimer: I paid no heed to price or accessibility (but I’d like to think that these are pretty easy to find). Also, this list is not ranked. Michelin stars were not considered. This list is simply the favorite things I put in my mouth and did not mind getting fat for.
Grilled Scallop topped with Uni
JPY 1,000 for 2 pcs
Tsukiji Fish Market
A bit pricey compared to the usual skewered food we have in the Philippines, this Tsukiji treasure is bliss on a stick. The sweetness of perfectly grilled scallops topped with briny torched uni (eel) brushed with a garlic butter and soy glaze left us speechless the first time we had the pleasure of trying it. Absolutely worth.
JPY 550 for 6 pcs, JPY 650 for 8 pcs
Gindaco (These are everywhere)
The awe-inspiring takoyaki at Gindaco is a stark contrast to the lifeless balls of flour they call takoyaki here at home. Gindaco’s orbs of awesome are crispy on the outside while molten on the inside, with a sizable piece of octopus in its core. Topped with egg salad, nori, and bonito flakes, then finished with a swirl of teriyaki and mayo, it is a mishmash of awesome flavors that combines to make an awesome snack.
Sweet Potato Croquette
JPY 200 per piece
Croquettes never quite struck me as Japanese, but boy have they perfected them! Deep-fried mashed sweet potatoes coated in panko breadcrumbs, these puppies are as simple as they are addicting. What makes the Japanese variant special is that they manage to stay crisp even under a heat lamp, without the overbearing greasiness taking over.
JPY 800 per bowl with extra grilled pork
THE DESTROYER OF ALL RAMEN. The ramen at Yoshimuraya is heavenly. It is so sought-after that even at 2 PM on a Sunday afternoon, the line outside consists of at least 20 people. At peak hours? Be prepared to wait at least an hour. But that’s a small price to pay for their broth, this liquid gold a hybrid of tonkotsu and shoyu, perfectly-cooked noodles, and grilled pork so good that it should be a crime in Japan not to order extra.
Spicy Smoked Chicken Leg
Lost River Cookhouse, Tokyo Disneysea
This is Queenie’s fault. I never thought I’d crave amusement park chicken until I tasted this beautiful bird. Spiced to the limits of human enjoyment, this (massive) leg is recklessly playful on the tongue and lips. It has gotten to a point where I have to ask myself, how can amusement park food be so good?!
Shrimp Tempura and Avocado Roll
Quality or quantity is the quintessential foodie dilemma. The Shrimp Tempura and Avocado Roll at Sushiro absolutely demolishes the divide, proving that eating well does not have to break the bank. The play on textures and flavors in this roll helped me discover an extra nook in my belly to use when capacity is already at its peak. Aside from the excellent sushi platter at Tsukiji, this was my favorite mouthful of sushi between my 3 visits.
Deep-fried Fish Cake
JPY 330 per pc, 500 for 2
Tsukiji Fish Market
The food at Tsukiji Fish Market is just too good to not get a second slot. On an assuming intersection of the famed market lies a store which sells all sorts of food, so I thank the gods that our eyes veered towards the direction of the deep-fried fish cakes. Hefty enough to be a meal all unto itself, it is a masterclass in taking ordinary assorted seafood and mayo and turning it into a meal fit for a king (which is why we call it lobster roll).
Pablo Cheesecake (Valentine’s Day Special)
Daifukumochi, or daifuku, is basically mochi stuffed with sweet filling. It also literally translates to “great luck”, which is fitting for how I happened to come across this gem. Long story short, I owed Micah a cheese tart, I was in Akihabara, so I bought this. Little did I know that this love-month special would remind me that bliss can be felt not just in the heart, but in the mouth and tummy as well.
Melon-Pan Ice Cream
JPY 400 (Matcha)
The World’s 2nd Best Melon-Pan Ice Cream
Yes, seriously, that is the name of the booth that serves my favorite ice cream in Japan. I’ve tried it twice at World Porters and once at Shibuya, and I can’t wait until the next time. The melon-pan by itself is already so good! Crumbly and buttery, it plays the leading role in this upgraded ice cream sandwich. The ice cream is a bit rough around the edges, but it plays the role of backup perfectly in such a rustic, charming dish.
Sweet Potato Torta
Village Pastry, Tokyo Disneyland
WHAT A FIND! Tokyo Disneyland’s Sweet Potato Torta is the result of an eclair and an English biscuit having a baby. Crispy and crumbly on the outside, this sweet treat is filled with a smooth, sweet custard. One of the less-talked-about food options available at the happiest place on earth, this treat is criminally underrated, and I have made it my life’s mission to let the world know the infinite levels these are better than churros.
Appetizer – Almond Waffle (Manneken)
Main – Premium Moonlight Okonomiyaki (Botejyu)
Dessert – Level 5 Matcha Ice Cream (Komachi-dori)
My mouth started watering just thinking about this list. Actually writing it and browsing the pictures just made me hate myself for what I’ve been eating for the past week or so. I can’t wait to go back to the Land of the Rising Sun!
So there you have it! I know it will be difficult to cram them all into one trip especially since stomach space is extremely limited. My advice? Choose to walk! Vacations in Japan have been an endless cycle of sleep-eat-walk-eat-walk-eat-walk which may seem tiring at first, but trust me in saying that your snuggest of pants will thank you for it.
Let me know if you get to try any items on this list! If you’d like to suggest something NOT on the list, feel free to mention it in the comments section below!