8 Wild Japanese Street Foods
The street food of Japan is all over the map. Trucks, carts, or a table with a tent over it is all it takes for you to get some really great, cheap food after a heavy night of drinking… Or anytime!
Here is some of the street-food you might see on the streets with no names. (Seriously, the streets have no names here. It’s really confusing.)
Yaki Imo (Oven-Roasted Sweet Potatoes)
This is the classic autumnal street food in Japan. It’s simply sweet potatoes roasted over an open fire. The old-fashioned truck wasn’t even a truck at all, so much as a giant furnace pulled around on a handcart.
You’ll still see these in some places. But most of the Yaki Imo peddlers have upgraded to a simple truck with a loudspeaker like the ice cream man.
But instead of Pop-Goes-The-Weasel, or kid’s songs, these trucks chants the name of the product “Yaki imoooooooooooouuuuuu, yaki imoooooouuuuu.” (Roasted Potatoes!) You can hear it from blocks away.
Recently, some trucks are run by young hipsters and usually stay in one place, like outside of bars or late night haunts. They look a bit more like this.
The result of roasting a sweet potato? A very sweet, honey-like, fluffy, pie-tasting handful of goodness.
That looks yammy!
Yaki Soba (Fried Noodles)
Yaki Soba is the poor college student food of Japan. Very cheap, very filling, full of sweet and salty flavor it’s a favorite at festivals and sporting events.
And since it only takes a hot plate to make it, it’s perfect for serving from trucks and small stands.
Japan’s original sandwich, onigiri is a simple rice ball filled with something; salmon; plum; tuna & mayonnaise, etc. Then wrapped in seaweed for you to hold on to. This is what your momma packs in your lunch for you growing up. But once you grow up, you gotta get it from the 7-11, or if you’re lucky, you can get it from a truck like this!
And your surrogate mother serves it with a smile.
Tako Yaki (Octopus Balls)
Yes, Tako Yaki has a piece of Octopus inside of it. No it isn’t gross at all. In fact, the octopus has little to no flavor, it’s just some rubber meat inside of a steaming pancake-y, hush-puppy-like ball of piping hot dough.
An Osaka master can cook hundreds of these things in minutes. It’s amazing to see, even better to eat the result. The balls are usually covered in a sweet-sauce, white creamy mayonnaise, and bonito fish flakes that look like flames as they dance over the steamy pile. (That sounded dirty didn’t it?)
Your balls are served!
Of course, ramen stands are all over Japanese cities.
The choice of drunken people who’ve missed their last train home, you can grab a seat and slurp some noodles on the streets of Tokyo.
Just don’t look in the kitchen… Yikes!
The Japanese love France. And while men typically peddle the fried foods, female street vendors want to open up a crepe stand, or something equally feminine, romantic…and uh…pink.
After eating this you are obligated to shout, in your cutest, highest pitched voice, “Oishii!” (Delicious!) You may repeat it ad-nauseum.
I mean look at that! That's a work of art!
Bagels are somewhat new to Japan. In the last ten years or so, there has been a slight boom in bagel-popularity, but it’s still not a common dish outside of café’s.
But, if you look hard enough you may find a cute, young, entrepreneur, selling some bagel sandwiches with a smile.
Much better than an Egg McMuffin.
Taco (Tacos, not Octopus, which is Tako.)
Mexican food can be found in Tokyo. But I looked long and hard before I found an actual Taco Truck. This one just happens to be INSIDE THE MALL. It looks as if the truck crashed into the mall and just opened up shop.
They do serve tacos, but they also serve an Okinawan specialty—Taco Rice.
Or you can get a nacho set for about $8 (it’s Japan, things are expensive).
Sadly, I came to Japan just before the Korean Taco truck craze hit Los Angeles. But Japan has it’s own street food and it’s damn good.
What kind of street food do you like?