Travel really comes down to 3 main things; meeting new people, stepping outside your comfort zone, and trying local food. The last being of the highest importance. IMHO. If I visit a place, even if just for an hour or two layover, I must try some of the food.
Trying the food is almost as good and deeply personal as meeting the people. I want to know what locals eat for breakfast. What condiments they use. What do they feed their kids? What’s a typical meal? I want to taste as much as I can. I think my friend Demera learned that on this trip to Japan. I literally wanted to stop and try everything.
Here are a few of my most favorite things at the famous Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan.
Mochi with Strawberry
this enormous sweet bit is the combination of a gooey pillow of pounded rice, the taste of sweet marshmallow like sugar sprinkled on top, and a giant sweet yet slightly sour red strawberry. The mochi has a very light but mouth filling chewy texture. It’s super soft and dusted with a powdered sugar coating. It’s been sliced and stuffed with a plump ripe strawberry. It’s hard to eat in multiple bites because after a bit or two it begins to fall apart in the warmth of your hands, so it’s best to bite it in half, chew, then plop in the rest.
Grilled Scallop with foot intact and drizzled with a sweet soy
You can get the scallops a few different ways. One way is topped with crab and sea urchin. I chose to get it plain with a light sauce on top. The woman running the stand grills just a few at a time over a small charcoal grill. The day we had them it was quite drizzly outside and a bit cold. Watching her roast over the warm coals and then gulp down juicy large scallops was like heaven. The scallops were so fresh and had the perfect bite to them. They weren’t chewy at all.
I didn’t actually eat this one, but I think it goes without saying that when in Japan and especially at the famous market where thousands of dollars worth of tuna are auctioned off each morning, you must have some tuna. My friend Demera ordered this and said that the tuna was phenomenal. She delicately savored every. single. bite. It came beautifully presented with a dish of soy and chopsticks neatly propped up on a handmade origami crane made from traditional Japanese paper.
Grilled Eel on a stick
My daughter absolutely loved this. These were also grilled over charcoal along with an array of other seafood on a stick. The eel hand a generous glaze of sticky sauce over it and was the perfect snack-size for my kiddo to hold while riding in the stroller.
Hot Matcha Tea
You can grab a sample drink of earthy match tea from a tea stall. The tea is piping hot and perfect on a cool day.
Fresh handmade dumplings/shumai-
I’m absolutely in LOVE with dumplings…of all shapes, sizes, and fillings. These were traditional pork dumplings and were steaming over the largest bamboo steamer I’d every seen. If you gazed behind the long glass counter you could see a group of young Japanese women gathered around a large container of filling, while hand folding dumplings. When I saw that they were being made by hand I couldn’t pass them up. They were so soft and the inside was seasoned perfectly. Not salty or chemically (like packaged dumplings can sometimes taste). We went back at the end and grabbed a few more.
Are you traveling to Tokyo soon? Have you been there before? What was your favorite part? Please share your thought and comments below. I always respond. My next post about Japan will highlight the decadent rotary sushi spot we ate at.