food

How many do you know? 12 delicious foods in Japanese supermarkets and convenience stores

When you think of Japanese food, you likely think of sushi, ramen, or udon–all excellent choices! You might even find your mouth watering at thoughts of monjayaki or anko ice cream, but there may be a few that you’re not so familiar with. Today, we’re going to look at 12 lesser-known foods–and what one of our intrepid writers thought about them!

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Tokyo University campus has its own sushi restaurant where great dining meets higher education

No matter how scholastically talented you are, it’s hard to concentrate on an empty stomach. Even the bright minds at Tokyo University, Japan’s most prestigious institute of higher learning, need to take a break from studying and grab some chow now and again.

Of course, it’s hard to give yourself a mental recharge eating bland cafeteria food. Thankfully, that’s not a concern for the students of Tokyo University’s Kashiwa Campus, who’re lucky enough to have an amazing sushi restaurant right on the school grounds.

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Out of this world Valentine’s chocolates are (almost) too gorgeous to eat

Chilly January is drawing to a close and that means that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. Here in Japan, Valentine chocolates are big business, which means shops pull out all the stops to create delicacies as easy on the eyes as they are sweet in your mouth. We’ve picked our favorites for this year, so whether you are buying for your lover or yourself, check out these dainty nibbles!

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We try beer with whipped cream on top…because we’re fancy

It’s been said that younger generations of drinkers in Japan just aren’t that into beer anymore. With them opting instead for cheaper and sweeter cocktails, good old ale (or ale-flavored stuff) is gradually being pushed aside.

However, our intrepid reporter Meg has found a way to reinvent beer to younger folks appealing to their sweet-tooths. It comes from South Korea where it’s called “Saengkeulim Maegju” or “Cream Beer” and is basically beer with some whipped cream on top. It’s so easy you can make it at home…so we did!

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Yokohama’s adorable hedgehog dumplings are packed with spikey cuteness and creamy custard

Located about a half hour south of downtown Tokyo, the city of Yokohama has a couple of big tourist draws, like its gigantic Ferris wheel and bayside parks with panoramic views. If you’re hungry, though, you’ll want to head to Yokohama’s Chinatown, which is one of the biggest in Japan and is made up almost entirely of places to eat.

As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to grab a seat in a restaurant to fill your stomach, since the streets are lined with stalls selling all manner of munchies. Some of these you might see elsewhere in Japan, like the steamed pork buns that are also convenience store mainstays. But there’s at least one treat you can’t find anywhere but Yokohama’s Chinatown, and that’s these adorable sweet dumplings shaped like tiny hedgehogs.

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Japanese food blogger makes fried chicken poodles: “They’re too cute to eat!”

Whether our parents like it or not, food is an art form. Playing with food is awesome, and we’ve seen some spectacular examples of shaved-ice masterpieces, printed designs onto food, or corgi omelets.

But if you’ve been looking for a quick, easy artistic recipe you can do at home, look no further. Get ready to make the cutest little appetizers you’ve ever seen: fried poodles.

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Enjoy delicious pork sandwiches served to you by the manager of this katsu joint…who is also a pig

We’ve already talked at length about the complex feelings we have whenever we see an anthropomorphic mascot for a food joint shucking his own kin as delicious, greasy human grub. We bet you can’t even count the number of times you’ve walked by a chicken joint whose crazily grinning avian mascot was holding up a bucket of deep-fried drumsticks, or a contented pig sitting down – fork, knife, bib and all – to a barbecue rib feast and never really thought much of it.

Well, if the usually slapdash, cartoonish mascot on the sign of your local wing joint wasn’t in-your-face enough to disturb you with implications of animal cannibalism and the idea that you might just be eating animal protein that was once a creature with enough intelligence to talk and use kitchen utensils, maybe this Kanazawa, Japan pork restaurant ostensibly managed by a live, miniature pig is just the thing to kickstart your conscience, you monster.

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A visit to Sushi Dai, Japan’s best sushi restaurant according to world travelers

A portion of Tokyo’s world-famous Tsukiji Fish Market is expected to move to the Toyosu neighborhood in 2016. While part of the retail market and many restaurants will be sticking around, the upcoming relocation of the wholesale operations makes 2015 the last full year to enjoy Tsukiji as the absolute center of the sushi world.

In other words, if you’re looking to make a trip to the area to see it at its peak, now’s the time. And while there’s always something to be said for discovering a largely unknown restaurant with delicious food, on our Japanese-language correspondent Nakano’s visit to Tsukiji, he decided to dine at what travelers have voted the best sushi restaurant in Japan, Sushi Dai.

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Japanese convenience store FamilyMart inadvertently gives away pearl in pack of seafood snacks

In a lot of ways, convenience stores in Japan are more like miniature supermarkets. So while they still sell a lot of the candy and canned beverages their counterparts in other countries specialize in, you can also find plenty of edible, even gourmet-sounding food.

For example, the chain FamilyMart sells pouches of fried scallop meat, specifically the mantle, or part of the animal that attaches it to its shell. There’s a certain level of risk that comes with eating any mass-produced foodstuff, though, as one customer found out when he found what he felt was a foreign object in his pack of marine mollusks. And while generally the only thing you want to find in your food is, well, food, we suppose if we had to find something else mixed in there, we’d want what he discovered hiding in his snack: a pearl.

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Kobe beef burgers coming to Japanese fast food chain Lotteria

It’s kind of ironic that the hamburger gets saddled with a stigma as the lowest rung of entrées. Sure, it’s a staple of cheap, low-quality fast food chains, but it’s also beef, the highest form of our three most commonly eaten meats, and as such deserves a certain measure of respect.

That goes double for the newest hamburger from Japanese hamburger chain Lotteria, since it’s made with the most respected beef of all: Kobe beef.

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Fear of food produced in China continues as new report claims at least 48% of it will make you sick

When we think of Chinese food in the West, we usually picture boxes of delicious takeout that are perfect for a mid-movie marathon feeding frenzy, and even better for breakfast the next day. Sure, over-consumption might lead to intense MSG-related headaches and general feelings of bloatedness and guilt, but in general we don’t really think of Chinese food as something that’s likely to kill us. But then again, maybe it’s because we don’t import tons of frozen foodstuffs from China like they do in Japan, where fear of Chinese-produced food is an ever-present topic that regularly pops up to scare the beejeezus out of people and ruin their enjoyment of chicken nuggets forever.

But is there anything to fear, or have people just got their knickers in a twist over nothing? Well, a shocking new report claims that up to 48 percent of ALL the food China produces for export contains stuff that’s almost guaranteed to make you sick. Yikes.

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Travel Japan without leaving the capital at Tokyo’s best prefectural satellite shops

When it comes to regional cuisines, Japan has a lot to offer. But what if you are short on time and can’t make it to far-flung parts of the archipelago to sample artisan cheeses or gut-burning awamori? Not to worry, you can get a taste of most prefectures in the heart of Tokyo at so-called satellite shops, supermarkets which specialize in food and products from a particular region.

We’ve picked out five of our favorites for you to enjoy, with a not-to-be-missed item from each.

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Udon wanna make a mistake – be my Valentine!

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and shops around Japan are already getting out their red and pink goods. Not white though, those are saved for a whole other day. Candy and flowers are usually the items of choice for this romantic day, but if your Valentine has less of a sweet tooth and finds flowers uneventful, we have the perfect substitution for you: LOVE Kitsune udon!

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Melon topped with ice cream: two great Hokkaido tastes in one crazily delicious package

Japan sure loves its parfaits, and while they all come with tasty toppings, the most highly regarded come crowned with fruit. But what if you turned the concept on its head, and instead took a piece of premium produce, then added a cone’s worth of ice cream on top?

You’d have our newest dessert infatuation: the fresh melon soft serve.

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A little sweet with your spicy? Tokyo restaurant serves curry with strawberries and ice cream

One of the great things about curry is how versatile it is. The standard way to eat the spicy dish in Japan is with carrots, potatoes, onions, and pork, but you can also toss in chicken, shrimp, beef, or tuna. Things are wide open when it comes to vegetables, too, with some people opting for eggplant, spinach, or tomatoes.

But why limit yourself to just meats and veggies? One curry restaurant in Tokyo feels its menu should be inclusive of the entire food pyramid, and will fix you a plate of curry rice that represents the fruit and dairy groups in the forms of curry with strawberries and even ice cream.

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An Italian take on a Japanese classic, but do people in Japan consider it sushi?

For years Japan has been toying around with combining its signature flavors with the many different cuisines of the world. Japan even has its own take on pasta that they call Japanese-style pasta (和風パスタ). Wouldn’t it be fair for Italian chefs to experiment with Japanese cuisine? Two chefs in Italy have been putting their personal touches to the idea of sushi, and their pasta sushi creation is now starting to make some noise in the US and on the Internet.

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Craving ramen, but can’t find decent noodles? Transform your spaghetti with this pasta hack!

For those living outside Japan, a good bowl of ramen is almost impossible to find unless you’re in a big city like New York or London, and even then the options can be a bit of a let-down. And for many, the only ramen available is the dried variety that frankly has made some of our Japanese culinary experts gag.

But all is not lost, dear ramen lovers around the world. We’ve found a kitchen hack to turn ordinary everyday pasta into noodles fit for a delicious bowl of homemade ramen.

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Now you can decorate anything with gyoza with the new tape from DecoRush!

DecoRush is a series of decoration tape that looks like correction tape, except instead of white-out, you’d usually get cute flowery patterns or Disney characters on them. Very appropriate for increasing the girl power on your love letters or secret diary. However, DecoRush’s latest release had netizens baffled because really, when are you ever going to send someone a birthday card with colorful borders of…gyoza?

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Curry bread not getting enough love in Japan, recruits girls and its own association

So you’ve studied up on sushi, ramen, tempura, sashimi, and gyudon. You can tell udon from soba, and okonomiyaki from tamagoyaki. Perhaps you think you’ve completed your food education and are ready to head to “the Land of the Rising Sun” to experience the legendary food first hand. But before you step on that plane…have you brushed up on your curry pan?

Far from being a ubiquitous Japanese food, the Japan Currypan Association is hoping to raise the awareness and love for curry pan all across the country and the world. And they will do it with cute girls and fashion. It’s Japan, did you expect anything else?

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Cheese & Pizza chocolate!? We force-feed our coworkers the weirdest Japanese snack ever

Tirol chocolate has been around in Japan for as long as any of us can remember. Super tasty, available in dozens of flavours, and cheap enough even for elementary school kids to buy with their pocket-money, you’ll find these tiny squares of goodness in pretty much any convenience store or supermarket up and down the country. Occasionally, Tirol (or chiroru as it’s pronounced in Japanese) will release a handful of limited-edition flavours, fusing sweets like custard pudding and tiramisu together with their tasty choco to create unusual, moreish combinations.

But every now and then, they’ll try something really, really strange. Like Cheese & Pizza chocolate.

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