Strangest Foods from Japan – You Must Try!

Food is a universal fascination among travelers. An exciting to-do list will be to experience the uniqueness of a place by tasting the delicacies and exotic menus.

In Japan, expect the internationally famous dish sushi, a mixture of rice with vinegar, raw fish, and vegetables. A must-try too is ramen, a Japanese rich flavored noodle soup with a selection of meats or vegetables, often topped with a boiled egg. 

The traditional Japanese cuisine is fresh and unprocessed. Japanese people are praised for their long-life expectancy. However, they are described to love weird flavors. Here is a parade of some strangest foods from Japan that you must try for a memorable dining experience.

Hachinoko Gohan (steamed rice with wasp larvae)

Hachinoko or wasp larvae is a snack in Nagano Japan. This exotic food can be found in restaurants highlighting traditional menus. 

Hachinoko Gohan is steamed rice with wasp larvae. The larvae taste sweet. It has a sandy texture, mushroom baby bees’ sweet flavor with starchy rice, and a smoky aftertaste. The late Emperor Hirohito is said to have enjoyed eating fried wasps with traditional boiled rice, sugar, and soy sauce. 

Eating rice and larvae with tiny parts of the bees like the thorax, abdomen, eyes, and face in bits and pieces can be squeamish to newbies, yet for wasps’ lovers, eating hachinoko goban is a delightful experience. This dish is known to provide beneficial fat, protein, and B vitamins.

Grilled Horumon (Intestines)

Horumon is a Japanese food which is also known as motsu. It refers to the internal organs of animals, giblets, and other types of offal meat. Japanese offal originated in the Kansai region. Horumon means ‘discarded bits,’ yet instead of discarding the bits, the Japanese eat them. You can order horumon as yakiniku (barbeque) and motsunabe (stew) styles.

Yakiniku refers to meat cooked in a pan, stove, or on a tabletop grill. It was popularized in Osaka. The heart, liver, kidney, and other internal organs of animals are washed well, dipped in the sauce which is a mixture of savory and sweet flavors with bold sesame essence, then grilled. This dish is known to be great because of its reduced calories and carbs.

Motsu is Japanese word for an animal’s internal organs. Motsunabe is a popular dish that originated in Kyushu. It is a hot, salty boiling pot with garlic, leek, other vegetables, and meat along with the intestines. The dish is cheap and contains a high dose of collagen good for health and skin.

Unagi don grilled eel rice bowl

Unagi is the Japanese word for freshwater eel. Eels are poisonous because their blood contains a neurotoxin that cramps the muscles and the heart. Even a droplet of eel blood can kill. Chefs who cook dishes with eel have passed rigorous training.

The elongated, fatty fish is rich and bold in flavor. It is considered the most expensive fish in Japan at about $35,000 per kilogram. Many Japanese people consider this dish a summer treat. They believe that eating unagi on a special day in Summer called Doyo no ushi no hi will give them strength for the rest of the year.

Unagi don grilled eel rice bowl is a one-bowl donburi dish that tops servings of white rice with fillets of freshly grilled eel, all seasoned with a homemade unagi sauce. The freshwater eel used in unagi don is prepared according to a technique known as kabayaki, in which the fish is gutted, deboned, butterflied, and cut into neat rectangular fillets. The cleaned eel fillets are then skewered and dipped into a sweet sauce before grilling. 

Unagi has a light and sweet flavor that is very palatable. The meat is soft and chewy, with a porous texture that makes it ideal for saucy preparations. The meat soaks up all the juices making the dish moist and flavorful.

The eel contains no sugar; is low in sodium and high in phosphorus. It is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and protein thus protecting our heart and maintaining healthy bones. Eating Unagi don grilled eel rice bowl is believed to improve blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and reduce the risks of diabetes and arthritis. 

Shiokara (Salted fish guts)

Shiokara is a salty-spicy Japanese delicacy made from small pieces of the pickled and salted internal organs of various aquatic creatures.

The preparation requires a lot of careful attention and time. Wash the internal organs thoroughly, remove ‘skin’, slice, sprinkle with salt, and leave overnight to be seasoned and fermented.

It is sold in glass or plastic containers. The taste is similar in saltiness and fishiness to European cured anchovies with a different texture. Shiokara dish comes in varieties such as viscera of squid, tuna, and oysters, best known as chinmi (rare tastes) because of its strong flavor. It is best to eat it as a side dish of white plain rice or as a snack when drinking alcohol such as Shochu or Sake. Its addictive flavor provides vitamin D, protein, and fats.

Monjayaki 

Monjayaki/Traditional Pancake from Kanto Region, Japan

Monjayaki is a pan-fried batter or pancake that looks like vomit on a grill. It is popular in the Kanto region of Japan. A lot of water is used in this savory street food.

Careful preparation in cooking this creative mixture of a variety of seasonings and add-ins is essential. Place all ingredients on the flat table grill. Use metal spatulas, chop the ingredients then add dashi and water to the grill. The scrambled mess slowly starts hardening on the grill. A small spatula is then used to scrape bits of the batter. It is gooey and tastes best when it is hot. You can also order okonomiyaki, a variety which uses eggs instead of water. 

Conclusion

Food makes travel so fun and even so thrilling when the eyes set on unfamiliar dishes. The instinct of self-preservation will normally hinder the urge to try but just overcome and experience the unique food culture of Japan. There is a wide array of foods to choose from. Traditional Japanese foods such as sushi, sashimi, gyoza, natto, and others are pleasing to the eyes and taste. While hachinoko, horumon, unagi, shiokara, and monjayaki are wacky to the bones yet may taste more delicious than they look. So, when in Japan, feel free to tell your tourist guide to bring you to places that offer strange foods. Squirm if you must and explore the adventurous side of your palate.