When I finalised my trip to Tokyo, which by the way was quite last minute, the first thing I did was looking up all the food.
Tokyo is touted as one of the most exciting food destinations in the world, and you can you imagine my joy when I found out I was going there? Also being vegetarian, I had to research that extra bit more to fill me up during my stay.
True to its reputation, the food scene in the city is loaded with delicious local, regional and international cuisines. I also hear that it is home to many Michelin star restaurants. Heaps of Japanese cuisine of course with other options like Italian, Indian, Chinese, American and even Fish & Chips are available.
Sadly, as a vegetarian who doesn’t consume seafood or seafood sauces, I couldn’t experience the full extent of the food scene in Tokyo. *Insert ugly cry emoji* If I had to stick it out and say, I struggled to find food to suit my dietary requirements. Thank goodness for the massive buffet breakfast from my hotel (ANA InterContinental, Minato), the Indian restaurants and heaps of snacks I didn’t go hungry. If you don’t particularly have dietary restrictions, you’re in for a treat! There is everything from sushi, ramen, curries, soba, monjayaki and so much more.
There is so much the city has to offer in terms of food and overall experience. Take your pick from the huge variety of foods ranging from traditional to international, naughty to healthy. Here are my top 6 food finds, in no particular order.
In Tokyo you are bound to find the green goodness around every corner. Teas, ice creams cakes, baked goods, savoury foods and even body care – the tea rules the roost. I happen to love the grassy and earthy taste of matcha so it was a treat to savour many avatars of the tea. I had a go at the ice cream, matcha lattes, biscuits, cakes, pretzel sticks, rice cakes and KitKat. And I wasn’t disappointed! Matcha ice cream was my top choice, closely followed by the KitKat and matcha lattes from the local cafes.
A standout dish there was yamimo with a choice of toppings. Yamimo AKA Japanese mountain yam is grated and is gooey in texture. If you have texture issues with food this may not be up your alley. This grated yam can be consumed uncooked and is best tasted with a variety of sweet, sour and spicy flavours. I had this with sour plums, pickled yuzu & radish and a generous spoon of wasabi. I tasted it with and without toppings and I can say the one with the topping was delish! And I am not even a fan of yams in general.
How could I go all the way to Japan and not try sushi? Love the convenience and wholesomeness of sushi. While there were so many on offer, I was limited to the negligible vegetarian ones. Onigiri and maki sushi was all that I could find that fit my requirements, and they were scrumptious!
The best Indian food I have eaten outside of India is in Tokyo! A brazen statement, you may think; I am Indian and have lived in the country for a good part of my life and may know a thing or two about the cuisine.
I’ve travelled to a few countries and have tasted Indian food there, but nothing compares to the one in Tokyo. Milan Natraj, Shibuya serves vegan and vegetarian Indian food and it tastes like what we’d make at home. The curries are not greasy, the naan soft, price reasonable and the service top notch! I loved eating there so much that I dined there two out of the 5 days I stayed in Tokyo.
Lunch for one: All-you-can-eat buffet (3 curries, naans, rice, salad & dessert) 680 yen
Meal for two: A la carte (3 curries, 5 naans and lassi) 5000 yen
I must have watched at least 50 YouTube videos on things to do and eat in Tokyo. One of the top things that came up as an affordable option was the melon pan. Nope. It is not melon-flavoured bread but named so because of the resemblance to a melon.
On my trip to Asakusa, where the Senso-ji temple is located, I found a melon pan shop. For 200 yen a pop, it was a cheap treat. The shop also sells melon pan with whipped cream stuffing for 150 yen more. For those curious, it’s a sweet crusty bread, soft on the inside. Don’t be fooled by the crusty exterior, it is in fact quite soft, and will melt in the mouth!
The breakfast at the hotel was exceptional; it had a whole range of Japanese and continental spread. I particularly enjoyed kare raisu, which literally translates to curry & rice. The curry was spicy and incredibly yummy and was served with sticky rice. While the one I had was all vegetarian and tasted very similar to the south Indian kurma, there are options for seafood and meat lovers too.
Curry is hugely popular in Japan and upon Googling I find that the British took the curry to them. Curry-flavoured popcorn, snacks, seasoning, baked goodies are widely available. They love curry. Can you tell?
Have you been to Tokyo? What was your favourite gastronomic experience?