Shibuya is widely famous for the exciting blend of businesspeople strutting up and down the streets and the chic colourful fashion and culture that are splashed all around. Yet the city still holds many secrets waiting for you to explore. To name a few, there’s the famous crossing area and the statue of the world’s most loyal pup, Hachiko. Then as you keep strolling along, you will soon realise that the local street food is something that you can’t simply walk past. You might not be able to pronounce the names correctly—or not know what they are made of—but the range of food choices available and how they are presented will surely make you take pause. Keep reading to find out about the top street food you must try in Shibuya, Japan—all famous for their tastiness!
1. Nikuman (steamed bun)
You might be already familiar with this particular food, with its appearance that looks very much like a pao at dim sum places. Nikuman is the Japanese name for this Chinese-style steamed bun. It’s usually filled with pork and a variety of spices to give a distinct taste. This street food is best enjoyed during wintertime, with its juicy taste, fluffy feel, and comforting warmth.
2. Tomorokoshi (grilled corn on the cob)
If you’re looking for a light and healthy street food to snack on, then tomorokoshi is the answer. It is charcoal-grilled corn on the cob covered with soy sauce, butter, and mirin. Mirin is a sweet Japanese rice wine that gives a distinctive taste to almost all Japanese food. You can find tomorokoshi at street-food stalls almost anywhere in Japan.
3. Takoyaki (octopus spheres)
Takoyaki is probably one of the most familiar Japanese snacks, especially if you’re an otaku—someone who’s very passionate about manga (Japanese comics) and anime (Japanese animation). Takoyaki’s tasty flavour is one thing to enjoy, and watching the sellers flaunt their talent in making takoyaki is another experience. The dough is cooked in special iron pans, and the vendor will turn and roll the batter into the perfect spheres with impressive technique and speed.
4. Dango (sweet treats)
At first glance (and perhaps, taste), dango can be easily mistaken as mochi for non-Japanese people. Both dango and mochi are round sweet snacks and might pass as twins, but they require different methods for making. Dango is prepared by adding water to glutenous rice flour (while a special kind of glutenous rice called mochigome is used to make mochi), and the mixture is later steamed and pounded until soft and stretchy. There are many varieties of dango, along with its toppings, and if you’re feeling adventurous on your Japan holiday, you can try to hunt for all kinds. This sweet treat is available at any wagashiya (Japanese sweet store) or convenience store.
5. Okonomiyaki (Japanese-style pancake)
This popular street food is probably most recognisable by the abundance of salmon flakes. As a savoury pancake, okonomiyaki is an ultimate favourite—some Japanese restaurants will even give you the option to prepare your own version. Although this dish is usually associated with the Kansai region, the most popular styles of okonomiyaki actually originated from Osaka and Hiroshima. The traditional and more familiar version that you already know is from Osaka. The Hiroshima style usually adds yakisoba noodles and more cabbage, and the garnish is layered on top of the pancake.
6. Kobe beef skewers
Kobe beef is highly popular due to the stories that come with it—known as one of the best beef out there, with its distinct natural marbling and taste. The juiciness and deliciousness of the meat are said to be the results of the cows’ treatment—it is said that they are massaged every day and given Japanese beer to drink. The reputation of Kobe beef also comes with a hefty price tag. Some might say it’s an overpriced gastronomic experience, but it doesn’t stop tourists from trying out Kobe beef skewers and having a few minutes in foodie heaven.
7. Taiyaki (fish-shaped snack)
If you’re visiting Japan in winter, you might come across this sweet snack more often, since taiyaki is best served warm to give comfort in cold weather. The adorable fish shape is well-known and eye-catching, so it’s impossible to miss. Note that every taiyaki stand has its own version. For instance, one place in Shibuya would serve taiyaki in a cup with vanilla ice cream, and the fish looks like it’s diving into the ice cream.
8. Yakitori (chicken skewers)
Another must-try street food during your culinary visit to Japan is yakitori. It is chicken meat on a bamboo or steel skewer and traditionally grilled on charcoal. This snack is usually sold at a yakitori-ya or street-food stalls called yatai, and it is often enjoyed straight off the skewer while having a nice walk. Afterwards, you can stop by the nearest convenience store for a cold beer to wash it down.
9. Kakigori (icy treat)
Kakigori is actually a dessert that’s well-known around the globe, only by different names. Each country seems to have its own version and name for this shaved ice sweetness—which is most popular during summer, especially at festivals. There is a variety of topping syrups that you can choose to sweeten your icy dessert, along with condensed milk to enhance the flavour. A well-recognised variation of kakigori is called shirokuma, which when translated means “white/polar bear.” Some stories say that the name comes from the shape this dessert has when seen from above.
10. Yakisoba (fried noodles)
Originating from China, this variety of fried noodles found its fame in Japan, where it’s served with a mix of meat and vegetables. The kind of noodle used is the unique signature of this dish. You can choose between ramen noodle (wheat-based) or soba noodle (buckwheat-based). Either way, you’ll have delightful yakisoba. There are two ways to serve this dish. The conventional way is placing the fried noodles and condiments on a plate. The other is in a sandwich form, where yakisoba is served in a special bun along with the garnishes.
Gotta try them all in the streets of Japan
One of the interesting highlights in Japan is its cuisine, and that includes street food—and Shibuya is the perfect place to try them. We have curated the most popular street food in Shibuya for you. Now it’s your turn to plan your Japan holiday!
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