There’s nothing quite like the incredible tastes, scents and sizzle you find when you happen upon street vendors, whether you’re exploring the streets of a city or happen upon a cultural festival. If you find yourself in the right place at the right time, there are a slew of Japanese cultural festivals that offer an incredible opportunity to experience the local cuisines from around Japan. Assorted stalls – known as yatai – pop up and offer an assortment of deliciously different foods you’ll want to try. Trying a little bit of everything is an important part of the festival atmosphere, and a great way to have an authentic Japanese experience. As the world begins to open back up and you’re able to get out there you’re sure to find some new treats you’ll want to try making at home. On your taste journey don’t miss these 9 favorites!
First popularized in Osaka, these tasty fried balls of dough are typically filled with diced octopus (tako) and green onion and tempura, brushed with a savory sauce, then topped with dried fish flakes. Takoyaki are prepared in special cast iron pans that make watching the vendor prepare them part of the experience.
Literally “fried noodle” in Japanese, yakisoba is a stir-fry dish usually prepared on a flattop grill with pork and cabbage. Toppings including fish flakes, seaweed, and a sweet-and-savory sauce. Quick and delicious, this take on street noodles has been showing up in food stalls in Japan since the 1930s. It’s filling enough to enjoy as a meal, or great to share so you can leave more room to try even more items on our list!
Is any list of street food complete without a take on chicken skewers? This Japanese version has its own spin on the portable treat. The skewer is typically made of steel or bamboo, and the meat itself is prepared using all parts of the bird – including tail meat, neck, and liver – then grilled over a charcoal fire and served with a variety of sauces. As lovers of sauces, we here at Yamasa approve.
Ikayaki is a fast food very specific to Japan. This grilled squid treat, when served at festivals, is typically an entire squid on a stick, grilled and served with lemon and shoyu. These simple skewered treats show off the amazing taste of fresh Japanese seafood and it’s a great example of where our shoyu enhances the dish without overpowering it.
The humble sweet potato becomes a street food star when roasted over a wood or charcoal fire, which renders the spuds smoky, toasty, and super satisfying. Often roasted in heat stones and served wrapped in newspapers, these stone baked potatoes are most popular in the wintertime in Japan, a perfect snack to warm you up on a chilly day.
What’s more delectable than a sweet and savory corn on the cob? This seasonal Japanese street food has a distinctly Japanese touch. Roasted sweet corn is boiled and grilled with miso, seasoned with shoyu and butter, then and served on a stick. Expect a long line at this spot.
These Japanese croquettes are mashed potato cakes that are coated with panko and deep-fried. Inspired by French croquettes, they’ve got a delicious crispy crust with warm, creamy potato inside. Korokke are also available with a variety of fillings, including ground meat, vegetables and seafood. They may not be the healthiest thing you’ll eat, but they’re a must-try at least once.
Another treat from Osaka, Okonomiyaki (Japanese for “as you like it”) is compared by some to a pancake. By others, to a kind of pizza. Okonomiyaki starts with cabbage in a loose batter, which is filled and topped to taste with popular choices like vegetables, bacon, cheese, chicken, and squid. Top it with green onions and a sauce like Yamasa shoyu or katsu and dig into this filling favorite. Given its name, it’s no surprise that part of what makes Okonomiyaki so popular is its endless adaptability.
Senbei are a very special type of Japanese rice cracker. While you may see versions of Senbei these days in your grocery store, the street food version is something unique. These savory crackers are traditionally baked or grilled over charcoal, then brushed with a flavoring sauce like shoyu or mirin. It’s a tasty snack on its own or a great accompaniment to all the other bites you’ll be enjoying!
Japanese cuisine is known for always being crafted with care. Chefs – from yatai vendors to fine dining – rely on great ingredients like authentic shoyu to make their creations memorable. When you get home and start recreating your street food favorites for friends and family, you’ll appreciate having Yamasa Shoyu, Teriyaki and Katsu on hand to take almost any dish you try from good to amazing.