5 Snacks to Try in Japan

Most people associate Japanese food with sushi, rice and noodles. But if you go to Japan, you cannot live by these alone. Well, actually, you could, but you would be missing out on some of these great snacks. If you are going on a trip to Japan, be sure to check out these goodies.

1. Taiyaki

What it is : A fish-shaped pastry, stuffed with red-bean paste

Why it’s better than it sounds : The batter used is basically the same stuff as pancakes. If you get them fresh, they are warm and gooey, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. Red-bean paste sounds weird, but it’s sweet and a bit like jam. Taiyaki also comes in cream filled varieties. Available in some store food courts, festivals, and from vendors in the streets.

2. Takoyaki

What it is : Octopus balls

Why it’s better than it sounds : If you’ve ever had pineapple chicken balls at a Chinese restaurant, you have a pretty good idea of what takoyaki is. Instead of chicken, it’s octopus. And instead of pineapple sauce, it’s topped with a brown sauce and something like mayonnaise. It sounds weird, and it is weird, but tasty. Available in store food courts and festivals.

3. Melon Bread

What it is : Not really melon and not really bread.

Why it’s better than it sounds : It’s basically a big cookie. ‘Melon’ in Japan refers to what most people would call a cantaloupe. This food is called melon bread because it looks like a melon, not because it tastes like one. It consists of a softer dough covered with a thin layer of crisp cookie dough. It comes in chocolate chip, cream-filled, and occasionally, melon flavoured varieties. Available at most convenience stores.

4. Onigiri

What it is : Rice, shaped into a triangle, wrapped in seaweed.

Why it’s better than it sounds : Do you like sushi? That’s basically raw fish on rice that’s been shaped into a ball. Onigiri uses the same rice and the same seaweed that are commonly used in sushi. The main advantage of the onigiri is that it’s portable. They come in different flavours : avoid umeboshi (sour plum) and try the salmon ones. Available from convenience stores and housewives all over Japan.

5. Pocky and Pocky derivatives.

What it is : Stick shaped pretzels, dipped in chocolate

Why it’s better than it sounds : It’s dipped in chocolate. The sticks aren’t quite the same as pretzels, they’re a bit softer and a bit sweeter. Comes in nearly infinite variations, replacing regular chocolate with: strawberry, melon, grape, orange, sweet potato, pineapple etc. flavoured glazes. Pocky without coating is sold as Pretz, which also comes in many different flavours. Available at supermarkets and convenience stores

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Posted on Oct 3, 2010