More than a year after visiting Japan, I still think about all the great food we had there. Japanese food was one of the best foodie experiences ever. The fresh ingredients, warm breakfasts and ever so creative bento boxes have inspired many of our own culinary attempts.
Here are few of our favourites.
1 Bento boxes
An amazing range of packed lunches of all sorts, whether sushi, tempura, or a mix of salads. After my initial fascination (followed by a shopping spree for all sorts of bento utensils), I am still a big fan of the bento concept. It's more than just a lunch box - it's a little box of pleasure you treat yourself with, whether you make one or buy it.
Onigiri is a little rice triangle with different fillings (think tuna, salmon, sour plum and weird stuff), wrapped in a crispy nori (seaweed) sheet. The secret for the nori to stay crispy is a little plastic wrap between it and the rice: remove the wrap before sinking your teeth into your 10 minutes of pleasure.
Onigiri is becoming a popular snack also in Europe: we've recently tried the ones in Berlin, but they weren't that good.
To choose your onigiri, follow the colour coding: usually blue for tuna, pink for salmon, and different shades of brown for the weird stuff (sea urchins, plums, other - the colour codes can be different in different onigiri brands, making for the occasional surprise).
3. Sushi & Sashimi
It's hard to get enough of it, and you don't have to. Sushi-like dishes in Japan are not only tasty but also very affordable. You will find the best sushi restaurants in train stations and shopping malls. The dishes are freshly made (and upon request if you have your favourite). The best sushi ever was in the basement of Kyoto train station.
Unlike most soy products you can find in European stores and restaurants, the Japanese ones taste (and look) way better than fried washing sponge or slimy tasteless blob.
In fact, soy in Japan (and Asia) tastes so good, you feel you could eat it every day. Soy skin is widely used, whether as a main dish or as part of yummy sushi. We were especially impressed with Yuba, rolled soy skin, in Nikko, a local speciality you shouldn't miss. When there check out the suicide waterfalls.
To quote one of our friends:
I don't like Japanese whisky. Must they really be better in everything?
There is nothing bad to say about Japanese whisky. That's probably also the reason it gets golden awards year after year. We visited the Yamazaki distillery and were pleasantly surprised. People there were extremely friendly, the museum has a substantial whisky library (yes, you read that right), the tour is very educational and includes whisky tasting.
Yamazaki 10, Hakushu, Hibiki. Whether you like your whisky smoky or soft, you will fall in love.
All I can say is, Japan, you taste so good.