“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine.
A lot of my friends have recently admitted to me that they fear travelling to the eastern part of the world.
That sense of unfamiliarity frightens them.
That sense of unfamiliarity really excites me. Do not be afraid to travel to the unknown, that is how we learn about the world, about different cultures, languages and from everyone that you meet. Plus as the saying goes “Until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.
Arigato Tours got in touch with us, they’re a tour company offering unique insider tips on what to do and where to eat that are popular with the locals in Tokyo, Osaka, & Kyoto. They have English-speaking tour guides, all of whom are fluent in the native tongue of Japanese (obviously) so for first-timers coming to Tokyo and are alittle overwhelmed with the language difference, rest assured as you are in good hands.
They took us on their All-Star Tokyo Food tour, giving us a master crash course in some of the top places to eat on the walking tour from Yurakucho to Ginza.
First stop was to sample Yakitori. “YAKITORI’ means grilled chicken and is typically skewered with bamboo and cooked over charcoal. We were given the opportunity to try 5 different types some seasoned with a sweet sauce called “tare” and the other with salt “shio.” You would typically find yakitori in izakayas (Informal Japanese bar serving small plates).
Once you have yakitori in Japan, forget what you thought you knew about BBQ because nothing else will compare!
They used different parts of the chicken for each skewer and were all cooked to perfection. Tender, juicy and succulent. We were advised to eat directly off the skewer, and not to remove the meat from the skewer using chopsticks as this was a sign of disrespect. That was never going to be an issue with me! That skewer was going ALL IN MY MOUTH 😛 haha That smoky chargrilled smoke really infused into the chicken, and those that were glazed with that sweet “tare” sauce was smoky, with a hint of bbq flavour and a touch of sweetness really brought out the natural flavour of the chicken. Talk about well balanced flavours! Next we were taken sample a special type of (Satsuma-age) Fish Cake which is a specialty from the South of Japan, Kagoshima. Satsuma-age is a type of fried fishcake and is made from fried-fish first being ground into a paste, which is then seasoned with Kagoshima sake and sugar then shaped and deep fried. So simple, yet it is probably the best fish cake I’ve ever tasted, slightly sweet with a strong but not intense fish flavour.
The final stop was at an izakaya that specialise in food from the South of Japan, the Miyazaki prefecture. What makes this place so special, is that this particular izakaya own their own farm in Miyazaki and grow their own vegetables & rear free-range chickens. Organic produce at it’s best, and you could really taste the difference in absolutely everything. You could sense that from the cucumbers to the chickens, everything was grown & nurtured with care and love.
Deep-fried Courgettes Kampachi Sashimi – This is an amberjack sashimi with some sesame sauce and topped with noriTsukimi steak – Enoki mushrooms bound by minced chicken on a sizzling plate with an eggHere we sampled more dishes than I managed to take photos of.
Personal highlights included:
Takigyoza – this was a hotpot of dumplings with chicken collagen, dashi and topped with yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit). Dashi is a punch of flavour made from fish flakes and seaweed, and has a strong umami flavour. Not only is it healthy but delicious! The dumplings simmered in the broth and were the broth was an intense umami flavour that I have never had before.
Tsukimi steak – Enoki mushrooms dish bound by some minced chicken and topped with a very fresh egg.
I mean just LOOK at that. It sure was a sight for sore eyes.
Soba noodles with fried eggChicken Namban – Their recipe for this deep-fried chicken has won awards all over Japan, but it was the tartar sauce that really stole the show for me. Made from pickles, mayonnaise & eggs paired with the golden armour of the chicken I could have easily eaten the whole plate myself. No sharing.
Tsuke udon with a smoky chargrilled chicken dipping sauce – that smoky flavour was really unique and delicious. Finally, we moved off for dessert. for some Taiyaki. You will see this everywhere in Tokyo, and it was one of my favourite snacks to have.
“Taiyaki” means grilled sea bream, it gets this name because of the shape of the waffle being that of a fish. However it is a sweet dessert usually filled with custard, red bean paste or nowadays matcha custard and strawberry cream. It has been around for over a 1oo years.
We went to a stall where they make the taiyaki fresh to order, and they put a generous dollop of red bean paste inside which is encased in that hot, crispy yet soft waffle. It was the perfect end to an indulgent feast. Thank you Arigato Tours!
If it is you are planning your very first trip to Tokyo, and would love a little guidance be sure to get in touch with Arigato Japan: http://arigatojapan.co.
They have a magnitude of tours to choose from, and you can pick and choose to suit your needs!
You are bound to have an spent 3 hours in great company, whilst discovering those secret spots in the city you might otherwise miss if you were ambling around yourself.
Let them do the hard word for you and let them guide you to various different places to eat, just go on an empty stomach.