Japanese cuisine is highly seasonal, with many dishes using ingredients only available at the right time. Modern technology has eased this burden, but it is still traditional to eat certain foods at certain times of year.
Special thanks to Kuniko Saito's player for contributing the Winter entry of this guide! Special thanks to the playerbase of Battle Fantasia for contributing to the Summer entry of this guide! And more character (un)favorite foods are always welcome!!
Some in Japan call autumn the 'season for eating.' Coming off the heat of summer, there's a trend towards savory dishes that celebrate the bountiful harvest, and nice warm comfort food to eat as the weather turns colder.
Sanma (literal translation 'autumn knife fish'), or Pacific Saury, are sleekly silver fish that rise fat and juicy for fishermen in the fall, considered an iconic centerpiece of autumn cuisine. They are typically served whole (even as sushi!), and when cooked, sanma are seasoned with salt and grilled over a charcoal fire. The crispy skin is a much-beloved part of the experience, often garnished with soy sauce. In early September, Tokyo's Meguro district holds a festival where many thousands of charcoal-grilled sanma are given away for free tasting!
Satsumaimo, or Japanese sweet potatoes, are purple on the outside, bright yellow on the inside, and are drier in texture, but sweeter and creamier in taste, than yams. Traditionally, they are roasted whole, on hot stones outside (lending themselves well to the centerpiece of a scene where characters tend, then consume, their roasting sweet potatoes while raking leaves or otherwise enjoying the season; they are also sold, steaming hot, out of the open backs of minivans, by men who attract their customers by singing an iconic lamenting song). Satsumaimo are also popular fried, mashed, or boiled. The stereotypical consequence of overeating satsumaimo is a popular source of fart jokes among the young (and sometimes the old).
Kabocha are essentially Japanese pumpkins. On the outside they're green rather than orange, and on the inside they're somewhat sweeter than the Western squash, with a rich, butternut flavor. In the fall, they're made into soups, barbecued, battered and fried as tempura (alongside maple leaves, Momiji Tempura, an unusual autumn treat!), and, yes, even used in Western-style pies.
- The most classic comfort food preparation of kabocha, however, is as a filling for breaded and fried croquettes, locally called korokke -- kabocha (also, satsumaimo) korokke are an often-homemade autumn snack. Watch out for the hot oil when it pops! Independent of season, korokke made with regular potatoes, or sometimes with ground meat, are popular throughout the year, and are sold at delightfully hot temperatures for pocket change prices at the konbini.
Matsutake pine mushrooms are the most prominent of the fungi that, nurtured by summer's high humidity, pop up for harvesting in the fall. Impossible to cultivate, they're highly prized and very expensive, starting at a hundred thousand yen per pound for the premium grade, and occupy a similar position of honor in Japanese cuisine as truffles do to the French. To make a few matsutake mushrooms stretch a long way, they are popularly featured in a seafood broth soup called Matsutake Dobin Mushi, which is served in a clay teapot. When eaten whole, their delicate, smoky flavor is best preserved by grilling them on an open flame, and they are sometimes sprinkled over rice. Cheaper mushrooms are also popular in autumn, with hearty mushroom broth sometimes replacing the standard cup of miso soup served alongside a meal.
Kaki, or Japanese persimmons, are ubiquitous in the fall, a sweet and tangy fruit found ripening on trees all over the country. Making a day out of a kaki picking trip is a common weekend treat. Besides eating them straight off the tree, they are often served chilled, or dusted with sugar and dried (a treat called hoshigaki).
Kuri, also commonly called by their French name maron, are Japanese chestnuts (with a similar omnipresence to kaki, seen on trees everywhere, but an entirely different taste -- creamy, sweet and rich). They're usually sold uncooked so that they can be prepared at home, but you can get bags of roasted kuri at your supermarket or konbini for a good sidewalk snack. Roasting your own at the end of a trip to a kuri picking farm makes for a good finale to a September day!
- Shinmai, or "new rice," comprises the first harvests of rice in autumn. Shinmai is said to be moister, sweeter, and more beautiful than ordinary rice, and starting in late September one of the best ways to prepare it is with kuri boiled alongside rice in the pot, creating a hearty sticky rice dish (kuri-gohan) with a tiny dose of sweetness. Gingko nuts are also a popular shinmai topping, because of their subtle flavor, which allows the rice's unique qualities to shine through.
- Boxes of kuri-kinton, or candied chestnuts, are popular gifts for friends and family in autumn -- in this treat, kuri are steamed, mashed, combined with sugar, then twisted into a bun shape. The snack is popularly enjoyed with a cup of hot tea. Kuri are also used in many other Japanese sweets, including kuri-manju cakes.
The prototypical dish for winter cuisine in Japan is the hot pot, also known as nabemono. Ingredients are combined in a pot and boiled, forming a rich broth; it is typically shared, with individual diners plucking out their favored morsels, and the broth typically mixed with rice at the end and consumed as a final course. Eating nabemono with your friends would be an excellent reason for a social scene; gather together, stick your legs underneath the kotatsu, and enjoy the warmth of friendship and flavor.
Nabemono is very versatile. Indeed, the name can be translated as "cooking pot stuff." Here are some common styles of nabemono; all of them can be considered to have vegetables such as bok choy and daikon involved, as well as varieties of mushroom.
- Sukiyaki: Thinly sliced beef (sometimes pork) simmered with vegetables and a soy sauce/sugar/sweet rice wine sauce. Before eating, the hot ingredients are usually dipped in a small bowl of raw beaten egg. Common at year-end parties and suitable for all ages.
- Shabu-shabu: Thin sliced beef is boiled in water or broth and eaten with dipping sauces. This dish may be considered similar to the "fondue" style meals available in America. It is quite suitable for service with fine ingredients, particularly wagyu beef and other marks of conspicuous consumption.
- Yosenabe: A combination style of nabemono which combines all sorts of things and cooks them well together: meat, seafood, tofu, egg, and vegetables. A common "homestyle" meal, often with a thicker sauce than is typical for nabemono.
- Yudofu: Nabemono prepared in a kombu stock and featuring tofu as the primary protein, with citrus and spicy sauces. Socially considered as vegetarian, though small amounts of fish are typically involved.
- Chankonabe: A nabemono dish that is a common restaurant meal, it was originally a heavy dish eaten by sumo wrestlers to put on weight efficiently. Very high in protein, often with chicken, fish, beef and various vegetables, chankonabe is a good meal for growing young'ns when served in less heroic proportions.
- Ishikari-nabe: A Hokkaido specialty, this hot pot features salmon and potato as well as butter.
Oden is another characteristic winter dish, prepared in a manner similar to hot pot but made available as its own individual dish in many venues. Featuring boiled eggs, daikon, fishcakes and a soy/dashi broth, most convenience stores have a bubbling pot of oden to sell by the cup during the winter months.
Tori zosui is another winter favorite; a thick rice soup with chicken, often prepared with leftover rice and served with sliced scallions on top. It's an excellent and popular way to warm up after a bitterly cold day.
There are also some specifically traditional holiday dishes, associated with an individual day or days. Your character is likely to eat them, and may well help prepare them!
- Christmas Cake: These cakes are typically a simple sponge cake, frosted with whipped cream and decorated with strawberries plus a chocolate plate that says "Merry Christmas!" Something of a more structured strawberry shortcake. It is eaten on Christmas Eve, which is, in Japan, typically celebrated as a romantic holiday a la Western Valentine's Day, and is thus perhaps the hardest night of the year to get a table at a nice restaurant. Yule Log cakes are also popular.
- KFC: There is a tradition of obtaining Kentucky Fried Chicken meals as a Christmas dish, in part because turkey is an absolute unknown in Japan. A 1974 advertising campaign started a tradition, and now a bucket of KFC "Christmas Chicken" (with salad and a cake) is typical fare on Christmas, often ordered months in advance to beat the lines.
- Osechi ryori: An umbrella term for food prepared specially for the New Year's period, these dishes come in a huge range of ingredients that are meant to encourage good luck and fortune for the upcoming year. They are typically sweet, sour, dried or otherwise preserved, as they come from a time before refrigeration was common, and when many markets would be closed for some time. Traditionally, nothing should be cooked on New Year's Day, so the preparation of osechi is finished before New Year's Eve. Osechi ryori is arguably the most important meal of the year, with each dish serving as a symbol or wish for the coming year. The food is even eaten in a special way by using chopsticks that are rounded on both ends; one side for the humans to use, one side for the gods. There are so many varieties that space would prohibit easy discussion. A more detailed discussion is present at Wikipedia including a plan for a three-tiered "jubako" box.
- Toshikoshi soba: This is eaten at night on New Year's Eve. A simple meal with buckwheat soba with toppings such as seaweed, fried tofu, or vegetables. The long noodles are said to symbolize a long life, their consumption representing "crossing over from one year to the next," the meaning of toshi-koshi. Another theory is that it is very simple to make - a relief after preparing several days' worth of osechi for the upcoming celebrations! It is often considered bad luck to leave any of your toshikoshi soba uneaten.
- O-zoni: A soup eaten during on the morning of New Year's Day, considered very lucky, featuring local ingredients and lots of mochi. While many areas have their own specialties, the typical Kanto-area meal uses a soy sauce/dashi broth, squared and grilled mochi, and meat and vegetables to preference.
- Nanakusu gayu: Eaten on January 7th, this is a collection of seven wild edible herbs eaten with rice in order to ease the stomach after all of the things listed above, which have been eaten over the course of several weeks.
Spring cuisine is all about appreciating the beginning of the growing season, as shoots and ferns unfurl from the ground, and petals blossom on fruit trees. These events are cause for major public celebrations, and, in turn, the fruits and vegetables in question are heavily featured in a variety of dishes.
Besides the bounty of the rich brown earth, there are naturally seasonal selections from the deep blue sea:
- Tai, or Red Sea Bream, are rich-tasting fish that are in season in spring, and famously symbolize good luck in Japan. Besides eating them as sashimi or grilled with salt, Tai-chasuke is a dish where tai is served on rice with dashi fish stock poured on top.
- For people who can't abide the fish, but still want their good luck, there is also Taiyaki, a traditional Japanese sweet named after and shaped like tai. They're filled with anko (sweet red azuki bean paste), and often served at cherry blossom viewing parties (called hanami).
- Ika (Squid) is available good and fresh throughout the year, they're sweetest in the spring. Hotaru-Ika (firefly squid) are particularly popular served as a snack accompanying drinks, prepared in a variety of ways, including as sashimi, sauted, or boiled in soy sauce.
- Magaki (Pacific Oysters) are in season from late winter to spring, where they become bigger and sweeter. They're often served in an all-you-can-eat format, grilled, steamed, or even fried.
Sansai are much-beloved Japanese mountain vegetables that sprout in spring and are enthusiastically consumed. Many are picked from the wild; indeed, most are difficult to cultivate on a mass scale, and they're often quite bitter and tough until boiled or otherwise processed to consume. Besides serving them raw in salads, seared on the grill, or battered and fried as tempura, there are numerous specific dishes unique to a given mountain vegetable.
- Nanohana are the young spring shoots of rapeseed plants; though they're available in plain green at supermarkets for most of the year (and are closely related to broccoli -- the florets, stems and leaves are all edible), in spring they are prized for their bright yellow flower buds, which arrive in late March, in between the plum and cherry blossoms. Wandering through yellow fields of nanohana is a much-beloved practice, and fields outside of Tokyo are planted and sculpted into mazes, not unlike corn mazes in North America during Halloween. Unlike many sansai, nanohana isn't bitter or tough, so no pretreatment is required to enjoy it. Flowering nanohana is traditionally used as a side dish called ohitashi, where it is briefly boiled until tender, and served with soy sance, dashi, bonito flakes and/or toasted sesame seeds. Karashiae is a similar dish, but the soy sauce is seasoned with spicy mustard.
- Takenoko (literally "child of bamboo") is a bamboo shoot, which can only be picked in a very tight window of the correct size and tenderness. Even then, takenoko must be boiled in rice bran water (with a couple of hot chili peppers added to, paradoxically, increase the bamboo's sweetness) for over an hour, to soften the flesh and reduce its bitterness. Takenoko-gohan, or bamboo shoot rice, involves steaming precooked takenoko in rice (sometimes with fried tofu and shiitake mushrooms), flavored with soy sauce, dashi, mirin (sweet rice wine) sake and sugar. As a solo entree, larger pieces of bamboo cooked in a similar seasoning blend are served as takenoko no nimono ("simmered bamboo shoots"). Takenoko is also featured prominently in stir fry, in the spring.
- Other sansai, essentially all of which require advance parboiling, include Fuki (Butterbur), in which both the stalks and buds are used; spiraling, curled Kogomi (Ostrich Ferns) which are blanched and simmered; Shungiku (Spring Chrysanthemum) which are often served with a sesame dressing, or added to soups and hot pots; Tara no Me (the fresh shoots of the Angelica tree, sometimes called the "king" of sansai) which are particularly popular as tempura; Wasabina (Wasabi Mustard Greens) often used in salads; and Yama Udo (Mountain Asparagus) which is typically thinly sliced and pickled in miso, vinegar and sugar, or, if served fresh, can be grilled or sauteed.
Ichigo (strawberries) are in season in Japan from December to March, making them the go-to fruit for early spring. They're much beloved for their ability to brighten up this dreary time of year, and appear everywhere, in everything. Particularly fancy breeds of premium berry are marketed as high class gifts in department stores, but anyone can buy normal strawberries -- including going out to greenhouses to pick them, a spring activity known as ichigo kari.
- Daifuku are a very popular traditional Japanese sweet, comprised of a glutinous rice ball filled with sweet white or red anko, but in spring, they're sold with an entire strawberry inside, and called ichigo daifuku. These are hawked from the food stall to the konbini and back again, and are best enjoyed with a cup of green tea.
- Strawberry shortcakes in Japan are sponge cake and whipped cream layer cakes with fresh strawberries between the layers and on top (Christmas cakes are usually strawberry shortcakes), which is a little different from the cake with the same name in the West.
Ume, the Japanese plum, is the first major tree to blossom in spring, and its flowering is avidly anticipated by the populace (though without quite the intensity of the excitement surrounding sakura blossoms, see below). Accompanying all this hype are uses of its fruit flavor. Since ume is often pickled as unbelivably sour, salty umeboshi, it's available year-round, but when the weather starts to warm and spring is around the corner, ume-flavored chips (which are sort of like fruity salt and vinegar chips) and other snacks and sweets, appear on the shelves of the supermarkets and konbini.
Sakura blossoms are the main event for the celebration of the arrival of spring (even though ume come first and are also celebrated separately). In Tokyo, they begin to bloom in April, and as the public eagerly follows the cherry blossom front (as forecasted by the weather bureau, as it moves from South to North) to find out exactly when the blossoms will pop, you'll find sakura-flavored (or at least sakura-colored) everything; there's Sakura Kit Kats, Starbooks lattes, donuts, tarts, roll cakes, ice cream, taiyaki, mochi, and more. Sakura fever turns the shelves of the supermarket bright pink.
- Sakura-mochi is the iconic traditional sweet associated with hanami (as well as Hinamatsuri, the Girls' Festival, celebrated on March 3rd); it is the sweet, pink mochi of spring, wrapped around anko and topped with an edible leaf from a sakura tree (which is the only part of the sweet, actually, that involves actual sakura).
Hanami (literally, "flower viewing") is the traditional Japanese custom of throwing a party under flowering trees (especially sakura trees) in order to properly appreciate the blossoms in the brief time that they're around -- only a week or two a year! People gather in huge numbers, play or listen to music, and hold elaborate feasts on picnic blankets. Although there are often food stalls in larger parks, preparing and packing your own food is common, making this a great place to discuss bento, the Japanese boxed lunch.
- Making yourself a great lunchbox is satisfying, but the true importance of bento comes from the feelings you put into preparing them for other people. It's a chance to imbue love into every bite -- parents make bento for their children if they can, and giving a specially prepared bento to a friend (or crush!) is a great demonstration of affection.
- Bento boxes (which can, themselves, vary greatly, ranging from elegant to cute to steadfastly functional to straight-up disposable -- and the same is all true of the chopsticks packed with them) are usually designed with a few subdivisions, to separate small portions of multiple dishes, such as rice, meat, and pickled or cooked vegetables. Everything tends to be served in bite-sized pieces, for convenience, and it's not uncommon for individual pieces of food to be cut into whimsical shapes, such as apple-rabbits, hot dog-octopi, and so forth.
- Taking the decorative element one step further, kyaraben ("character bento," as in anime/manga character) and okekakiben ("picture bento") arrange all of the elements of a bento into a recognizable image. Such meals require snapping a picture on your cell phone to immortalize your beautiful lunch before eating it!
- Not all bento are made by a loved one; anyone can buy bento from convenience stores or supermarkets, and some restaurants specialize in takeout bento. You can even purchase bento at railway stations (ekiben), which is a surprisingly old tradition with a huge variety of offerings, where local specialties compete for the appetites of travelers. Purchasing a box lunch at a station shop -- or while on a train, for longer trips -- remains one of the special treats of Japanese railway travel.
Executive summary about the themes of summer cuisine in Japan.
- Somen -- Mikoto
- Nagashi somen
- Zaru somen
- A non-somen cold noodle way to beat the heat is with Hiyashi Chuka (literally, 'Chilled Chinese'), a cold pasta salad composed of ramen noodles, arranged artfully (and VERY colorfully) with vegetable (and sometimes meat) garnish. Thinly sliced carrots, cucumbers and tomatoes are popular toppings, and ham and shrimp are not unheard of. Some chilled sour soup broth is drizzled on top. Konbini serve prepackaged Hiyashi Chuka with a hardboiled egg.
- Hiyayakko (sometimes called hiyakko or yakko-dofu) is chilled tofu, served with various toppings; its name refers to the servants of samurai in the Edo period. Chopped green onion, dried tuna flakes, and soy sauce are one common combination of toppings, but you can also find hiyayakko topped with shiso, yuzu rind, daikon, ginger, plum paste, or even mustard.
- Rei shabu is a pork dish, related to the popular wintertime shabu-shabu (a hot pot) - though rei shabu is more akin to a cold pork salad. Unlike regular shabu-shabu, the vegetables of rei shabu - things like daikon, cucumbers, tomatos, green beans and carrots - are raw, and the thinly-sliced pork, once boiled, is dipped in ice water to cool it down. Rei shabu is served with a variety of cold sauces, like miso or sesame sauce, and is sometimes served with somen noodles.
- Unagi or freshwater eel is a common ingredient in Japanese cooking, although it's also so highly prized that there's a day in midsummer when one is expected to eat unagi (specifically doyou no ushi no hi, the midsummer day of the Ox from the Chinese zodiac cycle; it may fall anywhere between mid-July to early August). Since eating raw eel poses a high risk of food poisoning, unagi is always cooked, frequently grilled. In particular, the cooking style known as kabayaki involves splitting the eel along either the back or the belly, gutting and boning it, cutting it into square filets, skewering, and dipping in a sweet soy sauce-based sauce prior to broiling on the grill. Once unagi has been cooked, it may be served donburi-style over rice (which includes the dish known as unaju), or torn up and mixed with the rice to make hitsumabushi, which is especially popular in the Nagoya area.
- Watermelons are considered a luxury in Japan, and are grown accordingly by farmers as a gut-pleasing treat. The rind is thinner and the flesh around the seeds are sweeter as compared to their Western counterparts. As such you can find them in many unusual shapes(cube, face, Godzilla egg!?) which can make them ornamental and expensive. The Densuke watermelon of Hokkaido considered to be the ferrari of these tasty treats with prices ranging up to 400,000 yen. However their luxurious nature makes them the perfect gift to offer your favorite senpai during the hotter months of the year! Summer gatherings and festivals aren't complete without a round of Suikawari(Watermelon Splitting).
- Suikawari: A game between friends where a person is handed a wooden stick or bokken, blindfolded, spun three times then told to have at it. ’Official’ Rules for Suikawari:
- Players placed between 5-7m away from the watermelon.
- Blindfold tested with large yen bills.(May not apply to the 'Ohtori' rich.)
- Time Limit of 3 minutes.
- Scoring determined on how clean a break was made.
- Melon collectively devoured after break is made for bonding between friends.
- Kakigori is shaved ice covered in flavored syrup like strawberry, lemon, melon, bubblegum, or a variety of other festive flavors, along with actual toppings like mochi, sweetened red beans, fruit slices, or even ice cream. Unlike a snow cone Kakigori is soft, cloud-like, and without much texture. Kakigori is a popular dessert when on the go, and many summer festival food stalls can be found shaving gigantic blocks of ice into this cool, fluffy treat.
- Garigari-kun is a particularly popular brand of Japanese ice pop. At a glance, they are similar enough to any other ice cream bar, coming individually packaged (at a reasonable price!) with a large-mouthed mascot. Within is a slab of ice milk on a stick, notable for having bits of ice intentionally included to give it that gari-gari crunch. The most notable aspect of these treats is the variety of flavour - while fruit and soda flavours are commonly available, Gari Gari Kun is infamous for limited-time flavours such as Onsen Manju, Cream Pull, Rare Cheese, or Spaghetti Napolitan. Yes, really. And if your stick says Atari (winner), you can get another one for free!
- Mugicha (barley tea) is just the thing to cool a person down on a hot summer's day, or even a hot summer's night, since it's caffeine-free. Plain mugicha is a mellow brown color and has a savory, roasted taste with a touch of bitterness; sometimes it's sweetened with sugar. It can be purchased at any konbini or made at home using roasted barley teabags.
- Ramune -- Lera Camry
- Umeshu is an aromatic liqueur made by steeping unripened ume fruits (Japanese plums) in alcohol (typically shouchu, also called white liqueur, but also sake, brandy, whisky, or other liqueurs) and sugar, with a refreshingly sweet, tangy taste. Its alcohol content varies with the drink used: usually around 10-15% ALC, about the same as wine or mead, or, at its strongest, diluted sake, but sometimes as low as 5% (similar to many beers) or as high as 25% (like undiluted sake, or fortified wine). It is believed that umeshu has many health benefits; it's said to relieve exhaustion, promote digestive health, and stimulate the appetite. The legal drinking age in Japan is 20, but due to lax enforcement, it's relatively easy to gain access to alcohol for enterprising students, largely through convenience stores or umeshu brewed at home (which is quite easy!), or sometimes through vending machines, though these are becoming less common. The umeshu-tasting festivals do reportedly check identification at entry! Of course, there's always nonalcoholic umeshu - though some brands are reported not to taste much like umeshu at all.
Summer is the season of festivals so let's do a food stall feature!
- Yakitori -- literally grilled chicken, but not necessarily chicken! The important part is it's bite-sized food on skewers, grilled over charcoal. It's a regular festival and event food, and also popular to have while drinking! It's pretty ubiquitous. Generally it's going to be meat charred on sticks, often (maybe even mostly) with vegetables as well. It might go with salt, but with tend to have sauce; 'tare' sauce is one option, a mix of sake, soy sauce, mirin, and sugar, but the idea is something sweet and savory. The particular cut of meat isn't all that important--while the most traditional is chicken, as mentioned it might have beef, octopus, or sausage just as a start.
- Fish on a stick! That's not just an exclamation, it's also sweetfish, or Ayu - a freshwater fish with a light texture. Often seen at fireworks displays, it's a popular festival snack associated with summertime. Grilled or barbequed, it's topped with salt, and its crispy outer flesh hides a distinctive sweet taste. Some people even say it tastes similar to a watermelon! It's served whole, and it is artfully placed on a stick in a wavelike swimming shape, to give an impression of swimming up against a current.
- Karaage -- While the Curse of the Colonel is infamous amongst baseball fans in Japan, don’t mistake Western fried chicken for Karaage. Karaage is fried chicken where flavors like sake, soy sauce, garlic or ginger are added to the chicken before the flour is added rather than simply into the flour itself. This process adds a juiciness to the meat that Kentucky Fried Chicken simply lacks! While this frying style was originally from China, it’s been adapted into something uniquely Japanese that they can be proud of. Each region of Japan has it’s own regional twist on this delicious treat such as Nagoya’s spicy version or Gifu’s karaage that’s black due to a type of algae mixed in.
- Takoyaki is a crispy savoury snack made of diced boiled octopus legs covered in a wheat flour-based batter, shaped into balls. While octopus is the operative ingredient - it's right there in the name! - takoyaki can also contain things like seasonal vegetables, tempura scraps (or tenkasu), pickled ginger, and green onion. It's typically served with okonomi sauce - a sweeter and less salty cousin of Worcestershire sauce - and mayonnaise, but can also be served with goma-dare (sesame and vinegar sauce) or ponzu (soy sauce, with dashi and citrus vinegar), amongst other variations. It originated in Osaka, but is now popular throughout Japan. Takoyaki is typically eaten by stabbing the ball with a toothpick, and served in paper dishes which resemble boats. It's also served piping hot, so be careful not to eat too quickly!
- Ikayaki -- Pluto
- Hotate Butter Yaki
- Okonomiyaki is a pancake or omelette-like dish served, much like their comparisons, with a variety of toppings and fillings. There are two main ways this savory dish is served! the Osaka-style has the extra chosen toppings mixed in to the batter and cooked together and pan-fried, served much like a stuffed griddle cake. The Hiroshima-style version serves it much like a layered cake, with the chosen extra toppings stacked on top of the batter cake one after another. Cabbage, green onion and pork seem to be the most common ingredients, but locations that serve the dish have many different ingredients on request, such as vegetables, seafood (such as octopus, shrimp, and squid) beef, and cheeses. Certain locations offer more unique varieties such as with fried noodles or chicken!
- Yakisoba is stir-fried noodles, plain and simple. While sometimes made with buckwheat soba noodles, most servings are prepared with thinner ramen-style noodles, making it quick and easy to prepare. The dark sweet-and-savoury sauce gives the fried dish a tang, and diced vegetables and meat are usually thrown in - ranging from chicken to pork to hot dogs to Spam, depending on the locality. While an actual dish is sometimes used, the festival food is commonly served on a humble paper plate - or in a bun, for a meal on the go.
- Yakitomorokoshi is just corn on the cob (on a stick), except that it isn't 'just' anything. Rather than being boiled, buttered and salted, its preparation is uniquely Japanese. After a brief boil to soften it up, chefs throw their corn on a charcoal grill and brush the corn's surface with some combination of soy sauce, mirin and sugar, which forms a glaze. The smell is amazing, somehow nutty, salty and sweet at the same time, and many a customer is led to this stall by simply following their nose.
- Tai is a spring fish but taiyaki is as valid an entry at any summer festival as it is at hanami viewing. These traditional Japanese pastries are shaped like the fish they're named after, and are somewhere between a waffle and a cake, stuffed with sweet azuki red bean paste (or, more recently, custard, chocolate, or even cheese or meat). Part of the fun of taiyaki at festivals is that you get to see them made in specially molded griddles, right there in the stall -- and the art of flipping over a half-baked 'fish' with a chopstick without getting batter and filling everywhere is fine, indeed...
- Crepes - A popular street food that can be sweet or savory, although the sweet variety is more popular in Japan. They are often served as a cone and filled with cream or custard and a kind of fruit such as banana, strawberry, blueberry, peach, kiwi or apple. They can also be filled with ice cream, chestnuts or almonds,or if someone if filling very decadent a cake topping such as cheesecake, brownie or chocolate cake. A sauce is drizzled among the inner folds and over the top of the crepe such as strawberry jam, chocolate, caramel, nutella or kuromitsu. The more savory kind of crepe, often just called 'snack crepes' often include tuna, egg, bacon, cheese, sausage, ham, spinach or chicken as their filling and then topped off with a sauce such as Japanese mayonnaise, curry sauce, pizza sauce, teriyaki sauce or even salsa.
- Dango -- Dumplings made of rice flour called Mochiko and served on sticks with many regional varieties of the sweet treat(or savory in Gifu where they’re served with soy sauce!). The Japanese have been eating dango since the Jomon period and how they’re served has evolved over time. Offerings of dango are made during special festivals to the kami for purification purposes before taking them home and eating them for good luck. It’s referenced in the odango hairstyle(o- is honorific) which in Japan can be conflated with any variety of bun. Just watch out calling anyone sporting this kind of hairstyle odango-atama(bun-head or dumpling-head) unless you’re charming enough to get away with it.
- Jaga bata means butter potato, and it's pretty much exactly that -- potatoes, steamed in wood ovens, and stuffed with butter, salt, and soy sauce. It's especially popular to use the smaller 'reject' potatoes for this purpose, turning them into a nearly bite-sized street food, but the paper boats they come in sometimes just have one big potato instead.
- Karumeyaki, or grilled caramel, is a mixture of egg whites, sugar (brown or white), baking soda and water. It's similar to French and Italian meringues, and has a taste and texture similar to honeycomb and meringue cookies. It's often sold in Japanese festivals (matsuri), where it can be cooked on portable burners or simply sold in packets. There are other flavors as well, such as coffee or vanilla. Freshly made Karumeyaki ends in a ball with a crispy crust that melts in one's mouth when eaten.
- Castella (or kasutera) is a fairly simple sponge cake, made with sugar, flour, eggs, and starch syrup. Their creation dates back to Portugese merchants in the 16th century, and the modern Japanese castella cake is a specialty of Nagasaki owing to this connection. Full-sized castella can be bought year-round, but the bite-sized baby castella (bebi kasutera) is a popular festival snack. Besides the plain recipe, there are varieties made with powdered green tea, brown sugar, honey, etc.
- Wata-ame or watagashi is cotton candy, usually very similar to the Western version, also known as fairy floss or candy floss in various parts of the world. Sugar which has been melted into a liquid state, and flavorings and/or colorings added, is spun into tiny strands, and gathered on a stick to serve, sometimes covered with a decorative plastic bag (usually adorned with anime or other artwork) for protection until it's eaten. Wata-ame dissolves quickly in contact with water and readily melts again in high heat, so it's not something to save for much later!
- Ringo Ame
- Ichigo Ame
- Mikan Ame
- Ume Ame
- Choco bananas are frozen banana treats, covered in chocolate. While the chocolate is traditionally milk chocolate, there are also varieties made with white chocolate, strawberry chocolate, or other varieties - which can make for a dazzling rainbow of snacks. They're often topped with sprinkles, nuts, coconut flakes, or other sweets. Don't worry about getting your hands dirty, because they're served on sticks, just like toffee apples. Choco bananas are staples of Summer festivals, and they're a common sight in stalls.
Everybody has a favorite food -- and often it isn't just the food, but the story of why they like it, who they like it prepared by, and where and when they most like to eat it.
- Add your character's favorite food to this bullet list -- one long paragraph recommended. Please include your character's name and both a cultural summary of the food and its particular significance and specifics for the character. It's okay if your food was mentioned already elsewhere in the guide -- no two bowls of ramen are alike, after all.
- Adrien's favorite food is pizza with his favorite toppings being cheese, mushrooms, pepperoni and sausage. Due to his carefully watch model diet, he doesn't get to have it often, but it's a delightful treat for him when it does. It especially becomes an even more favorite when his friends invite him to go and share a pizza with them. It's just how it's like from the shows he watched on tv!
- Eri Shimanouchi's favorite foods are Okonomiyaki and Modanyaki. Although she's been a vegetarian since starting middle school, her love of these varieties of Osakan soulfood hasn't changed, as it reminds her of happier times during her youth. Instead she's just sworn off red meat varieties and substitutes seafood instead. It is extremely rare for her to eat it in front of friends though because she's embarrassed about how messily she eats it. Her favorite location for it is a small grill in Ogikubo Tokyo, which was within walking distance from her former territory in Shinjuku.
- Fuu Hououji's favorite food is tessa, fugu sashimi which has been sliced so thinly that it's almost transparent. Only specially trained and licensed sushi chefs are even allowed to prepare tessa, due to the potential danger of pufferfish poisoning; as such, it's an expensive luxury dish, not something that even the Hououji family goes out for very often - but that rarity is part of why Fuu enjoys it so much, when she has the opportunity. (In an interesting bit of irony, the Emperor of Japan is forbidden by law from ever eating fugu out of concern for his health, making Fuu's favorite dish something that the Emperor himself can never eat.)
- Hotaru Tomoe's favorite food is nihon soba, buckwheat noodles. They're a very plain and easily digestible meal, but that isn't why Hotaru likes them; rather, it's because she associates them with the tradition of staying up late at night on New Years Eve. Every year Hotaru gets to have them, it's another year she's still alive.
- Kozue Kaoru’s favorite foods are the Milk Shake and Cake. She will never admit it though, because she likens those things to this nostalgic sweetness invoked by the memories of the most important people in her life. Part of growing up she feels is pretending she doesn’t like these childhood treats. All the same, whenever her twin Miki invites her out to a small bakery on Southern Cross Island, it’s rare that she refuses outright. Instead she complains the whole trip.
- Madoka Kaname's favorite food is cream stew, a popular yoshoku dish firmly established as a standard, home-cooked meal. Yoshoku ('western food') refers to a uniquely Japanese style of Western-influenced cooking which originated during the Meiji Restoration. Despite its name, there is no cream in cream stew; it is rather based in béchamel sauce, a white roux, which can be bought in granular packet form in stores. It's very colorful, with chicken (or sometimes pork), potatoes, carrots, onions and green peas, and its mild taste is especially popular with kids. It is also called 'white stew', a name which appeared in 1947 when Japanese schools started serving stew with skim milk added to it, to supplement calcium for children to help them recover from lack of nutrition during the war. Papa Kaname prepares it with homemade chicken stock!
- Marinette is particularly fond of macarons. A French cookie delicately formed from meringue and almond flour, these delicate treats come in a wide variety of flavours and colours. Marinette is admittedly biased in the source, as her family's bakery makes them frequently. In addition to being light, sweet, and melt-in-your-mouth delicious, macarons lend themselves well to an artistic flair. The batter is very easy to colour, and the little puffs can easily be adorned with bits of icing. Just picture a cute little kitty-cat, or a deceitful hamburger, or a ridiculously elaborate replica of the Discworld - the sky is as ever the limit.
- Mikoto Minagi's favourite food is Mai Tokiha's ramen noodles! Ramen is a common Japanese dish - wheat noodles, served in broth which is typically meat- or fish-based, with a variety of toppings. Many regions of Japan have their own variation of ramen: Tokyo's own spin on the recipe involves curly noodles and chicken broth with a little dashi, though perhaps Mai's own tendency to use chicken in her ramen is also because chicken is cheaper than some of the other meats in the market. Mai's ramen noodles were Mikoto's introduction to the fact that food could taste /good/ instead of just being plain sustenance, and she is forever grateful to her friend for revealing that there were wonders of taste she had never before experienced. She'll never be able to forget the wonders of that very first meal. Though Mai can make many other more complicated dishes which exhibit her skills as a cook, Mikoto's first choice for dinner is always Mai's ramen. It's never quite the same thing twice - there are always different ingredients on sale, after all!
- Nori Ankou's favorite dish is grilled marine snails. As a child Nori's parents would often grill shellfish when the weather was cool but not yet snow-encrusted, and the simple flavors were a fond memory for her, as were dashing the shells open and playing with the shards as if she were a Jomon princess. Her particular taste for marine snails was developed in the sea-caves near Ohtori when she was laying low, and when they were her only food. She cooks them in a traditional Japanese way: the snails are arrayed in their shells atop a charcoal fueled grill with the openings turned up, and each is anointed with a sauce - whether shoyu, mirin, or sake. The meat of the snail is tricky to pull out compared to the French escargot, although she often has the aid of Batiste's clever little paws. It is a private sort of treat that feels eternal, and the connection to her childhood is gratifying too - even if she would never admit it. (She still plays with the shells, but she takes greater care to wash them off.)
- Plagg's favorite food is cheese. His most beloved kind is camembert, but he loves any kind of cheese. Old, string, stinky, cheese sticks, marbled, blue, etc Just set any kind of cheese out and he'll devour it, just be careful you don't lose a finger as a result.
- Steven Universe's favorite food will of course always be hot dogs! A packaged meat in a tubular shape, generally pork, beef or turkey with seasonings, is grilled until plump, then served on a bun with an assortment of condiments and toppings such as diced onions, chili, cheeses, peppers and pickles. They hold great significance besides great flavor, such as fond memories, or recalling the times of Beach City. They even help use alien technology*! Whenever he bites in to one, it all comes back to him in the best way possible.
- Utena Tenjou's favorite food is rose tea, especially as prepared at her favorite tea shop on Southern Cross Island, Magnolia Cafe. There's just something noble about the way it tastes! Rose is a more popular flavor in Japan than it is in Western cuisine, and there are both green tea and black tea versions (plus a heavily sweetened rose milk tea!). It is not uncommon to blend a rose tea with sakura flavor as well.
- Westar's favourite Earth food is donuts. These sweet treats are made of dough, cut into rings and deep-fried to a crispy puffy perfection. There are a thousand and one variants on the simple donut, with as many flavours to try as one might imagine. Common additions to the dough are spices, fruit, or chocolate. Many donuts, after frying, are subsequently dipped into glaze, coated with icing, or dusted with sugar. Amid all these choices, though, Westar's preference is for simple and familiar. An uncoated plain donut, whose ring contains a heart shape as its hole, the hallmark of Kaoru-chan's stand.
Least Favorite Foods
Everybody has at least one food they despise, too, and often an interesting reason why!
- Add your character's least favorite food to this bullet list -- one long paragraph recommended. Please include your character's name and both a cultural summary of the food and its particular significance and specifics for the character. It's okay if your food was mentioned already elsewhere in the guide -- no two bowls of ramen are alike, after all.
- Hotaru Tomoe's least favorite food is milk. Everyone is always nagging her to drink it so that it will make her strong, but this is obviously, empirically not the case. In Japan, milk only became widely consumed after the westernization. It's also worth noting that something on the grocery store shelf called 'miruku' may or may not be real milk -- if it's 100% real, it will be labeled with the Japanese word for milk, 'gyuunyuu'. Hotaru hates both in any event.
- Madoka Kaname claims that her least favorite food is inago no tsukudani, a Japanese dish featuring locusts that are boiled in soy sauce and sugar, but it is a fairly safe bet that she named it as, like, the least offensive possible choice. It's said this dish originated from famines suffered because of locust swarms; after locusts ate all the crops, there was nothing left to eat but the pests themselves.
- Mikoto Minagi's least favourite food is the super spicy curry bun. Curry buns, or kare pan, are a popular Japanese snack: curry wrapped in doughnut-like dough which is coated in bread crumbs, and deep-fried or occasionally baked. Toyofuku, in Asakusa Traditional District, claims it's been making its own version - with prime cuts of wagyu beef and handmade panko breadcrumbs - for over a century! While many curry buns are made with relatively mild curry, the super spicy curry bun is a pre-packaged pastry of death, hot enough to keep people awake when they're working long hours. Mikoto happened to steal a pack when she first came down from her mountain home, totally unaccustomed to the fact that spicy food existed. Her heightened senses and complete inexperience with hot food combined to make it a horrible, painful experience, which left her rampaging through the school as a dark blur which led students to talk about the Fire-Mouthed Cat Demon which haunted Ohtori's grounds ever since. On that day, Mikoto learned a painful, awful lesson: food can be an enemy, too. While Mikoto hates all types of spicy food, she has never forgiven the super spicy curry bun for its transgressions.
- Nori Ankou's least favorite dish is very sweet things. This category does not include all desserts or sweet flavors, but candied fruits or similar treats were not a point of appeal for her. Some of this is that she does not have much of a sweet tooth - but most of it is that her mother, who was to Nori's understanding a lower-upper-class home-maker without strong responsibilities, thanks to the family business, was a dedicated SWEETS HUNTER. Nori would often be brought along to these places and associates sugar and dessert confections, to some extent, with the presence of a distant but controlling maternal figure.
- Usagi Tsukino’s least favorite food are carrots. Usagi in Japanese means bunny or rabbit and as such one might think this is the result of one too many jokes or puns being thrown her way. That’d only be half-right. The rest of the truth is that Usagi has a palate that's still a little like a child's and just doesn’t like the taste or the texture of carrots, going so far as to not request them in her curry dishes. So you read it here first, the bunny on the moon just does not like carrots.
- Utena Tenjou's least favorite food is sausage.