It’s now been exactly seven months since I got back from studying abroad in Japan, and occasionally I find myself missing things. They’re small things… like the tune that played when it was safe to cross the road, the vending machines everywhere, and even the toilet slippers. But one of the things I miss most is the food. I wouldn’t call myself a ‘foodie’ but I am a girl who likes to eat. Here are the foods that I miss the most…
The only thing I can criticise Fukuoka for is the fact that I’ve now been ruined for any other ramen. Literally nothing will taste as good. Dubbed the ramen capital of the world by Finnair, Fukuoka is the home to Hakata ramen; which has a thick pork broth and is usually topped with spring onion, finely chopped kikurage mushrooms and pork slices. My first experience of Hakata ramen was at a yatai stall in Tenjin, which I talked about here. Fukuoka is also the birthplace of the international franchise, Ichiran. I seriously regret leaving it so long to eat at Ichiran because I could’ve easily gone there at least twice a week. Selling only one style of ramen with customisable options to make it your own, I played it safe, but next time I visit an Ichiran restaurant I think I’ll experiment a bit.
It’s not really a secret that I love squash vegetables – from butternut to pumpkin – and during autumn I try to stuff my face with as much of it as possible. I was in Japan during October, and being the Halloween season, I definitely wasn’t about to give it up just because I was in a different country. I may not have been able to get my hands on a Starbucks PSL, but what I did have was kabocha. Halfway between a pumpkin and sweet potato in texture, and sweet in flavour, kabocha mixes some of my favourite foods together so I was bound to love it. I bought packets of cubed kabocha from my local supermarket (I didn’t have a kitchen so pre-prepared had to do) and I found instant kabocha soup from Don Quijote. But my absolute favourite was the kabocha katsu in the hot food section. Delicious warm straight away, or cold in tomorrow’s bento, I literally couldn’t stop eating it. Yes, I can get it from Yo! Sushi in the UK, but they’re not as big and more expensive.
Another thing I miss from Japan is the rice. It may sound a bit silly, given that you can get rice anywhere, but the rice commonly sold here is a different kind than the rice sold in Japan. Our rice doesn’t cling together, which makes eating it with chopsticks way harder. Japanese short grain rice also feels more satisfying and I’m entirely sure why. Maybe because it’s fluffier and stickier, it seems like it fills you up faster. Like anyone staying in Japan, I practically lived off rice, especially the microwaveable packs from the supermarket
Having gone to several anime conventions over the last six years, I’ve seen my fair share of stalls selling Japanese candy. And no matter which one you go to, the standards are always Pocky, Hi-Chew, and Caramel Corn. I’d already fallen in love with Pocky and Hi-Chew before going to Japan but I’d never tried Caramel Corn until I got there. Looking and feeling like a bit like cheese puffs, the standard caramel flavour comes with peanuts, but you can get an almond version as well. It’s stupidly addictive and eventually I had to switch to the Lawson own brand because I was buying it all the time.
Dango are boiled dumplings made of rice flour, and the mitarashi glaze is made from soy sauce, sugar and starch. I’d heard about these a few years ago and for whatever reason, the name stuck and I decided that I had to have them at least once. I did actually have my doubts about trying dango, because I’m not a massive fan of mochi and the ingredients are very similar. But my main issue with mochi is the texture and as it’s softer, I prefer dango by miles. To be completely honest, I wasn’t too impressed the first time I tried mitarashi dango, but I slowly grew to love it and it became my favourite Japanese sweet, or wagashi, that I’ve tried so far. I mainly stuck to the supermarket version and at around 100¥ a packet, they were cheap enough to keep a constant supply.
Hopefully it won’t be too long before I get to return to Japan, but for now, I’ll just keep making myself hungry! For more about my trip, click here.