Japan is a destination that has got to rank highly on the bucket list of most foodies! From exquisite sushi to fancy desserts and extravagant restaurants, it’s a place that’s a joy for the taste buds, but not necessarily for your bank balance!
But did you know that it’s also perfectly possible to enjoy delicious food incredibly cheaply in Japan? Well that’s what I learned when I visited Japan myself earlier this year!
The range of cheap and delicious food in Japan is seemingly endless, but here’s my top recommendations for budget foodies!
Japan’s favourite drinking snack, Yakitori (AKA grilled chicken skewers) is an irresistible smell on many a busy shopping street! I tried yakitori at a festival in Kyoto, and there’s few foods as basic and satisfying as hot, freshly grilled chicken! And its cheap price is an added bonus!
Cheap, small but incredibly filling, these triangular balls of rice encase a yummy filling of tuna, salmon, pickled plums or other deliciousness! Costing around 1oo yen each they present an incredibly cheap solution for breakfast, lunch or even dinner! They are also readily available at most convenience stores, so they are extremely easy to find!
While more expensive than street snacks, okonomiyaki is certainly a very affordable and filling meal option! Sometimes called ‘Japanese Omelettes’, okonomiyaki are a sizzling blend of batter, veggies and other choice fillings! Some okonomiyaki restaurants will even cook your food directly at your table, which really adds to the excitement!
4. Chicken Katsu Curry
A favourite of maid cafes and character restaurants, this simple but tasty dish is superb! The mix of tender chicken cutlets and mild, slightly sweet curry is a truly winning combination, which makes for an inexpensive and truly tasty lunch or supper!
My number one food from Japan, these fish-shaped pancakes are an adorable and thrifty street dessert that you can’t afford to miss! Filled with everything from red-bean paste to caramel, I choose a chocolate taiyaki, and oh my god, it was amazing! My only regret is not buying two! Or three! Or possibly four…
I first tried these at a stall in Asakusa after mistaking them for fish cakes, but when I bit in to instead discover a filling of minced pork, onion and potato I wasn’t disappointed. In fact I was delighted, as it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten! Just don’t make the mistake of shoving your used wrapper in to your rucksack and then forgetting about it like I did. Eww.
Ramen is the ultimate comfort food pretty much universally. But you haven’t truly had ramen until you’ve eaten in it Japan! Piping hot noodles in a mouth-watering broth with tender slices of pork, chicken or beef – food rarely gets better than this! Portions are often huge but prices typically low, so this is one area of Japanese cuisine which you can actually afford to indulge in!
Takoyaki – or ‘octopus dumplings’ – have been an absolute favourite for me ever since I tried some at 2015’s Hyper Japan expo. Takoyaki can be a little more expensive as far as street snacks go, but are well worth the price! Just be warned that it’s hard to eat takoyaki elegantly. If anyone here has mastered that skill please do let me know your secret!
What is ‘pan’? Japanese for bread, basically. But don’t dismiss it, as the Japanese take on ‘bread’ is amazing, and the range of fillings is insane! Got a sweet tooth? Why not tuck in to a sweet cream or melon pan? Prefer something savoury? Why not try a chicken katsu or pizza roll? Much like onigiri, pan makes a wonderfully cheap and yummy breakfast and lunch solution!
Want to sample a proper Japanese meal but don’t have the budget? Then pop in to your closest 7Eleven and grab yourself a bento! These gigantic traditional lunch boxes typically include a mix of rice, veggies, fish and meat. Splash out a little more and you could even find bento containing sushi or a full-sized meat cutlet! As traditionally Japanese as you can get, and on the cheap to boot!
What are your favourite cheap foods to enjoy in Japan? Do let me know in the comments below!
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