Culture Food

Discovering Street Market Food at Japan’s Festivals

Whether you go to see cherry blossom viewing, firework festivals, or new year festivals at shrines, you will often find rows of pop up stalls forming a street market, with a whole host of food on offer.

This article will introduce food that can only be found at festival street markets!

1) Sauces that make noodles so addictive – a Japanese classic, “Yakisoba” or stir-fried noodles

One of the main types of flavour adding in Japan is the sauce used for noodle dishes. It is typically added to Yakisoba when frying it with pork, carrots and cabbage. It is quite common to see people tossing and frying the noodles in the street markets.

Other popular types include seafood Yakisoba and “Shio-Yakisoba” which has noodles cooked in salt rather than sauce. Yakisoba is quick and easy to make, and so can easily be made at home, and customised to your own tastes!

2) Bite sized treasures – Osaka’s soul food, “Takoyaki”

Takoyaki is a round ball of dough with octopus inside. In Japanese “Octopus” is “Tako” hence the name “Takoyaki”.

Takoyaki is often cooked with sauce, similarly to Yakisoba. The dough is made from wheat flour, and inside you will normally find, red ginger and cabbage, along with the octopus meat. It is usually cooked with sauce, bonito, spring onion, mayonnaise and other similar toppings. The texture of the dough is soft and puffy.

In order to make the Takoyaki round, they are cooked in a special type of frying pan with spherical dents to shape the dough. It can be difficult to achieve a good round shape when cooking, so it does take a bit of practice to get it right! If you’re able to cook a perfectly round Takoyaki, it’s likely your guests will be impressed!

In Takoyaki’s birthplace, Osaka, it is enjoyed all year round in Takoyaki restaurants, so we highly recommend giving them a try to experience their full flavour!

You can find more informations about Japan's Regional Best Food on this article.

3) Mouth watering finger food on skewers, “Kushiyaki”

It’s common to see many types of Kushiyaki sold in street markets, such as pork, chicken and beef. The most common, which you may have heard is fried chicken on skewers, known as “Yakitori”. Yakitori normally is seasoned very simply with salt and pepper. Yakitori is very easy to eat finger food, and the fact that they are on skewers make it the perfect item to grab and eat while walking around and exploring a festival.

There are many Yakitori specialist places outside festivals, and are common in Izakaya as well, which are ideal for those who wish to try the various different types of meat on offer. These are available in specialist Yakitori restaurants and Izakaya, so it may be interesting for you to try and compare the different types.

4) Loved by adults and children alike, and the perfect accompaniment to beer – Fried Chicken “Karaage”

You will often find fried chicken with simple flavourings on street market stalls. As Karaage is boneless, it is easy for children to eat, and is popular as a snack for people of all ages. Karaage is unique as it uses flavourings which are specific to Japan, and has a rather different taste to fried chicken that you may have had before. Karaage includes one of Japan’s most famous flavourings “Shouyu” (soy sauce). Often at market stalls, you will find cups of Karaage with 5 or 6 pieces of chicken, which you can pick up with toothpick sticks.

5) Of course we can’t forget the sweets! The festival sweet dish – “Baby Castella”

There are many delicious desserts that can be found at street markets. One of the most popular desserts you will find is the “Baby Castella”, a small round and light sponge cake. It is made from similar ingredients to regular hot cakes, and is pressed into a cute bell shape with a special machine. Castella is a small bite sized dessert, and is an ideal sweet snack to eat on the go, while at a festival. You may also find Castella cakes shaped like  cute characters as well!

6) Chocolate + Banana = "Choco-Banana"

If you looking to take the ultimate Instagram-worthy shot, this is the one for you! Choco-Banana!

As the name suggests, these are bananas with a chocolate coating and sprinkles on top. These are photogenic desserts, and make for an ideal photo against a festival backdrop.

7) Fish shaped pancakes? Taiyaki, a warm snack

Taiyaki is a warm sweet snack shaped like a fish, and uses the type of flour normally found in pancakes. This warm snack is particularly popular in winter, and normally includes “Anko” (bean paste), custard cream or sweet potato cream, to suit all tastes!

As you can see, there are many types of delicious foods that you can find at street markets, so we hope you can have fun trying many different types at the next festival!

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Koki Miyashita

Author & Editor