One of the most fun things to do when visiting Japan is to eat delicious food at Izakaya (Japanese-style pub). Here is the list of Izakaya food, from the classic ones to some unusual dishes you won’t find frequently.
Common Izakaya Food
*I have excluded the dishes such as Edamame or Karaage that are common even in other restaurants or outside Japan.
Tatakikyuri is a lightly seasoned appetizer, especially recommended for the summer season. It is made by smashing a cucumber, cutting it into bite-sized pieces, and dipping it in ginger and salty sauce.
Nankotsu Karaage (軟骨から揚げ)
Nankotsu Karaage is a kind of Karaage, but it is particularly popular as nibbles for beer. Its size is much smaller than normal Karaage.
I could say this is the best combination with Japanese sake! Takowasa is an octopus mixed with sake, wasabi, and other seasonings. The crunchiness of the octopus and the wasabi’s spiciness goes very well with Japanese sake’s sweetness.
Yamaimo Teppanyaki (山芋鉄板焼き)
At first glance, it resembles Okonomiyaki. But the dough is made of yam, and it is a little sweeter and has a softer texture.
Eihire Aburi (えいひれ炙り)
It is a dried and roasted ray fin. On its own, it has a very simple tase, so people usually put mayonnaise and chili powder. Because of the savory flavor, it’s a good match with Japanese sake.
If you don’t need much food but still want a hearty meal, Motsuni can be the best option. It is made from beef, pork, or other meat cooked for a long time in a soy sauce-based broth. The meat soaked up the flavor of the broth and has a very soft texture.
Unique Izakaya Food
There are dishes that you won’t find that much often in Izakaya, but you should definitely try if you find them.
Komochi Shishamo (子持ちししゃも)
The Japanese eat dried female shishamo, capelin in English, with smelt eggs. The name “Komochi” means “with a child in the belly”, which is a too direct expression, but the taste is excellent.
Tsukimi Tsukune (月見つくね)
Tsukimi Tsukune is a type of Yakitori, shaped into hamburger steak and topped with an egg yolk. The word “Tsukimi” means “Moon-viewing” as the yolk looks like the moon.
Sakiika Tempura (さきいか天ぷら)
Sakiika, dried squid, is often eaten when drinking at home, but it is even better when deep-fried as tempura. It’s impossible to stop grabbing it once you start because of its light flavor with crunchiness.
Baniku Yukhoe (馬肉ユッケ)
Baniku Yukhoe is a dish of raw horse meat, sweeter and lighter than beef, served with a special sauce and egg yolk.
*Incidentally, horse meat is also known as “Sakura” in Japan. There are many theories as to why it’s called Sakura, such as “A cryptic term since when horse meat was not allowed to be eaten in public.” or “Its beautiful pink color resembles the flower cherry blossom (Sakura).”.
Potato Cheese Mochi (ポテトチーズもち)
It is a fried potato made into a soft round-shaped dough with cheese inside that looks like a Japanese rice cake (mochi). It is particularly popular with young women.
Goma Dango (ごまだんご)
After all the greasy foods at Izakaya, why not have a refreshing dessert that is not too sweet? If so, sesame dumplings are the way to go. When you find it, please try it before you leave Izakaya.
Whenever you go to a pub on your own or for Nomikai party, please try some of the above!