It’s the height of summer! With so many fireworks events and festivals lined up, one thing you definitely can’t miss out on is street food gourmet! Recently, the variety of street food available has increased considerably, and the menus available have likewise increased as well.
With such a wide variation in the types of street food available, which ones are most popular amongst foreign visitors?
This time, we asked foreigners from six different countries staying in Japan about their favourite and least favourite street food gourmet foods and sweets!
Chocolate Bananas: The Most Popular Sweet Item
Let’s start from street food sweets! Out of the tens of varieties of sweets available, chocolate bananas came in as the most popular! It’s also ranked as a familiar food item on street food menus. What do foreign visitors find so appealing about chocolate bananas?
“Aren’t chocolate and bananas the perfect combination? It’s also colourful and cute!” (Kazakhstan, 10s, Female)
“Chocolate bananas will never let you down! This combination is the best.” (Korea, 20s, Female)
“With a thick chocolate coating, I like that it feels up my stomach. No matter where I eat it the taste is consistent, which is great.” (USA, 20s, Male)
With a thick chocolate coating and colourful sprinkles, chocolate bananas are really photogenic. More than 80% of our respondents have eaten chocolate bananas before, and almost all of them expressed their love for it. The perfect pairing of chocolate and bananas is a sentiment shared across borders.
Baby Castella: Neither too Small, too Big, nor too Sweet
The next most popular street food sweet item after chocolate bananas is the baby castella. A one-bite sweet item that tastes like pancakes, it’s found not just at street food stores at festivals, but is popular at tourist destinations such as Asakusa as well. We hear why foreign visitors like baby castella so much!
“The size of the baby castella is perfect. It’s just nice for eating while walking. On top of that, festivals have many sweet desserts, and the baby castella is not too sweet, making it easy for adults to stomach as well.” (England, 30s, Male)
“It’s the perfect sweet to eat when you’re hungry. With a familiar rich taste, I immediately fell in love with it.” (France, teens, Female)
Baby castella are made of flour, baking powder, eggs, sugar, honey, and milk, simple ingredients that combine together to make this wonderful sweet. Its light sweetness stole the hearts of many foreign visitors, making it a hot favourite!
Another reason for its popularity is not just the taste, but the size as well. In contrast to food items that fall apart easily as you eat them, this is one food that is easy to eat while walking, and the ability to share it with others is a definite plus. Wanting to share the feeling of excitement while eating street food with your friends is natural, and this sweet allows you to do just that!
Imagawayaki: The Japanese Street Food Sweet that Everyone Wants to Try the Most
When asked which street food they would like to try the most, the answer that came up is imagawayaki, a pancake filled with sweet red bean paste. What’s so special about this sweet?
“The shape is pretty and seems really tasty! I also love red beans.” (France, teens, Female)
“I haven’t eaten it before, but we have something similar back in Korea, and it smells really delicious.” (Korea, 20s, Female)
“I’ve eaten taiyaki (fish-shaped pancake stuffed with sweet red bean paste) before and it was really delicious, and I think imagawayaki looks really great too.” (USA, 20s, Male)
The main reason for wanting to eat imagawayaki is that it looks delicious. With such a beautiful shape like a taiko drum, it’s easy to be intrigued by it. There are also those who expressed their preference for red beans, and amongst those who have eaten taiyaki before, there are many who expressed the desire to eat imagawayaki.
The Least Favourite Street Food Sweet is Mizuame, which many Cannot Seem to Enjoy
Mizuame, or millet jelly, is another street food sweet popular amongst foreign visitors, though many said that they do not want to eat it anymore when interviewed.
“Mizuame is too sweet! It’s not naturally sweet, but just full of sugar. Children will probably enjoy, but I can’t eat it.” (France, 30s, Male)
A popular sweet amongst Japan children, this is the least popular sweet amongst foreign visitors, because of its overly sweet taste. As mizuame is considered very sweet even amongst other sweets and desserts, it’s definitely not for those who don’t like sweet food.
Besides mizuame, there are other street food sweets that people come to dislike after trying them out.
“I don’t like imagawayaki. In France, beans usually aren’t eaten sweet, and I feel some revulsion to eating it. I can’t wrap my head around its sweetness.” (France, 20s, Female)
Though the street food sweet that people would most like to try is imagawayaki, there are some who express distaste for it as well.
In Japan, there are many sweets and desserts made of sweetened beans, such as sweet red bean, but there are some foreign visitors who feel some reluctance to eating sweet beans. Due to the difference in food cultures, you can clearly see the difference in food preferences.
Unshakeable popularity! Okonomiyaki is the most popular street food!
Next, we’ll be moving on to street foods! With its pungent aroma greeting you at festivals, it’s a street food you usually end up eating anyway, and it’s popular amongst foreign visitors as well.
“Of course okonomiyaki! I don’t just eat them at street food stores, I even go to restaurants just to eat them too.” (France, 20s, Female)
“I like okonomiyaki and Hiroshima yaki (okonomiyaki cooked in a style unique to Hiroshima). The sauce and pancake batter are a great match, and is very delicious” (Papua New Guinea, 30s, Male)
“In Korea, there’s a similar dish to okonomiyaki called chijimi (spicy Korean pancake), and it’s a very familiar taste.” (Korea, 20s, Female)
A hot favourite amongst Japanese, okonomiyaki is also the most popular street food amongst foreign visitors. As Japanese food is also popular the world over, there are many people who have eaten okonomiyaki before they even come to Japan. Tempted by its fragrance at street food stalls, there are many who end up eating it when they come.
Takoyaki: Surprisingly has People who do not Enjoy it
Similar to okonomiyaki, takoyaki is also one of the kings of Japanese street food. Though you’d think that there are many foreign visitors who would enjoy it as well, there were many surprising answers.
“I can’t eat octopus! Especially in takoyaki, there are large pieces of octopus inside, aren’t there? I definitely can’t eat it.” (USA, 20s, Male)
Especially amongst westerners, there are many who don’t like octopus and squid, resulting in a resounding distaste for takoyaki. There are many who find the slimy-looking texture of octopus unappetizing, and they don’t eat it back in their home countries. However, there are some who enjoy it as well!
“I’ve liked takoyaki since I came to Japan. I often eat it as a snack as well.” (France, 20s, Female)
“I like the combination of ingredients in takoyaki. If you’re in Japan, you definitely must eat it.” (Netherlands, 40s, Female)
For foreigners who are used to Japanese food, properly grilled octopus doesn’t seem to be an issue for them. There are those who eat it as a snack, and who will definitely eat them at street food stalls. Because of the ingredients of takoyaki, there is a clear divide between those who like and dislike it.
The Most Unpopular Japanese Street Food: Corn Dogs and Frankfurters
Corn dogs and frankfurters are popular not just in Japan, but in other countries as well. However, there are many who don’t like to eat them at street food stores, and we find out why.
“Corn dogs and frankfurters are food items that I can buy from the convenience store just down the street. I can easily buy it anywhere, I think it’s better not to buy it at a street food store.” (Kazakhstan, 10s, Female)
“Honestly, I can eat it outside of Japan, I don’t think of eating it here.” (USA, 20s, Male)
Corn dogs and frankfurters are foods that you can easily buy anywhere, and not just at street food stores. As there are those who usually eat them in their home countries, they don’t eat them at festivals in Japan.
It’s not unpopular because it’s disgusting, but many feel that there are other foods that they’d much rather eat instead.
This is the season where street food stores pop up with festivals and other similar events. As expected, there are many foreigners who say that if there are street food stores, they usually end up eating there.
However, there are some that say that the prices of food at street food stores in Japan are expensive! Especially amongst those from Asian countries, where street food stores are a daily occurrence and are cheap, many are reluctant to buy from street food stores in Japan.
From here on out, it’ll be the height of summer! If any of your friends from other countries come to visit, do consider bringing them out for an evening of fun at street food stores!
Written by: Fujico
6-39-12, Higashinippori, Arakawa-ku, Tokyo, 116-0014
Nippori Station （JR Keihin-Tohoku Line / JR Yamanote Line / JR Joban Line / JR Ueno Tokyo Line / Nippori-Toneri Liner / Keisei Main Line / Narita SKY ACCESS Line）
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*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
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