Japan is known for serving some of the freshest and most authentic dishes that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. From the popular bite-size pieces of sushi and sashimi to their greatest invention that is a bowl of ramen goodness and of course, let’s not forget the endless choices of other dishes such as fried tempura, meaty gyoza, and the delicious sake (rice wine), it’s no doubt that Japan has captured the many hearts of its visitors and has been there ever since. But did you know that aside from the aforementioned mouth-watering dishes, Japan keeps a vault of some of the weirdest yet fascinating dishes which are out of this world? Some of it might repulse you or pique your interest but while everyone’s thinking hard whether to order it already or not, it’s best to know that all these bizarre dishes are safe to eat and is actually quite enjoyable over drinks.
Let’s start with natto, a traditional Japanese dish made from fermented soybeans and served with soy sauce. While natto is considered extremely healthy and is best combined with other dishes such as topping for ramen, sushi or maybe mixed with rice, there’s still this love-hate relationship that most people find hard to deal with in natto because of its pungent smell, bitter taste, and its infamous slimy texture. This common delicacy is actually found everywhere so if you want to try and see for yourself, the nearest convenience store or supermarket is a good place to go.
Another strange delicacy is the dancing squid. It may look like any other squid you find being served fresh in restaurants but once you’ve poured soy sauce over it, it may appear as if it’s dancing right before your eyes because of its strange, wriggling movements but actually, the squid is definitely dead and is just reacting with the soy sauce, a similar reaction when salt is sprinkled. It may sound unusual but a lot of people actually enjoy the dancing squid for its entertainment and taste.
Popularly known as basashi, raw horse meat will probably raise brows or will make you cringe just by the thought of it because of its strange way of being served which is, well, raw. Similar to sashimi, raw horse meat are thinly sliced and is served together with soy sauce and garlic or Japanese horseradish. A lot of Japanese people enjoy eating this and while its strange nature of being served will make you shake your head, it’s actually highly recommended for those who want something different.
Another interesting delicacy is inago no tsukudani. This traditional delicacy is found across all over Japan and will have you think twice whether you’ll have it or not. It’s a dish made from boiled locusts and is cooked with sweetened soy, which is probably not for the faint hearted but if you’re into something adventurous and not scared of digesting insects, then this fascinating delicacy is for you. It’s quite similar to those cooked insects being sold in the streets in most Southeast Asian countries.
Described as butter melting in your mouth, shirako sounds dreamy and delicious until you know what it’s made of. Loosely translated as “The White Children” in Japanese, shirako is actually the sperm of a fish. Its extremely soft and creamy texture is what makes it similar to butter but it doesn’t have that much flavor as one would expect it to. It’s actually sold in the supermarket at an expensive price but you can easily purchase one in native delicacy stores across the country.
If the raw horse meat already made you cringe, wait until you encounter raw chicken sashimi. While the thought of eating raw chicken sends a shiver down your spine, it’s actually popular among izakaya bars and is best enjoyed over a round of drinks. It came from the inner breast part, cooked very quickly skin down, and is sliced thinly. Served together with lemon and you’re good to go. You don’t have to worry about getting salmonella with the chicken being served raw because coming from the inner breast part, it carries very low salmonella contamination. But of course, it’ll take time convincing yourself to eat it.
Considered one of the most poisonous dishes on Earth, fugu will send your lips tingling with anticipation and fear while you dive into it. Its skin and organs are actually poisonous and one wrong move in preparing this dish will result in a fatality that’s why only a handful of qualified chefs are known to prepare and make fugu dishes. There’s no need to worry when ordering this because you’ll know you’re safe and sound in the hands of these qualified chefs but with its alarming nature and danger, you’ll probably think hard and well whether you’ll have it or not.
Kujira or whale meat is another delicacy which falls on the seafood category. Some say it has a similar taste with land animals and while all parts are important as the other, it’s the belly and tail meat which are mostly used. The belly is used to make whale bacon which may sound strange but is actually popular among Japanese people while the tail is essential for sashimi o tataki dishes. Kujira is also known for helping fight dementia which has not been proven yet and is also sold limited only to special restaurants.
Most people would probably like their eggs scrambled or sunny-side-up but not raw and with transparent fishes swimming in it because that’s what shirouo no odorogui is made of. The fishes are apparently alive and swimming their way around the egg and this is actually the best way to eat It’ll probably make your stomach turn and won’t think of eggs in that way again but a lot of people actually enjoy this for breakfast. When the fishes aren’t swimming in eggs, they’re poured over a cup of vinegar and is considered a precious drink for its consumer.
A popular izakaya bar snack, hachinoko is a dish worth mentioning. It’s a deep-fried bee larva coated with soy sauce and sugar. Its texture is similar to eating chips with that nice crunch that’s just about right. While most Japanese people eat this for a snack, it’s actually best enjoyed with ice cold beer. The looks of it may repulse with it being insects cooked in condiments but it’s actually delicious and you won’t even think for a second that you’re eating deep-fried bee larva.
She’s cooking and baking for her family and friends. She finds grocery shopping therapeutic, always takes the longest time in the Asian section and debates with herself whether she needs that extra pack of instant ramen. A lover of sweets, she dreams of owning a patisserie and publishing her book but most of the time, she’s just really thinking of what to eat for breakfast the next day.