UENO. The working class district that is surrounded by various museums, parks, shopping districts and of course, food hubs. It is a must on the food places to visit list when traveling to Tokyo since tourists craving for authentic Japanese street food experience will surely have a hearty and tummy-filling experience without breaking the bank.
Allow this Ueno food guide take you into the streets of Ueno as we experience the hidden gastronomic gems of this street food haven.
Beneath the busy railway of Ueno lies the “black market” of food and shopping in Ueno. Ameya-yokocho or Ameyoko rose to popularity after the World War II. The term Ameya was coined from the terms “Ame” or “American” and “Ya” meaning “shops. Another popular belief was that the name was derived from “Ame” or “sweets” and “ya” or “shops” since most shops here sell confections, thus Ameya-yokocho is directly translated as “candy store alley”.
Whichever definition of the name you’d like to believe it, one thing stands true. Ameyoko is Ueno’s must-stop street food zone to whet your appetite on a budget.
Savor some octopus-goodness for ¥200 per 4pcs with Takoyaki, a ball-shaped, wheat flour-based balls filled with green onions, pickled ginger and topped with Worcestershire-like sauce, mayonnaise, aonori (green laver) and dried bonito flakes.
For those who find “tako” or octopus a bit weird for their taste, how about munching some chicken karaage from Chicken Man, which can be eaten with sweet, spicy, and very spicy sauce. Another must try chicken dish is the chicken yakitori (¥150 per piece) near Bentendo Temple, which is a stone throw away from Ameyoko. The man owning the store has already mastered the art of grilling chicken skewers to perfection, smokey on the outside while retaining a juicy inside. Also, a must try in this mini-grill place is their tsukune meatball yakitori also at ¥150 per piece.
For ¥410 for 4pcs or ¥610 yen for 6pcs, one can sink their teeth to freshly fried Shifu Shun Xiao Long Bao, or Shanghai dimsum dumplings fried lightly. Best dipped in black vinegar for added kick.
Meanwhile, for those meat pie lovers, Ameyoko has its own version of this classic goodness. The Oyama Meat Pie at ¥200 a piece is served crispy and overloaded with meat. Topping it with horseradish wasabi dressing elevates the taste of this meaty delight.
Aside from grab-and-go food offerings in Ameyoko, it also hosts small izakayas and sidewalk eateries that serves various donbori meals starting at ¥500. From meat, seafood, and veggies, this meal in a bowl is sure to satisfy your hunger after a long walk around Ameyoko or when you just want to get filled and rest those sore feet.
Ueno Mori no Panya San, an Ameyoko bakeshop combines art with taste. This bakeshop’s famous bread is not only tasty and creamy; the bread also takes animals shapes. Go under the sea with their turtle melon bread or cling into bamboos with their panda cream bun.
Finally, our street food adventure will not be complete without dessert. Ameyoko, being the “sweet street” boasts of various confections and fruits to cleanse and refresh your palate. Kimi Noen, a tea shop located near the entrance arc of Ameyoko, serves thirst-quenching teas and tea-flavored desserts such as their Matcha Ice Cream. Walk a few meters and you will find stores selling crisp and flavor-filled taiyaki, or pancakes filled with either creamy custard or sweet red beans. This fish-shaped treat can be yours for ¥150 per piece.
For those who love fusing flavors, scout the streets of Ameyoko for daifuku. These mochi-like confections can have various fillings ranging from matcha to real fruits like mango, peach, and strawberry. Speaking of fruits, various peddlers of fresh fruits in skewers (price ranging from ¥100-¥200 a piece) is also abundant in Ameyoko. Bestsellers include watermelon, pineapple, honeydew, and melon.
Aside from Ameyoko, the Ueno Food Park is also a home to various food stalls serving skewered grilled whole fish, miniature okonomiyaki, yakitori of various sorts (duck yakitori, anyone?).
Ueno may not have skyscrapers or bright neon lights but its streets are lined with delectable street foods, a must on the bucket list of every foodie. ‘Till the next foodventure!
Aleli is a wanderlust whose main itinerary is to culture soak in the places that she sets foot on, sinking her teeth in the gustatory offerings that the place has to offer and knowing the story behind it. Food for her is a marriage of the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the rich history of every city she explores and uses the pen as her tool to share to the world each unique experience she unravels.