Natto is an infamous Japanese dish made of fermented soy beans. It is extremely healthy and many Japanese people like to eat it for any meal usually in combination with rice but it is also commonly used in sushi or even ramen! The texture of this dish is called ねばねば (nebaneba) in Japanese which means sticky. While this is a common texture in Japanese food most people from western countries have probably never tried something even remotely similar! Therefore it's well-known that most non-Japanese people absolutely hate it for its sticky texture, awful smell and bitter taste.
2. Basashi (horse meat)
Basashi is thinly sliced horse meat in the form of sashimi, a specialty from Kumamoto prefecture, and is available in several restaurants and sushi places all over Japan! In many European countries people see horses as companions and wouldn't even think of eating them, this however is not the case in Japan. Many Japanese people love horse meat especially together with soy sauce and garlic.
It is commonly referred to as Sakura Niku (cherry blossom meat) due to the vibrant color of the meat when it is freshly cut and the time of year when it is in season and tastes best. Another reason for the unique naming comes from the Edo period in Japan when eating horse meat was not permitted so sakura niku was used as a secret term.
Other common ways to consume horse meat include Sakura Nabe (horse meat hot pot) and even Sakura Natto (horse meat with natto)!
Shirako is considered a delicacy in Japan and sold at restaurants and also at more expensive supermarkets. Upon first glance, it may appear a little odd but it is only when you discover what it is that makes many people lose their appetite. Shirako is a fish's sperm sack! The texture is soft and creamy like pudding and it doesn't have that much of a flavor. It is a very versatile dish and can be served raw, friend, steamed, or as a topping on other dishes.
Goya is officially a bitter melon but many people consider it a vegetable because of the bitter taste. You would mostly find it in Okinawa, an island in the South of Japan rather than in the North. This vegetable is extremely healthy and is know to lower blood sugar but is not appreciated by everyone because of the bitter taste.
5. Raw chicken sashimi
While eating raw chicken is considered an absolute no go in Europe and America, in Japan, raw chicken is served fairly commonly at restaurants and Japanese izakaya bars. It is often served with lemon and the texture is similar to fish sashimi.
Upon hearing of this dish, many people's first reaction is to avoid this at all costs because of the dangers of salmonella. Why then, is this dish fairly common in Japan? To reduce the risk of eating raw chicken, the chicken sashimi served throughout Japan is thinly sliced from the inner breast of the chicken which carries a lower risk of salmonella contamination. Many restaurants that serve this dish also source the chicken from small farms to ensure the chickens are fresh and high quality in order to further reduce the risk of salmonella poisoning. That being said, the Japanese chickens are not special chickens that are perfectly safe to eat raw, the way the meat is prepared and the extra care they take in handling it is key. That being said, there is still a slight risk of salmonella contamination so proceed with caution!
Mentaiko is known in English as pollock roe, or the internal egg masses from the pollock fish. It has a very distinctive taste that is salty and sometimes spicy. This dish originated in Korea, and was introduced to Japan around the time of the second world war. Since then it has become a very common side dish but it's also used in onigiri, pasta or as sauce.
Motsunabe is a type of "nabe" or Japanese hot pot comparable to a stew. Nabe is a common dish served in the cold winter months, and is essentially a mixture of ingredients simmered in one big pot of stew.
For mostunabe, a mixture of soup base made of soy sauce and miso is combined with cabbage, garlic chives, tofu and the main ingredient: beef innards! The beef innards are very soft and chewy, it is often said that they melt in your mouth like snow.
8. Whale meat (kujira)
Whale meat is another Japanese delicacy that is even believed to help fight dementia. Contrary to many other countries, where whaling is banned and a controversial topic, commercial whaling still occurs in Japan and many Japanese people are not as opposed to the consumption of whale meat. While it is no longer a staple in the Japanese diet, it is still available in some restaurants. Apparently as whales are mammals, the taste of is more similar to land animals rather than fish.
9. Horumon or Horumonyaki
A trend we are seeing with interesting and unique Japanese dishes, is innards! Here is another one for you: horumonyaki. Horumonyaki is basically barbecued or fried innards. In many western countries, where consuming innards is not very common, this part of the animal is left as scraps or given to the dog but Japanese people are not opposed to eating innards. In horumonyaki, a mixture of small and big intestines, and stomachs of several animals are fried on the barbecue to make what is commonly referred to as a "stamina building" food.
10. Nankotsu (chicken cartilage)
Similarly to consuming innards, many people in the west wouldn't consider eating cartilage, but in Japan people love it! It is crunchy and it feels as if you're eating a bone. Since it doesn't have a strong flavor it is probably the texture that people enjoy most. Cartilage is often found in izakayas (Japanese bars) and yakitori (fried chicken) restaurants.
Have you ever tried any of these dishes and did you like them? Is there a dish you wouldn't eat for a million bucks? Let us know in the comments!