Photo:
Live

What food from home do you crave the most?

By 3 min read

For most foreigners living in Japan, food rates quite highly on what they like most about living here. The abundance of cuisine on offer is far from boring; seasons, cities, weather and celebrations all influence the different foods available. Even today after 5 years in Japan, I still come across new dishes, pickles, kinds of seaweed, sweets and osenbei that I’ve never seen previously.

I’m a huge foodie and Japanese food is my first choice when dining out, in saying this though, I still couldn’t eat it every meal for a week (well I could but I wouldn’t do it out of choice)…could you?

Generation plays a big part of food preferences worldwide, in Japan if you asked a 60 year old what they ate for breakfast I imagine the majority would have a traditional Japanese breakfast whereas the younger generation would prefer the ease of a westernized one. The only time I’ve experienced a Japanese breakfast is whilst staying in a ryokan; admittedly more excessive than a breakfast prepared at home, all the same the main culprits are still there: a whole fish (not the filleted kind), natto, some kind of seaweed, pickles, tamagoyaki, miso soup and rice.

At 7 in the morning, I can just about stomach the soup, rice and egg but that’s as adventurous as my body will allow me to be before midday. My parents didn’t touch any of it, nor did my friends who were visiting Japan, which makes me think my tastebuds have adapted more than I thought, I’m sure however that the majority of the Japanese guests wouldn’t have a problem with it. Aside from generally refusing to eat fish in the morning, there’s some Japanese food that I stubbornly refuse to try at any time of the day, mostly because it doesn’t look appetizing: natto, uni, tororo, any kind of animal intestine, ikura, shirako and shirasu. Stubborn I may be, missing out I think not.

My diet is around 50% 和食 (Japanese food) and 50% 洋食 (Western food). 40% of the Western food I eat is relatively easy to get hold off, the other 10% either; costs me a fortune, is bought online, sent from my parents, brought with friends whom are visiting or are a mission to buy. The non Japanese food I crave the most are: peanut butter, Dairy Milk (made in England not Australia), tea cakes, real NYC cheesecake, rye bread, tahini, herbal tea, flax seed halloumi, hummus and oats.

I asked my British friends what they missed the most, here is what rated highly: salt and vinegar Walkers crisps, marmite, roast dinner, full English breakfasts, crumpets, decent wholegrain bread, Dairy Milk chocolate, Mars ice-cream, raspberries, Yorkshire pudding, cheese and their isles in supermarkets, gravy, jacket potatoes, baked beans and fish fingers.

Indeed this list represents the Brits, I’d be interested to hear what those of you from elsewhere miss and how you go about getting it, or do you curb your cravings with a Japanese equivalent? Granted living in Tokyo we’re spoilt in the international food department compared to other not so cosmopolitan places. I’m not sure how long I’d survive without a Kaldi within a 5km range of my house.

Topics:

  • gigi4747 says:

    I lived in Japan in the 90s and I missed good pizza! I don’t really even eat pizza a lot at home, but I just really missed it there when I had a craving for it. Also meat in the forms I would eat it in at home, eg, a turkey dinner. That said, if you have to be deprived of your own particular type or brand of food you like, Japanese is certainly a wonderful substitute.

  • Kobal Mitja says:

    In 1.5 years living there I missed the most good European bread and a good Wiener Schnitzel! But that was more or less it. If to add one more thing, all the Western food in Japan is way too sweet compared to the ‘West’.

    • maulinator says:

      Really? What did you find that was too sweet? I tend to find the opposite. That Western sweets in Japan are less sweet than their Western coutnerparts. If you are referring to non-sweets then I am doubly curious as to some examples.

  • maulinator says:

    You are missing out! Most of my American friends love uni, ikura and shirako. Uni and ikura are also staples in Italian dining so as a foodie you probably have had it in some form or another.
    Eating raw chicken is also very good in Japan. Try it sometime! Natto I don’t like the taste, but many of my fireng friends swear by it.
    NY cheesecake can be had at Bubby’s. peanut butter is readily available- I like skippy extra crunchy- this is available in most supermarkets now. There is excellent hummus at Two Rooms and Cicada. Or it is easy to make yourself. Herbal teas are readily available as is rye bread. I don;t know the difference between Aussie and English dairy milk, but you can get really high quality milk from hokkaido (high fat content). Full English breakfast and Sunday roast can be had at Hobgoblinin Roppongi- not the best by any standard but decent. YOu can get a good Yorkshire pudding at Lawry’s. RaSpberries are a bit expensive but definitely attainable. Good gravy is hard to come by, Lawry’s is OK,
    I miss real Philly Cheesesteak- not that atorcious thing at TGIF. Like at Gino’s. A good chili cheese hot dog like at Pink’s. A real NY pizza like Rays or Johns. Slice is really good in Shibuya and Roccos is also close but not exactly what I want (but I do go to these two when I want a fix). A real NY sourdough bagel- the type that gets rock hard if you leav3e it out too long. Japanese bagels are bread donuts.
    Twinkies and Hostess cupcakes. Hostess fruit pies as well. Jolly Rancher candies. Manhattan special coffee soda. Vanilla egg creams. BEC sandwiches. Where can I get decent soft rolls for snadwiches and where can I get hoagies? Cajun food in general- the only game in town shut down earlier this year. SAD!!!!!! Tootsie roll pops. Lox form Petrossian. Good chili hot and spicy- the earls is OK. Spaghetti with meat balls. Take out chinese -but in the paper boxes. General Tso’s chicken. Mooshoo pork. Peking duck served with the meat not just the skin. I think Chinese cafe 8 does this, but haven’t checked yet. Southern fried chicken- extra crispy made with buttermilk. Grits. Anything at Per Se. A chicken parm sandwich. Black bean soup like they did at Atticus cafe. Spicy texas barbeque. Smoke in harajuku is an ok BBQ palce, but the realt texas flavor is not there yet. THomas’s English muffins. Un-pasteurized apple cider. Knishes. Apple turnovers, those black and white cookies from NY delis. Chocolate chip M&M cookies. Melted red velvet cupcakes in a jar like they do at theat bakery in Brooklyn. Aqua de Cuba – Japanese/Cuban fusion cuisine. Nobu’s is peruvian so it is not even close. Mountian dew- i know it is sometimes available in Tokyo but still not easy to find.
    That’s what first comes to mind I guess. IF anyone can help locating these in Tokyo please post.

  • Mikey says:

    I missed sourdough bread! And every now and again Id get a craving for a meatpie (my Australian shame ha ha). I eat japanese like 5 nights a week but thats because my wife is Japanese and a much better cook.

    Your generational-breakfast comment reminded me of going to her grandparents place for a weekend. We had an enormous dinner with so many courses and beer and sake – the works, so I was still full in the morning — all I wanted was a coffee and a ciggerette ha ha — but laid out at 7:30am was another amazing spread of rice, miso, grilled salmon and pickles. But I could only eat a little – I asked wife’s grandparents if this was a normal breakfast … they laughed that all they want was some miso and a coffee because last nights dinner was so big —- were all kinda the same huh???

    M

  • Thomas Augustine says:

    I’m American and lived in Sendai for 8 months from August, 2003. Among groceries, I missed peanut butter most. But one thing I really missed was Mexican food. I think Sendai had one Mexican restaurant, whereas the city I live in now, pop. 40k in a rural county of Wisconsin, has about five or six. I read that Taco Bell is returning to Japan but the joke goes that isn’t really much of an improvement.

  • Jay "Nanakii" C says:

    I’m a french guy, born in switzerland, raised by a spanish father and a french mother then moved to France when I was 6. (that’s just for the background info haha)

    I’m a big gourmet guy, hobby cooker and I love the cuisine from all over the world. But when you’re living in a foreign country, even with a country with a good and such diverse gastronomy like japan, it still can be very tough at times. Especially if you’re coming from western europe, from countries such as France/Spain/Italy (best food in the world in my opinion, not even arguable actually :D).

    What I missed the most is CHEESE ! God dammit haha
    And baguette, french pastry and desserts, crêpes and galettes, COLD CUTS ! (saucisson, pâté, rillettes, jambon, chorizo, jambon cru, mortadella and the list goes on…)
    Milk products in general, fresh salad with an awesome vinaigrette…
    If you live in Tokyo, you can buy some of these products, but as the author has been saying it, it’s freakin’ expensive.
    And don’t even think about buying bread or cheese in the supermarkets.

    I still remember the day when my japanese friends bought me a baguette from a supermarket, their action was motivated by good intentions but the baguette was just…hum…yeah… you get it.
    Or the crêpes they are selling everywhere, seriously…
    I’ve seen many foreigners telling me that their crêpes was awesome (all of them non-french poeple), but I have to say that in japan it’s almost impossible to get a GOOD chantilly (whipped cream). Their chantilliy is kind of fatty and has a very sickening taste.

    If you’re in Tokyo, please go to a crêperie bretonne (you can go to kagurazaka to get a good one), and don’t waste your money on the harajuku “crêpes”.

    Alright that’s enough with the whining and criticism haha

    Still, Japan has a very good, enormous, diverse and respectable gastronomy !

    ps : If you ask the french community in Tokyo, there’s a rumor, legend, a myth ? saying that a guy has been dealing saucisson under his trenchcoat hahaha

  • Nadege Rouchausse says:

    I couldn’t say (yet) what I’d miss in Japan, but I know for sure what I usually miss the most when I’m in Asia: red wine, cheese and a good baguette!! Not too surprising from a french girl, I guess..! Although I must say that a different setting helps changing your food habits… except, I agree, at breakfast time: seems like one’s food preferences are a bit more “conservative” at dawn..!

  • Angelina Cortés says:

    I’m really missing real Mexican food. I have a rule to myself: “never eat Mexican food outside Mexico”. I don’t really like what people outside my country think Mexican food is. I think the things I crave the most are: mole, pozole, tamales, and (sometimes) tacos. I will be back in Mexico on March next year, so I’m trying to be patient.

  • Raunchy says:

    I am from Germany and I will start my year abroad in Japan from next friday, so I can only explain what I am expeting to miss while staying in Japan. The things I love are: German brown bread (or “Pumpernickel”), crispbread, German Beer, cheese from Denmark (Havarti or Esrom) and many other kinds of cheese you can get here for cheap(I love cheese). I think these are the things you can barely substitute.

    Fortunately I also like all the Japanese stuff, I have no problem eating soup or warm dishes in the morning. I lived 8 months with my Japanese girlfriend in Germany so that I got used to that.

    Sorry for mistakes my english is not the best

    • maulinator says:

      If you miss German food go to Bernd’s Bar in Roppongi. They have a prettty respectable menu.

  • Rob Hirai says:

    Why can`t you make a decent cheeseburger without asking for a million dollars for it????

  • Barnaby Jones says:

    I don’t mind Japanese breakfast except that it just isn’t filling. I really need my wholegrain bread, dark rye bread (any bread that isn’t sweet and fluffy like you’re eating cake) with proper amounts of big fat slices of cheese.

    I also miss proper-sized meals in restaurants. I could easily order most meals twice and still be hungry. Japanese eat notoriously little, so I am always hungry while in Japan. Also, when eating out, you almost never get any veggies, or just a really small bite.

Related

Live

Keep Cool With These Delicious And Healthy Ice Lollies

Cool down this summer with these easy to make ice fruit lollies.

By 2 min read

Live

Keeping Vegetarian in Japan: Traditional Cooking Basics

You don’t eat meat? That’s perfectly fine. I’ll just cook some fish.

By 4 min read

Explore

Drinks on the Cheap at Izakaya Kouchan

You might come with some friends. Yet a few drinks later, you could very well be toasting and chatting with the other nearby parties

By 2 min read