07 Apr 2014

Whenever you visit an unfamiliar country, one way to delve into the heart of the culture is through the food. Although visiting restaurants may provide a more gourmet gastronomic experience, there is something to be said about the casual and buzzing atmosphere of street stalls dishing out cheap that leave an impression in one’s memory when reflecting on your vacation.

Yatai, the Japanese term for street food, is great way to snack and try different kinds of traditional food without ordering a full course meal. During Hanami, there are ton of stalls set up near the sakura blossom, both during the daytime and nighttime. This guide will help you successfully navigate through the plethora of options and pig out on the best on offer at Hanami yatai. Bon appetit!

Takoyaki


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Takoyaki, the snack capturing the heart of visitors when they visit the city of Osaka, can also be found throughout many hanami stalls domestically. It is an all-time favorite of many festivalgoers throughout Japan at any time of the year. A very distinctly Japanese snack, you’ll seldom have the opportunity to sample it anywhere else in the world. Takoyaki is essentially a ball-shaped Japanese snack that is prepared from a batter of tempura scraps, four, pickled ginger, octopus pieces and green onion and cooked in a special takoyaki pan.

The act of prepping takoyaki is an art in it of itself: one must meticulously and in a timely fashion turn the octopus balls so they do not overcook and also retain their rounded shape. Takoyaki is always prepped right in front of your eyes and served piping hot straight from the pan, with toppings of green seaweed, special takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise to add that final punch.

Yakitori


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Yakitori commonly utilizes poultry as the main protein and is famous for including all parts of the chicken, such as the gizzard, skin, liver, thigh and breast.  There are simple skewers that simply use meat, but also ones with a bit more fusion involved such as curry flavored minced meatballs, or cheese and pesto grilled breast meat skewers.Without even looking for the stall, you’ll know where the yakitori is cooking simply by the floating aromas of meat cooking on charcoal. Yakitori is the ultimate savory snacking food of Japan.

Yakisoba


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Every Asian country seems to have a variation of fried noodles. In Japan, this variation is called Yakisoba, which literally translates to fried soba (although wheat noodles are commonly used as opposed to the buckwheat soba noodles). Considered a favorite comfort food amongst Japanese, it is prepped by frying ramen or wehat noodles with bite-sized pork, veggies and yakisoba sauce, which is a similar to thickened Oyster sauce. The garnishes are really what complete the dish: seaweed powder, shredded pickled ginger, fish flakes and Japanese mayonnaise. All yakisoba at street stalls is prepped in front of you and served piping hot.

Chocolate-covered Banana (Banana Choco)


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This particular street food is as straightforward as it gets: a banana dipped in liquid chocolate, which then hardens immediately after being submerged and removed from the chocolate fixture. Although not a traditionally “Japanese” food, there is something incredibly satisfying about this snack, which makes the lack of authenticity irrelevant. It’s simple and easy to make, but the likelihood that you will prep this snack at home during your normal life is unlikely. Hence, it makes it the perfect treat for a special occasion such as Hanami. 

Sakura Mochi


Japanese traditional sweets and mochi are available year round at supermarkets and department store basements, but during the hanami season, one of the special traditional treats on offer is sakura mochi. This dessert has a distinct taste as a result of the outer layer, a sakura blossom leaf dipped in salt water, which is wrapped around the mochi and sweet red bean filling.  Most street stalls areas at any Hanami throughout Japan will surely be selling these sweets as it is “seasonally appropriate”.


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