Food on Sticks in Japan–10 Kinds to Try
In Japan, it’s rare to touch food directly with your hands when eating. Most food items are eaten with chopsticks, and even Western foods like hamburgers are typically eaten with paper wrapped around them to avoid direct contact between the hands and food. However, this unique aspect of Japanese dining culture has given rise to the popularity of eating a wide variety of food on sticks. While many cultures have at least a few food items eaten on skewers, such as shish kabobs, popsicles, or corn dogs, Japanese stick food takes skewered cuisine to another level.
Japanese Skewers Are a Novel and Delicious Way to Eat
Goheimochi is made from plain rice that’s mashed into a flat, spade-shaped rice cake. It’s then skewered, brushed with a sauce such as miso or soy, and grilled over an open flame until it becomes toasty and aromatic.
Yakitori is bite-sized pieces of chicken that are skewered and grilled. All parts of the chicken are used, from familiar staples like chicken breast and thigh, to more uncommon cuts like chicken liver and heart, which are just as delicious! It’s a great meal to enjoy in a casual environment with a refreshingly cold beer.
Yakiton is the pork equivalent of yakitori, with various juicy and meaty cuts of pork grilled on a skewer. Enjoy meltingly rich bites of crisp pork belly and boldly flavored delicacies such as shiro (white) pork intestine coated in miso paste.
What could be better than crumbed and deep-fried food on sticks? Kushikatsu is a popular Japanese style of dining where meat, vegetables, and even cheese are breaded in panko crumbs and deep-fried. Each stick is served piping hot out of the deep fryer and dipped into a big communal pot of sweet, dark katsu sauce. Remember, no double dipping!
Dango are small, chewy dumplings made from sweetened rice flour. The dumplings are boiled, skewered, and grilled then drizzled in a thickened and sweetened soy sauce. They’re so moreish, you’ll find it hard to stop at just one dango–or even one skewer!
As rice is such an essential part of the Japanese diet, it should come as no surprise that there are many ways to eat it–and skewered form is no exception! Kiritanpo is another kind of grilled rice cake on a stick that differs from dango and goheimochi due to its long, cylindrical shape. Kiritanpo is especially delicious glazed in miso and toasted over an open fire and eaten as it, or grilled plain and added to nabe (hotpots).
Fish and Other Seafood
As Japan is an island nation with spectacular fish and seafood, there’s no shortage of Japanese stick food using various kinds of seafood. Shioyaki is fish that is salted, is threaded on the skewer to look like a swimming fish, and grilled over charcoal. Also popular are ikayaki (grilled squid on a skewer, glazed in soy sauce) and ebi-shioyaki (a large grilled prawn on a stick, seasoned with salt).
Yaki tomorokoshi is a Japanese skewer of grilled corn on the cob glazed in soy sauce. It’s especially delicious during the summertime when sweet corn is in season.
Choco banana, or a chocolate-dipped banana on a stick, is one of the most popular Japanese food on sticks at street festivals. You’re sure to find more than one booth selling choco banana at a festival, fronted by vibrant displays of chocolate-dipped bananas covered in sugar and colorful sprinkles.
Sweet, Savory, Meat, Vegetables, Rice–Food on Sticks in Japan Is Abundant and Varied
Whether you’re in the mood for a snack or a more substantial meal, Japanese skewers offer a wide variety of options from fresh vegetables to grilled meats and even dessert. Be sure to check out the various food on sticks available on your next visit to Japan. Itadakimasu!