While Japanese cuisine is largely unbeatable, there are still many dishes that fussy eaters might balk at. Some of us refuse to try unfamiliar meats, while others can’t stand condiments and sauces. Others might simply be vegetarian, vegan or gluten free. For all of these diners, there is still a wealth of Japanese food to enjoy, whether that be from convenience stores, restaurants, or bakeries. Here is some of the best Japanese food that’s sure to please even the most selective of snackers.
At the Convenience Store
Many of the snacks and meals found in convenience stores like Lawson and Family Mart are Japanese, but plenty of others are European-influenced, like fried chicken, pasta meals, sandwiches and cookies. Here are some of the best convenience store foods that anyone can enjoy, no matter how much of a fussy eater they may be.
Onigiri (for vegans)
Onigiri are Japanese rice balls wrapped in a thin sheet of nori (seaweed). They come in a variety of flavours, including but not limited to: plain salted rice (safe for vegans), tuna and mayonnaise, salmon, and pickled plums. Onigiri are simple, cheap, and hearty. They fill you up quickly and are not so far removed from the tuna sandwiches your mum used to make for your packed lunch. There are often a number of creative vegetarian and vegan options.
The perfect breakfast item. Melon pan were originally inspired by the sweetbreads of Portuguese traders. Today, they are a staple of Japanese convenience stores and can be found in a variety of flavours with various creamy fillings. The simplest—and arguably the best—form of melon pan is a yellow lump of sweet, soft, sugar-coated bread.
As long as you’re not vegetarian or vegan, there are few foods more beloved than fried chicken. And, in Japan, chicken is fried better than anywhere else. In convenience stores, you’ll find the iconic Japanese fried chicken cutlets and karaage chicken skewers keeping nice and hot in a heated cabinet by the registers.
The fried chicken at Family Mart is called “Fami chicki” and has a loyal following. It’s yellow and white striped bag even inspires Halloween costumes. 7-11 has “Nana chicki” and Lawson sells “L-chicki”. It’s best to try them all and see which one’s your favourite!
Also in the hot food cabinet: Karaage skewers or cups. Sometimes also served in Japanese curry, they represent a uniquely Japanese way of frying chicken that results in a soft, fluffy coating over succulent and tender meat.
In Japanese convenience stores, there is always a wall lined with full microwavable meals. These are of a far higher quality than those found in western supermarkets, and they are often filled with pasta dishes like carbonara, or Japanese omurice (omelette with rice inside). They’re inexpensive and can be enjoyed by just about anyone. The staff will also provide you with cutlery and a napkin, should you wish to enjoy it in-store.
The most iconic Japanese snack food is, without question, Pocky. These are long, thin sticks of crunchy biscuit, coated in a thin but flavourful layer of chocolate. They come in a variety of flavours, such as strawberry, banana, and matcha, as well as plain milk chocolate. A wholesome snack but also delightfully inoffensive to any fussy eater.
Japan offers a host of French and Portuguese style bakeries, with everything found inside being sweet, fresh, and delectable. If you’re a fussy eater in Japan, worried about the seafood or the traditional ways of preparing meats, you can rest easy when you visit the Japanese bakeries.
Crepes are a beloved food in Tokyo, and are found in abundance in the Harajuku district. Here, crepe stalls line the main streets and cost only a few hundred yen. The perfect sweet snack to enjoy as you explore the district.
In Japanese bakeries, you can find every kind of cake imaginable, especially cream-filled cakes topped with fresh fruit. Japanese bakeries are something of a wonderland when it comes to French-inspired cakes and pastries.
Bread is not a traditional food in Japan, but it is still a popular thing to buy when visiting the bakeries. Japan loves sweet bread, in particular, so it’s easy to buy a full loaf of brioche, or a melon pan filled with strawberry or chocolate cream.
Japanese Food for Fussy Eaters: At Restaurants
While Japanese cuisine is, arguably, the best in the entire world, it can nevertheless be challenging to find Japanese food for fussy eaters: diners who don’t enjoy spicy food, or too many condiments, or too much seafood. Fortunately, if you’re visiting Japan and looking to try the local food, as long as it isn’t too unfamiliar, or you’re eager to enjoy a Japanese take on the familiar, you can’t go wrong with these choices.
Many tourists visiting Japan mistake sushi with sashimi, and they will steer clear of sushi for fear of eating raw fish. Sushi is, however, a primarily rice-based dish, and there is a wide variety of ‘safe’ sushi to enjoy. Think egg omelette or cucumber maki rolls. Plus, the amount of sauce you wish to use when dipping is entirely up to you.
Tempura is another Japanese dish inspired by Portuguese cuisine. In simple terms, it is nothing more than deep-fried vegetables. You can visit restaurants in Japan which serve nothing but tempura, and as long as you enjoy vegetables and fried foods, you have a winner with tempura. For those who don’t mind a bit of seafood, tempura prawns are a must-try!
Curry isn’t for everyone; many people don’t enjoy how spicy it is. Japanese curry, however, isn’t spicy at all, unless you specifically ask for it to be. One dish we’ve never seen someone turn their nose up at is katsu curry. This is a plate of boiled rice topped with a cutlet of fried chicken (or pork), sliced into strips, and a generous helping of katsu sauce. The curry sauce is a basic Indian inspired gravy; far from spicy and incredibly wholesome.
Most fussy eaters still enjoy a good omelette. Japanese omurice takes that tried-and-true omelette recipe and fills it with fried rice. If you want to try a local favourite that also feels familiar to your own cuisine, omurice is perfect.
The name yakitori literally translated to “cooked chicken” and that’s exactly what you get here: simple grilled and salted chicken breast on a skewer, perfect to enjoy with a pint of beer. You can find yakitori in izakaya pubs and also switch out the chicken on the skewer with peppers, mushrooms or tofu if you’re vegan or vegetarian.
While every picky eater is different in their own way, there is guaranteed to be something on this list of Japanese food for fussy eaters for you. Vegetarians can happily enjoy most sushi, tempura, and omurice (just look out for dashi in the stock!), while those fussy eaters looking for the familiar can enjoy karaage, crepes, and curry to their heart’s content. Just be safe knowing that Japanese cuisine has something to offer everyone!
Post by Japan Journeys.