For many Semester at Sea voyagers, their understanding of Japanese cuisine is limited to two dishes ‚Äì ramen and sushi ‚Äì but food in Japan is diverse, regional, and storied, dating back thousands of years. Although there are many more options than just sushi and ramen, countless Japanese dishes are not widely available in voyagers‚Äô hometowns, so a lack of exposure is often the culprit for students’ limited understanding.
Thankfully, the Spring 2019 Voyage is full of adventurous eaters looking to dive into the culture of Japan through food. Visiting Japan as the first international port served as an excellent opportunity to experiment with new dishes, and many voyagers even found new foods that they loved! Here are six Japanese dishes our voyagers tried during their recent visit to Japan.
Squid Pancake cooked on a Teppan Grill
This savory pancake originates from the Kansai region of Japan near Osaka, which is close to the area where the MV World Odyssey was docked. Naturally, voyagers wanted to try this local dish! Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savory pancake containing a variety of ingredients, typically squid and pancake batter. The pancake is then cooked on a teppan, or flat top grill, and covered with several toppings including mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and sweet otafuku sauce.
Buddhist Bento Box
Mixed Vegetarian Cuisine
‚ÄúI was super surprised by the Buddhist Bento Box on my field class. There were interesting things that I had never tried before like gluten balls, miso eggplant, and all sorts of fermented things. Then I found out that they cooked it in this really mindful way which made me appreciate it even more. I loved how aesthetically pleasing the presentation was too. It was beautiful!‚Äù ‚Äì Madeline Warner of Colorado State University
Griddle Fried Octopus Balls
This famed Japanese street food is widely available throughout the Kansai region of Japan and is one of the most popular local snacks. Voyagers saw lots of takoyaki being cooked as they strolled through the streets of Kobe and Osaka! Minced octopus is tossed with a light pancake batter and slowly fried on a specially molded circular pan so the mini pancakes come out in perfectly spherical shapes. It is then topped with raw green onions, bonito flakes, and takoyaki sauce to be eaten on the streets with a skewer.
Herbal Tea Made from Spent Green Tea Leaves
‚ÄúI had never tried matcha tea before even though I had seen it on Instagram. The green color is so interesting and beautiful! When I tried it, at first I didn‚Äôt like it because it is quite bitter and kind of earthy. But it kind of grows on you. By the end, I thought it was good!‚Äù Agathe Olier of the University of Tampa.
Pork and Squid Omelet
Tonpeiyaki is a regional omelet that can vary across the country, but the most common style is an Osaka-style tonpeiyaki, which is a ground pork and squid omelet with cabbage. Often cooked on a teppan grill, the savory omelet can be eaten for breakfast or dinner, and similar to other Osaka teppan foods, it is typically served with a variety of sauces that cover the omelet.
Locally Raised Tender Beef
‚ÄúThe minute I found out our port was in Kobe, I knew I wanted to try Kobe beef. I have wanted to try it for a long time but it is prohibitively expensive in the U.S. It is still expensive in Japan, but there are more options so you can go as expensive as you‚Äôre able. It was really cool to be able to cook it on a grill at my table too. I couldn‚Äôt believe how tender and juicy the meat was. An experience I will never forget!‚Äù ‚Äì Sam Steinbrecher, a Lifelong Learner from Chicago, Illinois.
Spring 2019 Voyagers have plenty of culinary cultures left to explore! Alumni, what foods did you try and love while traveling in Japan? Send us your suggestions on Twitter or comment below!