Yatai food is a name given to a specific type of street food in Japan. Yatai literally translates as ‘Shop Stand’ but is often just changed to Food Cart for the most part. These food carts are found everywhere in the country and primarily in the main cities. Tokyo is probably, rather not shockingly, the biggest city of them all for Yatai food in modern times but that is arguable when you visit the magnificent city of Osaka where it is thought that it was created. The original Yatai where formed in the Meiji period (1868-1912) and where made of wood and had two wheels and two wooden beams with which to hold and manoeuvre the cart. There are many different foods you can get in a Yatai but here for you today is the top five. Enjoy.
Takoyaki is a really delicious bite sized ball of filled batter. They are made in a special moulded pan that are created just for this dish. This dish is by far one of the most popular Yatai food. It is most often filled with octopus as the main ingredient. It is then often filled with Tempura scraps and spring onion and maybe a little pickled ginger. They are often served on a plate with sauce on top that which is usually a mixture of Japanese mayonnaise and Takoyaki sauce (which is similar to Worcestershire sauce). There is then a variety of toppings available such as dried bonito. Make no bones about it this is one of the most famous Osakan dishes and you must try it when visiting the ancient city.
Yakisoba is an original Yatai food dish. It originated on the food stalls and is still as popular as ever to this day. Yakisoba, to put it simply, is a type of Japanese noodle stir fry. Its name literally means Fried Buckwheat which is misleading because the noodles themselves are made from regular wheat flour. These stir fry’s a very popular because of their ability to be speedy and give the comfort of a good home cooked noodle dish. It is often flavoured simply with soy sauce and either beef or pork with traditional Japanese vegetables. And like a lot of Yatai food it is often topped with a little mayonnaise and maybe some dried fish flakes (katsuobushi) or even seaweed powder (aonori) or pickled ginger (beni shoga).
Ikayaki is said to have originated also in Osaka but is now served all over Japan. It is a very popular fast food item and celebrates one of Japans biggest food stuffs, seafood. Not just any seafood though, squid. This is a term that has generally come to mean grilled fish that is topped with soy sauce. Simple, no? Its simplicity is what makes it so popular. The freshness of the squid with beautiful soy sauce on top makes for the ultimate fast food because as we all know squid is one of the fasted things to cook. It can be served whole on a stick of some kind or cut into rings and tentacles and served more on a paper plate or basket. If you are a lover of squid then you will not want to miss this one.
Now this is a dish that people all over the world will be familiar with. Yakitomorokoshi is, to put it simply, a Japanese version of grilled corn on the cob. It is then flavoured with Japanese soy sauce as opposed to the western worlds version of flavouring it with butter or Parmesan and in some cases soft cheese or mayonnaise. A dish that you will definitely love because this is one that the whole world loves.
Okonomiyaki is another staple from the city of Osaka. The best way to describe it would be to liken it to a Japanese style savoury pancake. This is one dish that is probably the most popular Yatai food. Lots of different regions in Japan have their own way of thinking when it comes to what toppings you would get in an Okonomiyaki but the bases is some kind of meat or fish with traditional vegetables and some soy sauce. After grilling, it can then be topped with more things, again like Japanese mayonnaise and spring onions.
So, there you have it, the best food to buy at a Yatai. When you visit a food stall or food cart in Japan try out some of these dishes. They are all very different but all serve a purpose when it comes to the magnificent culture of Japanese street food and the old throwback to the still amazing Yatai and the magnificent people that work hard to give you amazing and delicious food and fast. There will be a dish for everyone in this, and even if you are with someone picky you can always buy them some Yakitomorokoshi.
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