Tokyo currently boasts a wide variety of cuisines from countries all around the world. Tokyo has it all, from global cuisine to fad foods, from rare finds to simple eats, and from relatively cheap meals to extremely expensive haute cuisine. Tokyo, or Edo, as it was formerly called, is constantly brimming with new styles of cuisine and foreign foods, yet Tokyo is still firmly rooted in the food culture developed a long time ago when it was still referred to as Edo. Much of Tokyo’s cuisine doesn’t so much represent old style Japanese food as much as it represents a cuisine loved by all Japanese people. In Tokyo, food culture can best be described as a mix of both old and new cuisines.
Few favorite dishes of Tokyo:
Sushi has grown into a popular cuisine the world over. From nigiri-zushi, or bite-sized balls of vinegar-flavored rice topped with pieces of fresh seasonal seafood, to chirashi-zushi, or a plate of this rice covered with a variety of ingredients, the eye-pleasing sushi is a tradition of Japan with universal appeal.
Soba established itself as a popular everyday dish by the mid Edo period, and came to be a major local flavor of Tokyo. It’s also one of the few rare dishes that are perfectly acceptable to slurp. This is because sucking air is believed to enhance the aroma of the buckwheat noodles.
Monja-yaki is made with a flour-based batter topped with shredded cabbage and other ingredients and cooked on a griddle. The 60 or so eateries lining Tsukishima Monja Street serve everything from seafood to ethnic-inspired monja-yaki.
Fukagawa-meshi is a bowl of rice topped with a miso-based stew of Japanese littleneck clams and chopped leeks. The dish originated as a kind of fast food for fishermen working busily in the Fukagawa area near the mouth of the Sumida-gawa River, where clam gathering boomed in the Edo period.
Dojo-nabe is a shallow pot dish lined with dojo loaches and cooked in soy sauce-flavored warishita broth, served with chopped leeks to add as desired. Yanagawa-nabe is also a shallow pot dish lined with loaches but cooked with shaved gobo burdock and beaten eggs.
Chanko-nabe is a hot pot made with chicken and seasonal vegetables. The large pot dish originally cooked for sumo wrestlers—each stable has its own distinct recipe eventually came to gain wide popularity among the general public.
Kabayaki eel is prepared differently in the Kanto and Kansai regions. In Kanto style, the eel is sliced down the back, first broiled plain, then steamed, and then seasoned and grilled once again. Legend says that because Edo had a large population of the samurai warrior class, it was bad luck to slit the eel down the belly.
Tempura refers to fish, vegetables, etc., dipped in batter and fried. Edomae tempura refers to seafood caught in Tokyo Bay, such as Japanese tiger prawns, conger eels, squid, etc., dipped in batter and fried in sesame oil. Tempura is dipped in a soy sauce-flavored soup called “tsuyu” and eaten with grated daikon radish.
Kabayaki is a dish made with unagi (freshwater eel). Unagi can be eaten all throughout Japan, but the Edo style involves cutting open the eel from its back, removing its head, bones, and organs, then steaming it. The steamed eel is then dipped in a sweet soy sauce and grilled over charcoal. Kabayaki was so popular with the Edo people that “Edomae” used to mean “kabayaki.”
Seafood caught in Tokyo Bay was referred to as “Edomae.” Seafood was caught very close to Edo and was able to be freshly prepared and served. Nowadays, there isn’t much seafood caught in Tokyo Bay, and anything good that is caught there usually fetches a high price.
Additionally, “Edomae” also includes the meaning “in the Edo style.”