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Tokyo Guide: 6 Best Street Foods of Asakusa

By Umami Recipe
Tokyo Guide: 6 Best Street Foods of Asakusa

Asakusa is a city where traditional Japanese culture is on full display. It is located in the heart of Tokyo, within sight of the Tokyo Skytree, the tallest radio tower in Japan. Asakusa's attractions are not only the big Kaminarimon gate and the historic Sensoji temple. Affordable street food is also one of the main attractions. This article introduces several of the most iconic. Feel free to use it as a guide to enjoy the food of Asakusa, one of Japan's most visited sites.

Succulent Snacks: Agemanju

Agemanjyu is a deep-fried version of manjyu, a type of Japanese pastry. Originally, manju is a sweet that originated in China and was brought to Japan in the form of a tea cake by a Buddhist monk. Chinese manju typically had meat inside, but the manju brought back to Japan was ingeniously altered by changing the filling to a sweet red bean paste, making it the perfect accompaniment to tea. The manjyu dough is made by kneading wheat flour, adding sweet red bean paste and then forming it into a round shape, which is called a manju. There are also many types of buns. The standard dough is a simple flour paste, but by mixing brown sugar or fruit juice into it, the flavor of the resulting pastry becomes completely different. Particularly popular is the brown sugar manju, which is a delicious combination of brown sugar and red bean paste anko.

Agemanju, famous in Asakusa, is a snack made by frying these manju in oil to a crisp. While ordinary manjuu has a soft and fluffy texture, agemanju is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The contrast of textures makes it a fun dish. In Asakusa, there are many stores selling agemanjuu, and you can enjoy it at a reasonable price. If you are feeling a little fatigued while strolling through Asakusa, why not buy some sweet agemanjuu and take a relaxing tea break?

Adorable Sweets: Ningyo-yaki

Japan is known for its perfection of the cute, and this is once again demonstrated in the Ningyo-yaki, a popular sweet made of a sponge cake of eggs, sugar and milk, baked on a special griddle, and filled with custard cream or bean paste. The most distinctive feature is its appearance. As you can see from the fact that it contains the word "doll" (ningyo), the ningyo-yaki is molded into the shape of a doll or face. Depending on the shape of the griddle, the shape of the finished product varies. Also, the contents are usually custard cream and bean paste, but variations exist, including matcha-flavored bean paste or sakura-flavored bean paste. The pastry itself is a sweet sponge cake, so some places sell it without the filling. By the way, Ningyo-yaki are small enough to be picked up with two fingers. You can eat as many as you want, just like popcorn, so it's the perfect sweet for when you're hungry. In fact, many visitors go around eating ningyo-yaki while soaking in the sights of Asakusa.

Gentle Delights: Sweet Potato Yokan

A treat you will find in Asakusa is the sweet potato (imo) yokan. The imo yokan is a sweet snack that is a representative Japanese tea time accompaniment. It is a confectionery made by pouring red bean paste, mixed with sugar into a mold and hardening it with agar. Since it is hardened with agar, the outside is plump and the inside is soft and moist. The filling of the yokan is also characterized by the sweet and salty taste of anko. By the way, a large amount of sugar is used in Anko, so even a small amount provides an efficient energy source from sugar. Imo yokan contains a large amount of sweet potatoes, which gives it a more satisfying texture than regular yokan. Invariably, it also has a strong sweet potato taste and can be quite filling, so try not to eat it right before or after a meal. Nevertheless, you can only eat authentic sweet potato yokan in Asakusa and other traditional towns. Therefore, when you visit Asakusa, keep an eye out for the delicious sweet potato yokan.

Juicy Meat: Menchi Katsu

Menchikatsu is a dish of minced meat mixed with chopped onions, breaded and fried, and is sold as street food at Asakusa. The word "katsu" in Japanese means "to win," and some Japanese students eat it before big exams, like college entrance exams and other important tests. Incidentally, menchikatsu is a type of cutlet, and there are other types of cutlets such as tonkatsu (pork) and torikatsu (chicken). Tonkatsu and torikatsu are made by battering a large piece of pork or chicken and deep-frying it. On the other hand, with menchikatsu, the size of the cutlet can be adjusted depending on the size of the round of ground meat. In most cases, menchikatsu is sized to be eaten with one hand. Menchikatsu is a street food that is perfect as a mid-afternoon snack or as an accompaniment to a meal.

Crunchy Cookie Dough: Melon Bread

Asakusa sells breads that you will be hard pressed to find outside of Japan. One of these is the melon bread (melon-pan). Melon bread is a sweet bread that resembles the shape of a melon. A crispy cookie dough, colored green or orange with a mesh-like texture covers the top of the rounded bread. Its sweetness contributes to its popularity with children. Some bakeries that are particular about their products use melon juice in their melon bread. With a slight melon flavor in the taste and smell, melon bread is a favorite of anyone who likes this delicate fruit. Underneath the cookie dough is a soft and fluffy bread dough. In some cases, this dough may also contain melon juice or cream. This treat has found other forms of expression, for example as melon bread filled with ice cream for a sweet summer dessert. The size of bread is palm-sized, making it a natural choice for a street snack.

Monaka Ice Cream

In Asakusa, there is a unique dessert called Monaka Ice Cream. Monaka is a thin dough made from glutinous rice, usually with bean jam inside. Since there is no flavor in the dough itself, the flavor can accommodate all types of flavorings. Monaka ice cream often combines red bean paste (anko) and ice cream. Also, matcha ice cream and seasonal chestnut ice cream are popular choices as far as monaka ice cream fillings go. It is a perfect Japanese snack for the hot season.

Try Asakusa's Street Food and Taste Japanese Tradition!

We have introduced some of the most popular street foods in Asakusa. Food reflects the history and traditions of the area. Some may argue that only by eating street food while visiting Asakusa's shrines and attractions can a traveler truly understand the local tradition. The street foods introduced in this article are well known and easy to find. We encourage you to try some of them when you visit Asakusa.

Umami Recipe Team

Bringing what's new on Japanese food and culture, from traditional to current trends to your home.

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