• Kitsune udon (Tokyo Local)Source: Tokyo Local
Watching athletes do their higher, faster, stronger thing from the couch sure works up an appetite.
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29 Jul 2021 - 10:16 AM  UPDATED 13 Aug 2021 - 3:51 PM

All this strenuous Olympics-watching has made us very hungry indeed. The energy expended cheering on athletes straining for gold has to be replenished somehow. Lucky we're in Tokyo as there's no better way to refuel than taking a stroll around Shinjuku, snacking as we go.

What's that? We're not actually at the Olympics in Tokyo right now? We've been so invested in swimming we kind of thought we were. (Though it has to be said, not quite as invested as Ariarne Titmus' coach Dean Boxall!)

We can't hit the Tokyo streets right now, we'll have to hit the kitchen instead. Fortunately, we've got everything you need right here. Just close your eyes and pretend the dish you've made is from one of Tokyo's iconic vendors.

Takoyaki

One of the many 'yakis' sold in stalls all over Tokyo, takoyaki is the version filled with octopus. These little balls of yum are especially popular at festivals, so they're bound to bring something extra to your late-night viewing.

In Tokyo: head to Ginza Fukuyoshi, 3 Chome-12-19 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0061.

Okonomiyaki

This iconic favourite originated in Osaka, but you can find excellent okonomiyaki all over Tokyo. Incidentally, if your okonomiyaki isn't messy and literally dripping with condiments, you're doing it wrong.

In Tokyo: try Sakura Tei, 3 Chome-20-1 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001

Vegetarian okonomiyaki

Usually, okonomiyaki includes meat like bacon or prawns, and is topped with bonito flakes, but this is a vegetarian-friendly version. It's a highly tailorable dish, with a name that means "fried, as you like it." 

Okonomipotato

One of my favourite Japanese foods is okonomiyaki, a kind of Japanese savoury pancake where the batter is mixed with whatever toppings take your fancy. But the toppings used with okonomiyaki are also fantastic in a baked potato. Try these with bacon and cheese, grilled prawns or any leftovers you may have in the fridge.

Yakitori

Skewered chicken satisfies in just about every Olympic country, but Japanese yakitori takes it next level. The marinade of sake, mirin, soy, sugar and ginger makes for an unbelievably moreish snack. Start the day before to really power up the flavour.

In Tokyo: go straight to the Michelin-starred Bird Land Ginza, 4 Chome−2−15 Chuo City, Ginza, 104-0061 Tokyo

Yakitori

Yakitori are Japan's ubiquitous chicken skewers, cooked over special charcoal barbecues that spread their irresistible scent across the entire block.

Chicken yakitori

Yakitori is Japanese chicken on skewers that's cooked over coals. This recipe is easy to make at home, seasoned with favourites like soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil.

Udon

Slurping on a bowl of udon is just the thing when you're strolling along the Sumida River. Or watching the 20km race walk in your pyjamas. However, you find yourself.

In Tokyo: Go straight to Daitsune, 7 Chome−15−17 Chuo City, Ginza, 104-0061 Tokyo

Yaki udon

Stir-frying at home can be challenging. This cooking technique relies on the kind of fierce heat that domestic gas or electricity supplies struggle to deliver - if you try to wok-cook too much food at a time, it often ends up stewing, not frying. For that reason, this recipe is designed to serve 2. If you want to feed 4, just double the amounts and cook a second batch. 

Curry udon

Curry dishes are popular in Japan; curry was introduced by the British during the nineteenth century, when Britain ruled India. Unsurprisingly then, Japanese curry is mild in terms of flavour and Japanese cooks prepare it using a pre-bought mix that comes in the form of a solid block. It’s often referred to as “curry roux”.

Oyakodon

Oyakodon is probably what powered Japanese skateboarder Momiji Nishiya to a gold medal at the tender age of 13. So eat up!

In Tokyo: go to Honke Abeya, 1 Chome−9−1 Chiyoda City, Marunouchi, 100-0005 Tokyo

Mochi

If you fancy something sweet, mochi will quickly have your heart. It has a delightfully chewy bite that is so satisfying to munch on. Similar to winning a gold medal, we expect.

In Tokyo: Toraya has been serving mochi since the 17th century,  1 Chome−9−1 Chiyoda City, Marunouchi, 100-0005 Tokyo

Black sesame and coconut mochi

Making homemade mochi may seem daunting, but it’s actually quite simple.

Heavensturn mochi

To celebrate Heavensturn (New Year) in Eorzea, Lemon Drop has prepared one traditional mochi inspired by the event art (dango) and one that blends both Eastern and Western food and resembles the cut mochi thumbnail.

Gyoza

Keep your strength up with Japan's juicy take on dumplings. Gyoza is often filled with pork mince and vegetables, but this version keeps it plant-based for budding athletes like ourselves.

In Tokyo: you can't beat Ebisu no Yasube, Hagiwara Bldg. 1F, Ebisu 4-9-15, Shibuya-ku 150-0013

Harajuku pork gyoza

Kasutera

Have you noticed all of the athletes sitting around smashing castella cake before their event? We haven't either. But don't let that stop you.

In Tokyo: indulge at Ginza Bunmeido Higashi Ginza, 4 Chome-13-11 Ginza, Chuo City, Tokyo 104-0061

Tonkatsu

This style of Japanese breadcrumb is delicious, especially in pork cutlets (tonkatsu).

Crumbed pork (tonkatsu) is in our lane and we're okay with it. According to Jane Lason, "The Japanese, in a never-ending quest to better the world in most things, have managed to breed a nation of super fryers, and fried food is eaten more commonly than one might assume – always in combination with other ingredients that help digest the oil and cut through the richness." This is one of those satisfying dishes to eat in the middle of winter – dressed with a sharp, sweetish brown sauce. 

In Tokyo: you can't beat Tonkatsu Maisen Aoyama Honten, 4 Chome-8-5 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001

Dorayaki

Another sweet treat the athletes are pretending not to eat is dorayaki. You can't blame them for scoffing down on a fluffy pancake sandwich every chance they get.

In Tokyo: don't go past Kamejū, 2 Chome-18-11 Kaminarimon, Taito City, Tokyo 111-0034

Red-bean pancakes (dorayaki)

Dorayaki is a traditional Japanese confection: sweet red-bean paste sandwiched between two grilled pancakes.

Green tea dorayaki pancakes

Dorayaki makes a tasty teatime cake rather than after-dinner dessert. However, simply adding matcha to the cake batter – and serving with cream – gives you a smarter-looking dish more appropriate to a dessert course. I’ve provided a recipe for the adzuki bean paste, but you can purchase tinned cooked red bean paste from Japanese or Asian supermarkets.

Kakigori

While it might seem a little wintry for kakigori, all this sitting around does work up a sweat. Plus this version of the shaved ice dessert does contain plum wine, so that should warm you up nicely.

In Tokyo: run to Mamatoko, 3 Chome-7-9 Yayoicho, Nakano City, Tokyo 164-0013

Keep walking
Chicken and mushroom doria

Doria is an Italian-inspired dish that originated in France, but which now only seems to exist in Japan where it is phenomenally popular. Think of a gratin of bechamel over rice.

Japanese egg salad sandwiches

A classic lunchbox sanga with sweeter Japanese-style mayonnaise and thick slices of ham.

Sukiyaki with hot-spring eggs

Sukiyaki a popular meal for gatherings, as the dish is typically cooked over a portable stove in the centre of the table and everyone can take part.

Omelette rice (omarisu)

Omuraisu arrives at your table as a perfect, smooth, quivering oval, a golden omelette perched atop a bed of fried rice. You slice into it and it spills open, fluffy and soft, dressing the rice with a rich, molten egg sauce.

Katsu burgers

The panko coating used for these burgers keeps the juiciness of the minced meat in, with fragrant onion and crisp cabbage accentuating the texture and flavour.

Cotton soft cheesecake

Cotton soft cheesecakes (or soufflé cheesecakes as they are known in Japan) are light, soft and fluffy, with a citrusy tang from lemon juice and yuzu jam.

Abura soba

Abura soba, contrary to its name, is not actually soba, or buckwheat noodles, but a dry-style ramen created in Tokyo’s Kitatama district in the 1950s.

Beef and broccoli soboro

Soboro is a Japanese meat and rice dish popular in donburi cuisine. The name refers to the small pieces of protein, usually ground meat and egg, that are cooked into small crumbled pieces. 

Miso-glazed butternut pumpkin

This dish really is best eaten at room temperature because when the pumpkin roasts, the natural juices will come to the surface in a pool. When it rests, those juices will get absorbed back in, and will be heavenly.

Japanese potato salad

Is it mashed potato? Is it a sandwich spread? Nobody really knows! But if there’s one thing we DO know it’s that this Japanese potato salad is bloody delicious  … and who can hate a salad you can serve with an ice-cream scoop?