James from Easy Homemade Sushi is a fellow fan of Japanese food and he joins us this week to talk about what to eat in Kyoto and the essential ‘must try’ menu items. This selection has my mouth watering and so many fabulous memories of our own Kyoto foodie favourites. Keep reading and you are sure to find some good options.
When we think of this old capital city of Japan, we get a vision of monasteries, temples, monks and shrines. While this tourist destination is popular for its historical and cultural significance, there’s one more reason why people love to flock to this place and it’s the traditional food.
While many tourists choose to spend a few days in Kyoto, several others make a one day trip from Osaka to Kyoto just to try out the food. So, no matter how long you stay in the city, make the most of what you have to experience the mouth-watering local dishes.
From fine dining restaurants and temple shops to market and street-side stalls, expect to find a variety of delicious food around you. To cut short your research and help you avoid the fluff, we have shortlisted the top 9 must eat food in Kyoto. Fire Ramen
9 of the best foods in Kyoto
(1) Fire Ramen
The first item on our list is Menbakaichidai or the Kyoto fire ramen, which is literally a fiery dining experience with flaming ramen prepared by the chef. The restaurant that serves fire ramen is located near Nijo Castle and it is extremely popular with food lovers.
Tourists come here just to try the phenomenal fire ramen. As it’s a popular place, expect to find it crowded at any time of the day. You may have to wait in line but the wait will be worth it when you watch the staff work with the visually stunning flaming ramen.
(2) Hamo Tempura
Talk about Japanese traditional food, and it’s incomplete until you mention some kind of tempura. So, here we have Hamo tempura, a summer specialty you can find in Kyoto. Hamo is a dagger-tooth eel which thrives in the seas in the south of Japan.
The eel is a summer food, eaten in many ways, It is marinated, served as sashimi or deep-fried as tempura. The tempura version is a fluffy, crispy, and amazingly delicious food mostly paired with a cold beer to beat the heat. This traditional food is served in most bars and restaurants in Kyoto.
This is one of the most popular dishes in Kyoto and much credit goes to the great water quality in the city. For centuries, people in Kyoto have been making super soft and creamy tofu, which is considered ideal for preparing yudofu. This dish was mainly popularized by the monks of Zen temples.
This is a vegetarian classic that comprises of tender tofu in hot kelp broth. It may be served with different types of dipping sauces that enhance the taste. As Yudofu is low in calories and high in protein content, it comes across as a very healthy option.
If we tell you this dish comprises of leftover rice with hot tea poured over it then this may not sound so appealing. However, you must taste it to believe it! This is one of the most popular traditional foods in Kyoto and you can find different variations of it in restaurants around the city.
In some variations, Ochazuke may be served with toppings such as pickles, wasabi, seaweed, sesame seeds, and so on. It is a popular evening snack in most households in Kyoto. You can find it on the menu of most bars and restaurants.
This is another traditional food that you will only find in this part of the world. It comprises of a carefully prepared thin and delicate skin that covers soy milk when it’s boiled. This layer is removed when the milk cools and it may be eaten fresh or dried.
In Kyoto, Yuba is treated as a rich delicacy used to preparing meals for the Zen monks. It may be served raw, fried, or boiled just like noodles. It may also be simmered with soup. No matter how you choose to eat it, make sure you experience the taste of this healthy and delicious food.
(6) Kamo Nanban
This is a very popular winter food in Kyoto and it comprises of soba noodles or udon mixed in a broth made from onions and duck meat. The dish may also include other varieties of vegetables and meat to add more flavours to it. Interestingly, different restaurants in Kyoto may have a specialized version of Kamo Nanban.
(7) Kyoto-style sushi
You may have tasted sushi before but when you are in this ancient Japanese city, don’t miss out the special Kyoto style sushi. We recommend you to visit Izuju Sushi, located close to Yasada Shrine. It is a small century-old sushi eatery famous for its special nigiri sushi.
Unlike the usual nigiri form, the Kyoto-style sushi is box-shaped with a rectangular-shaped slice of fish on the top. The rice is marinated with vinegar, hence it tastes slightly different. No matter at what time you go, expect to find a line as there are limited seats but this will be an experience to cherish.
(8) Nishin Soba
This is regarded as one of the oldest traditional food in Kyoto, and locals believe that it was created centuries ago. It comprises of a piece of seasoned herring placed over soba noodles that are simmered in a hot broth. It is often flavoured with kelp, dried fish flakes, and soy sauce for an authentic umami flavour. Nishin Soba is served in most of the soba restaurants in Kyoto.
(9) Green Tea Ice-cream
Uji, the cradle of Japanese green tea is situated just half an hour away from Kyoto so it’s not surprising for the city to have some popular green tea desserts. There are several specialty stores in Kyoto that sell green tea and matcha.
Tsujiri Gion is a must-try traditional dessert made from the highest quality green tea from Uji. The place became popular by serving different types of amazing sweets such as green tea ice cream, jelly drinks, cake, shaved ice, green tea noodles and so on.
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Sushi enthusiast & owner of Easy Homemade Sushi
James has been to Japan several times and loves Japanese food and culture. He is also a passionate writer and likes to share his experiences and knowledge through his blog