Kyoto RECOMMENDATIONS See all

Five Essential Kyoto Foods

By Viator, August 2016

5 172 Reviews | Add your review

Traditional Kyoto food relies heavily on vegetables, tofu and rice—a simple but elegant diet that for centuries has catered to monks and vegetarians. This was partly due to the lack of modern refrigeration, which made popular Japanese dishes of raw fish and sushi difficult to find in Kyoto, given its distance from major fishing ports. But today, fish can be found on nearly every street corner, in addition to beef, pork and chicken. Travelers can find Kyoto’s traditional delicacies throughout the city in both markets and restaurants. Here are five of the essentials.

Pickles
Order a meal in almost any restaurant in Japan, and the entrée will undoubtedly be served with pickled vegetables. This rings true in Kyoto, where three main types of pickles are specialties of the region. The first is senmaizuke, thinly sliced turnip pickled in salt and seaweed with sugar sprinkled on top to add unexpected sweetness. Shibazuke is salty, pickled eggplant with a hint of ginger, while suguki, or pickled turnip, is fermented in salt.

Fu
It’s hard to describe fu, translated as wheat gluten, but the protein-rich, elastic, textured substance replaces meat in many contemporary diets. Other cultures refer to the dish as Seitan and wheat meat. Having been produced in Kyoto for over 100 years, the meat substitute is served in a variety of ways, including as a popular ingredient in soups.

Tofu
The staple of Kyoto is tofu, made from soybeans. The healthy protein is abundant and fresh across the city, usually hand-made. While every region of Japan produces the meat substitute, Kyoto is renowned and revered for its production and version of the dish. Found in soups, stir fry, alongside rice and sometimes simply paired with pickled vegetables, Kyoto reveres its tofu. In the bustling Nishiki Market, patrons can also purchase and sample the local delicacy yuba, or tofu skin.

Seasonal vegetables
Fresh, regional vegetables have been a mainstay in the Kyoto diet for centuries, and they are vast and varied—emi imo is a variety of yam easily distinguished by its prawn-like pattern on the skin; horikawa gobo is a root vegetable from burdock; kamo-nasu is a type of eggplant; and kintoki ninjin is a long, thin, red carrot. These vegetables and many others can be found everywhere from house kitchens to large restaurants.

Ochazuke
This tea-flavored rice might be the most quintessential Japanese dish, made from the country’s two major staples: rice and green tea. The simple dish is prepared by pouring green tea over rice and adding savory toppings like pickled plums, seaweed, salmon flakes or even broiled eel. Normally eaten as a simple snack or a late-night meal, ochazuke is Kyoto comfort food.

Tours & Tickets

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Japanese Tea Ceremony with a Tea Master, Kyoto, null
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Japanese Tea Ceremony with a Tea Master

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 57 Reviews

Enjoy a traditional tea ceremony and learn the sophisticated philosophy behind serving a bowl of tea. You’ll have three options for this experience: a 1-hour ...  Read more

Location: Kyoto, Japan
Duration: Varies

From USD $35.04
Kyoto Cooking Class, Sake Tasting and Nishiki Food Market Walking Tour, Kyoto, Cultural Tours
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Kyoto Cooking Class, Sake Tasting and Nishiki Food Market Walking Tour

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 64 Reviews

Explore the Nishiki Food Market and learn how to make a home-cooked Japanese meal on this Kyoto culinary walking tour. With a knowledgeable guide, learn about ...  Read more

Location: Kyoto, Japan
Duration: 3 hours 30 minutes (approx.)

From USD $112.89
Fushimi Inari and Sake Brewery Tour, Kyoto, Cooking Classes
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Fushimi Inari and Sake Brewery Tour

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 30 Reviews

Visit two landmarks of Kyoto’s Inari district during this guided morning tour. Start by walking through one of the iconic sights of Kyoto, the stunning red ...  Read more

Location: Kyoto, Japan
Duration: 3 hours 30 minutes (approx.)

From USD $103.16
Kyoto Cooking Class, Kyoto, Beer & Brewery Tours
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Kyoto Cooking Class

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 11 Reviews

Discover Kyoto’s rich culinary heritage during a cooking class in the former imperial capital. Your 1.5-hour lesson takes place in a ‘machiya,’ a traditional ...  Read more

Location: Kyoto, Japan
Duration: 90 minutes (approx.)

From USD $54.50
Private Sushi and Tempura Cooking Class at a Local Kyoto Home, Kyoto, Cooking Classes
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Private Sushi and Tempura Cooking Class at a Local Kyoto Home

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 5 Reviews

Perfect the art of home cooking in Kyoto with this private tempura and sushi-making class! You’ll be picked up from your hotel by a friendly guide who ...  Read more

Location: Kyoto, Japan
Duration: 3 hours (approx.)

From USD $142.09
Kyoto Sushi-Making Class, Kyoto, Cooking Classes
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Kyoto Sushi-Making Class

5 star rating: Highly Recommended 5 Reviews

Learn the culinary art of rolling sushi in a sushi-making class and enjoy your creations for dinner. Your 1.5-hour lesson takes place in a traditional Kyoto ...  Read more

Location: Kyoto, Japan
Duration: 90 minutes (approx.)

From USD $54.50
Japanese Homestyle Cooking Class in Kyoto City Center, Kyoto, Cooking Classes
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Japanese Homestyle Cooking Class in Kyoto City Center

Want to know more about Kyoto-style home cooking? Learn more about Japanese culture and enjoy a unique, cultural experience while learning about the heart of ' ...  Read more

Location: Kyoto, Japan
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes (approx.)

From USD $31.54
Cook an Authentic Japanese lunch including Hot Pot and Okonomiyaki in a Local Home, Kyoto, Cooking ... 
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Cook an Authentic Japanese lunch including Hot Pot and Okonomiyaki in a Local Home

Join your hosts Koji and Kaori for a private, authentic cooking lesson and delicious lunch in their modern home in a quiet neighborhood just north of Kyoto’s ...  Read more

Location: Kyoto, Japan
Duration: 2 hours (approx.)

From USD $42.00

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