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No matter where you go in Japan, you are never away from great food and Kobe is no exception. Despite being a small city, Kobe has earned a big name and a huge reputation as a must-visit destination for food lovers. From the street lining shops selling traditional food wrapped in authentic flavors to the fine dining waterfront restaurants serving continental cuisine, Kobe caters to diverse tastes.
There are so many diverse dishes to select from when dining out in this small Japanese city. Making a choice may become even tougher when you only have a few days in hand. To help you with this, we have created a list of 18 must-eat foods in Kobe. Use this as a culinary guide to discover the exotic aroma and mouthwatering flavors that can take you on a gastronomic ride.
#1. Kobe Beef
When you are in Kobe, it’s a shame not to try out the world-famous beef. It’s almost like a tradition for any visitor to start their food journey with this dish, popular for being gorgeously marbled and tremendously tender. The specialty lies in the fact that the meat comes only from the purebred Tajima cattle and it goes through strict requirements to be labeled as the authentic Kobe beef. In most restaurants, you will find Kobe beef served as teppanyaki or grilled steak.
#2. Popiah Sotto
A specialty about Kobe is that you can find varieties of food inspired from around the world and one such hidden gem is the Sannomiya District where you can find this delicious Thai food. Popia Sotto is a delicious spring roll served with Japanese sake, cocktails, and wines. Visit the centrally located Baam Somdet where you can enjoy their signature Popiah Sotto along with other delicious stir fry dishes.
A country that has water bodies flanking its sides is expected to have a variety of seafood delicacies and one such dish you will love to enjoy is Akashiyaki. It comprises of an egg-heavy batter on the exterior and soft tako (octopus) in the center, and cooked on a takoyaki grill. The ball is then cooked it in a delicious dashi broth. Some people consider it to be a precursor to takoyaki but it is much softer.
Another amazing gem of a dish inspired by the popular French delicacy but adapted as per Japanese tastes. It now forms an important part of a staple dish in Japan. The Croquettes served in Kobe are known to be really good and there are some extremely popular croquette shops in the city. It comprises of vegetables, eggs, minced meat, mashed potatoes, and white sauce. If you plan a trip to Kobe, don’t forget a date with this savory delicacy.
One of our favorite must-eat foods in Kobe is the lip-smacking seafood dish is Ikanago. Made from sand eel or inago, it’s actually boiled in soy sauce. It has a sweet taste and is mostly served as a side dish or over steaming rice. Sand eels are called so because the tiny fish that are typically spotted in the sand close to Sea. While this dish requires an acquired taste and you may not like it appearance-wise, it’s definitely worth a try.
If you are passionate about food, don’t miss a visit to Kobe’s Chinatown where you can find a variety of Chinese dishes such as the Gyozas. It is a type of dumpling that may be boiled, steamed, or fried with pork, shrimp, chicken, or lamb as fillings. The Chinese influence in Kobe has made the dish extremely popular and there are some really good restaurants in the city.
This might seem to be an obvious choice for must-eat foods in Kobe because ramen is a popular food found throughout Japan. However, the specialty about Japanese food is that each region has its own unique adaption or variation to a particular dish. In Kobe, you get to treat your taste buds with pork-based ramen with soy sauce and salt.
#8. Tofu Lollipops
Even though people mostly think of fish and seafood when talking about Japanese cuisine, vegetarianism is also deep-rooted in their culture. The connection with vegetarian food goes back to the 13th century when a type of plain food called shojinryori was popularized by the Zen Buddhist monks. It only comprised of tofu, vegetables, and seeds. In Kobe, you can find food that reflects the shojinryori culture and we totally recommend that you try the grilled tofu lollipops drizzled with miso sauce.
#9. Wanto Burger
While you may usually associate burgers with western food, this Japanese version of burger is definitely worth a try. This American classic takes burger to a different level with delicious Kobe beef patties, salted eggs, fried garlic chips, and finely sliced Wagyu steak. If you are a fan of burgers, you must try out this truly exotic Japanese adaption of the food.
#10. Bokkake Yakisoba
If you are on a business trip to Kobe, don’t miss out on this specialty dish served in the working district of Kobe. Bokkake Yakisoba comprises of fried noodles that are mixed with beef tendon and konjac jelly simmered in a sweet-salty sauce. This exotic dish infuses the three ingredients and the beef tendon is cooked to a pulp, seasoned with noodles and konjac jelly. You can find this dish in yakisoba shops, Japanese taverns, and okonomiyaki restaurants around the city.
This is a light yet delicious meal made from somen-noodles served with fresh vegetables and slices of eel in a clear soup. It is often paired with light jasmine tea and numerous dessert options. To enjoy Somen at its best, we would recommend a sweet shop named Kikusui, located in front of the Kobe Station. There you will find a variety of other meals along with many sweet options.
#12. Mapo Tofu
If you thought vegetarian dishes were all plain then be prepared to be surprised by the dish called Mapo Tofu, which is both spicy and delicious. Tofu is cut into small pieces and enjoyed in a soup or fried with spices to enhance the flavor. It comprises of a spicy sauce made from ground pork, fermented black beans, and red pepper. Let me warn you that the dish is not for the faint-hearts and it has a characteristic flavor, aroma, flakiness, freshness, and tenderness.
#13. Bakery Food In Kobe
Bakery foods are extremely famous in Japan. When you are in Kobe, don’t forget to grab some of the specialties like the mustard roll or long sausage. Similar to any bakery in Japan, you just need to take a tray and pile up your choice of treats. If you are feeling adventurous, try on the different and unique creations such as seaweed bread or green tea tarts.
#14. Motomachi Cake
Talk about bakery goods and how can we not mention cake. In Kobe, one of the must-eat sweet delicacy is the Motomachi Cake. You can find it in a cake shop located within the Motomachi shopping arcade. This is a local family-owned business that has been around for more than 70 years. Their most iconic delicacy is the fluffy sponge cake prepared from egg yolks and filled with cream. It is topped with sugar icing and strawberry.
#15. Cheese Cake Soft Cream
If you have a thing for sweet delights, we would suggest that you give this delicacy a try before venturing up to the Kitano-cho’s slope. This place makes super tasty cheesecake soft cream that is served in a dainty cone. This is a nice complimentary dish to enjoy after Kobe’s savory meals from the street-side shops or restaurants. We definitely list this among the must-eat foods in Kobe!
#16. Blue Bottle Coffee
You have spent the day sightseeing in Kobe and after a hearty lunch at one of the restaurants, you may want to relax with a good late-afternoon coffee. We suggest you to stop by Blue Bottle Coffee shop situated in the main shopping district in the city. The place has a calm and relaxing ambiance for you to unwind after a tiring day and rejuvenate your senses.
#17. Mobile Hot Dog
Kobe is highly influenced by western culture. You can clearly see this in their food. After having your breakfast from the fast-food stalls, enjoy a lavish lunch at one of the restaurants. Then, cap off the day with a light dinner from one of the mobile hot dog stands that you can find across Kobe. This is a popular post-drink snack for locals and tourists alike.
#18. Sake Yashiro
Any gourmet meal in Japan is incomplete unless you wrap it up with a nice Japanese sake made from fermented rice. If you have a taste for this special Japanese beverage then hop into the much popular Yashiro bar where you can find great food and drinks on the menu. You can find a variety of sake on offer along with seasonal seafood and vegetable tempuras.
Conclusion: Must-Eat Foods in Kobe
You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars to enjoy a great meal. It’s one of the things we love best about this awesome food destination in Japan! The street-side shops and stalls offer a variety of delicious yet cheap must-eat foods in Kobe, so there’s something for everyone!
Bio: James is a sushi enthusiast and owner of sushi blog names easyhomemadesushi.com. He 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.