10 Foods To Try For A Wholesome Nishiki Market Experience
We’re a family of foodies (yes, our little one has also picked up our adventurous attitude of trying new food) so Nishiki Market is a no-brainer when it comes to sampling a bit of everything Kyoto has to offer. This 700-year old market takes up five blocks along Nishikikoji Dori and is packed with stores selling seafood, fresh produce, sweets and snacks, cooking ware and tea sets.
The somewhat narrow strip creates a buzzing atmosphere of sellers showcasing the breadth of their yummy goods while visitors part with their yen for some quick bites. We spent more than an hour here, happily hopping from stall to stall and stopped to eat anything that piqued our senses.
Here are 10 foods to try for a wholesome Nishiki Market experience.
1. Green Tea Ice-Cream
Since we’re on a holiday, why not start with a dessert? Either by pure coincidence or perfect placement, the first shop we chanced upon entering the hallowed gates of Nishiki Market is a specialist in everything green tea. Sawawa is a matcha made in heaven to satisfy those sweet tooth cravings with treats like glistening cups of pudding and a pyramidal stack of mochi. We went with the classic okoicya – a full-flavored thick green tea ice-cream [¥500].
2. Skewered Grilled Seafood
Another popular Japanese street snack is kushiyaki which is skewered and grilled meats. A nearby stall was selling grilled seafood [¥150 – 300] like ika (squid), hotate (scallop) and ayu (fish). While the squid did taste a bit squishy, the scallops had that melt-in-your-mouth kind of feeling. While the butter sauce brought out the best in the scallops’ flavor, the sugar and soy sauce glaze added a much needed kick to this already magnificent mollusk.
3. Pickled Vegetables
One of the major components of Japanese cuisine is tsukemono, or pickled vegetables. These pickles act like a palate cleanser in between plates like the pinkish gari found alongside your sushi or the cucumber kyurizuke accompanying a bowl of donburi. We did not go on a sampling spree of tsukemono at Nishiki Market but we did enjoy them in their intended small portions in bentos and a kaiseki dinner throughout our stay in Japan.
4. Deep-Fried Everything
Nothing is more universal than deep-frying your food. Kushikatsu, or kushiage, is the pleasurable act of sticking your meat or veggie on a bamboo stick, dipping them in egg and flour, and finally deep-frying them to a golden brown hue. I tried the fried squid with Japanese pepper at a random stall [¥70 – 350] and the taste is as universal as its method of cooking – sinfully good.
5. Seasoned Baby Octopus
This mollusk deserves its own mention here for the fact that a baby octopus is quite an uncommon seafood to find on your table. Chuka Iidako [¥300] is boiled baby octopus simply glazed with a miso reduction. The ones we had here were perfectly boiled and seasoned as the flesh was not too hard and rubbery while the sweet and savory taste blends well with the octopus.
6. Black Sesame Ice-Cream
Half-time break calls for another round of ice-cream. Somewhere in the middle of Nishiki Market is Goma Fukudo, another specialty shop that sells everything goma. The store is smartly decked out in black and grey colors and is the go-to place for ground sesame seeds and their spin-off products, from seasoning oils to toasted paste. We skipped all that for a cone of smooth black sesame ice-cream [¥500] sprinkled with none other than sesame!
7. Fish Paste Skewers
We’re more than halfway through the market and the skewers never seem to end. This stall-cum-seller of fresh produce serves up sticks of satsuma-age, fish paste [¥350] mixed with vegetables like edamame (green soybeans) and benisyoga (red ginger) or sea denizens like tako (octopus) and kani (crab). The skewers tasted surprisingly pleasant, devoid of any salty smell but chock full of fishy goodness.
8. Soy Milk Doughnuts
Blink and you’ll miss. Tohnyu Doughnuts shop is tucked at an unassuming corner along Nishiki Market and they’re renowned for their Soy Milk Donuts [¥300 for 10 pieces], among many other soy-based snacks (Croquette? Soft-serve ice-cream?). These funnel cake-like rings are crispy on the outside and so fluffy on the inside you’d wish you bought a bag of 20!
9. Soft Rice Crackers
Mochiyaki Sembei is another corner stall famed for its rice crackers [¥120] or osembei. These crackers are either baked or grilled before covered with the sweetest to the spiciest of seasonings. We had the seaweed with wasabi, black sesame and blended seven spices to cover the full spectrum of flavors. The seasonings were not overwhelming as we could still taste the rice but it was so filling, everyone struggled to finish their crackers.
10. A Happy Pancake!
Veering off to the side street of Gokomachi Dori one block away from Nishiki is Shiawase no Pancake, or simply “A Happy Pancake”! This Osaka-born cafe serves up the fluffiest hotcakes we ever tried in our lives, all done without using any baking powder. I went with the original Happy Pancake [¥1,100] consisting a trio of soft eggy pancakes, Manuka honey whipped butter and caramel syrup. Cloud nine.
Did we miss any must-eat foods in Nishiki Market? What would be your favorites snacks or meals at “Kyoto’s Kitchen?”
- Nishiki Market is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., depending on the store. Some stores do close once a week, typically on Wednesdays or Sundays. Transactions are cash only.
- The market is located one block north of Shijo Dori shopping district, with the entrance at the intersection of Nishikikoji Dori and Takakura Dori at one end and Nishikikoji Dori and Teramachi Dori at the other.
- Nishiki Market is highly accessible using public transport as many buses run along the busy Shijo Dori while the nearest subway stations are Karasuma and Kawaramachi on the Hankyu Kyoto Main Line.