Translated by Sandy Lau
Is This Tokyo? Savor Authentic Korean, Chinese, And Indian Dining
Written by Kunihisa
Tokyo is home to many non-Japanese nationals who live in neighborhoods that almost feel like a foreign country. Shin-Okubo offers Korean cuisine, Ikebukuro has great Chinese hot pot restaurants, and Nishi-Kasai is famous for Indian curry shops. Visit these areas for a unique culinary experience!
Tokyo's Foreign Nationals
More and more non-Japanese employees at convenience stores, drugstores, hotel counters, and other workplaces in Tokyo, as people to visit Japan to study abroad or for work. Non-Japanese nationals even account for 75% of the population in Koto Ward (past Tokyo SkyTree).
People from Greater China (Chinese-speaking countries) typically reside in Shinjuku or the Ikebukuro areas. Koreans will be in the Shin-Okubo neighborhood near Shinjuku while Indians, the largest non-Japanese population in Japan, usually live near Nishi-Kasai Station in Edogawa Ward.
The area around Nishi-Kasai Station has many Japanese language schools and excellent accessibility to central Tokyo, making it popular with Indians. The Tokyo Metro Tozai Line operates through the station, making it possible to travel to business districts such as Nihonbashi without any transfers. As a result, many Indians with outstanding IT skills have settled in Nishi-Kasai for its convenient commute, thus creating a Little India.
In neighborhoods with international residents, you'll tend to find authentic restaurants and supermarkets from their respective countries. Perhaps Tokyo's foreign residents sometimes wish they were able to eat authentic international cuisine. If you are traveling in Japan, Tokyo is a great chance to experience another culture in addition to Japan's.
This time, our MATCHA editors will introduce places where you can immerse yourself in the ambiance of South Korea, China, or India while visiting this sprawling metropolis.
Experience South Korea! Shin-Okubo’s Koreatown
Photo by Pixta
Shin-Okubo Station, one stop away from Shinjuku, welcomes visitors with signs in Hangul (the Korean alphabet) after exiting the station. You'll hear people speaking in Korean and K-pop music being played inside stores. For a moment, you'll feel as if you're actually in Seoul, South Korea.
Omuni Shokudo Main Store
The clean and comfortable Omuni Shokudo is located slightly out of the way from Shin-Okubo's main street. It's a lesser-known restaurant, so you'll often be able to enter without waiting usually. You can take your time tasting the delicious Korean dishes laid out before you.
The interior has a very cozy feeling to it. Enjoy friendly conversations as the ajumma ("auntie" in Korean) and owner prepare your food.
The restaurant's specialty is the Korean norimaki (sushi rice rolled in seaweed). While typical norimaki are long, thin, and cut into round slices, the rolls at Omuni Shokudo are made into a waterdrop shape and plated to resemble a flower. This simple, traditional dish is transformed into a gorgeous display of food.
When it's cold outside, you can order the piping-hot kimchi stew. The spiciness of the soup and fully fermented acidity of the kimchi pairs amazingly with rice.
Korean restaurants often serve small sides for free. There is an abundance of nutrition-filled dishes, such as kimchi, pickled radish, and seasoned bean sprouts.
Ichiba Dak Kalbi & BBQ chicken
Ichiba Dak Kalbi & BBQ Chicken is famous for creating cheese dak kalbi (spicy stir-fried chicken). Their UFO Chicken, a row of chicken surrounding a bowl of cheese, is also very popular. When we visited the restaurant, high school students seated next to us were dipping and eating the chicken in hot, melty cheese. It looked very delicious.
Our writer ordered the Spring Onion Chicken and Honey Garlic Chicken (boneless chicken thighs). The juicy, tender chicken was so tasty that our writer even wanted to take some home afterward.
Seoul Market: Nostalgic Shopping Even for Koreans!
Seoul Market is a supermarket recommended by Koreans working and residing in Japan. In the supermarket, you can sample products offered by the Korean aunties. Additionally, you can buy the tteokbokki (rice cakes stir-fried in a sweet and spicy sauce, often served as street food) and kimbap (Korean-style norimaki) handmade by the aunties in the market.
The kimchi, which is fermented in the company's factory, is available in many varieties that you won't be able to make up your mind on what to buy.
You can even purchase banana milk—an essential beverage to try on a trip to South Korea.
Here's a spicy ramen and aluminum pot set (single serving) that are also sold in New York convenience stores. Shin Ramyun tastes authentic and delicious no matter where you buy it.
Eat Chinese Hot Pot in Ikebukuro’s Little Chinatown
While Kanagawa's Chinatown in Yokohama is well-known, the Little Chinatown in Ikebukuro is popular among people from Greater China. You'll find traditional Chinese dishes here, and trendy shops with bubble milk tea (around 30 to 40 shops).
Ippin Hinabe: Where Solo Eaters Can Enjoy a One-Person Hot Pot!
At Ippin Hinabe, the signature dish served is a homemade soup made with Chinese medicinal herbs, Szechuan Mala sauce, and collagen. Here, you can have an authentic Chinese-style hot spot experience at a reasonable price. Invite your friends and have the all-you-can-eat hot pot or take your time enjoying the dishes yourself. Both are great options.
Their most recommended dish is their lunch hot pot set. You can eat hot pot with pork, chicken, and two types of soup for around 1,000 yen. The set also comes with wood ear mushrooms, tofu, vegetables, and more. This satisfying dish is a great value for the price.
Youkoujo: A Supermarket Where You Can Find All Kinds of Ingredients!
Youkoujo is the only Asian grocery store in Japan open 24-hours, every day of the year. It's difficult to choose what to buy with their endless selection of food products. However, the store's best feature is the hospitality of the employees.
When we visited the store, we bought crispy scallion pancakes (a lightly pan-fried Chinese-style okonomiyaki with scallions). Our writer is from Taiwan, so she looks forward to recreating a standard Taiwanese breakfast with this delectable dish.
Nishi-Kasai’s Little India and Its Competitive Curry Market
Nishi-Kasai Station is an ordinary residential district in Tokyo. However, it's an enclave concentrated with Indian curry restaurants that serve some of the most authentic and flavorful food in the city. This district is where Indian nationals showcase their culinary prowess.
Amudhasurabhi: Nishi-Kasai’s Representative South Indian Restaurant!
Amudhasurabhi is a cozy restaurant established by a female owner who has lived in Japan for over ten years. South Indian chefs prepare the exquisite dishes and allow diners to enjoy traditional South Indian cuisine.
South Indian cuisine features curry that is spicier than in northern India and is served with yellow rice. You can also choose to have naan instead of rice. Pictured above are the shrimp curry and spinach chicken (a curry made with spinach paste). This warm, filling curry is the perfect meal to satisfy your cravings.
Shanti Tea: Which Indian Black Tea Will You Try?
Shanti Tea was originally an Indian black tea brand launched by a former public relations officer from the Tea Board of India. The shop's black tea is directly imported from contracted tea farms in various regions across India. The shop has 300 different types of teas, including handpicked flower teas, fruit teas, Assam tea, Darjeeling tea, and teh tarik (a frothed black tea blended with condensed milk). All of their products are sold at reasonable prices.
Our writer's favorite part of the shop was the company's brand packaging. You can immediately sense the tea's high quality and beauty from the packaging alone.
Due to being an extension of the company building, the shop is only open during company hours on the weekdays.
Experience Tokyo's Diverse Cuisine
Tokyo is a colorful city that showcases traditional Japanese culture while simultaneously adopting cultures from different countries. The next time you visit Tokyo, we highly recommend you taste the city's international cuisine!