It tells the story of Soma Yukihira, a budding chef who joins the elite Totsuki Saryo culinary school hoping to hone his skills enough to surpass his father and become a full-time chef in their family restaurant. But Totsuki Saryo is no ordinary culinary school: cut-throat and snobbish, daily life is governed by a series of cooking competitions called “shokugeki,” or food wars. Cooking fights decide everything from distribution of cooking utensils to graduating between years—and with a graduation rate of just 10%, Soma has his work cut out for him if he’s going to succeed!
Like all cooking shows, Food Wars! is stuffed full of gorgeous shots of Japanese food. In the manga, illustrated by Shun Saeki, dishes are drawn with painstaking, loving detail and—best of all—often accompanied by a unique recipe from renowned chef Yuki Morisaki. The TV series is just as tempting. Over five seasons, Food Wars! showcases hundreds of creative, mouth-watering recipes, with plenty of fresh takes on Japanese candy and snack food! Let’s take a look at some of the most popular Japanese snacks in Food Wars!, from the classic Dorayaki to the less classic, but equally delicious, Sumire Karaage Roll.
Karaage, Japanese fried chicken, is a mainstay of Japanese snack culture, so it’s no surprise that Food Wars! devotes a whole arc to this crispy classic! The “Karaage Wars Arc” begins when Soma returns home for the holidays to reopen the family restaurant. He soon learns that a karaage store called Mozyua has opened nearby and is stealing all the business from the local shopping street.
The characters go to scope out the competition and soon discover that Mozuya’s Karaage is popular for a reason. Regular karaage is already pretty delicious—bite-sized, marinated chicken lightly dusted in flour and deep-fried in oil until crispy—but Mozuya’s variety stands out thanks to its marinade. While most karaage is marinated in a base of soy, sake, and ginger, Mozuya includes apples, garlic, nutmeg and allspice, packing their chicken pieces with as much flavor as possible.
In retaliation, Soma comes up with two flavorful karaage recipes of his own. The first is Cheese and Curry Karaage, two juicy karaage pieces seasoned respectively with curry powder and melted cheese. Though second is the Sumire Karaage Roll, where the marinated and fried chicken pieces are wrapped in a Vietnamese savory pancake. The snack is an instant hit and successfully attracts customers back to the shopping district!
The best thing about these delicious-sounding karaage variations is that they’re not all that far from reality. Flavored karaage similar to Soma’s Cheese and Curry versions are a common sight in Japanese convenience stores, which typically stock variations with cheese and extra spice as a matter of course alongside more adventurous, limited-edition flavors such as lemon, ramen, and prawn mayonnaise. And while pancake-wrapped karaage might be a little harder to find, wrapping karaage pieces in Shiso and lettuce leaves has already become a popular trend.
On the sweet side of things, Food Wars! gives its unique take on the Japanese dorayaki, a popular Japanese snack consisting of two castella cake pancakes with a layer of red bean paste between them. In the anime, this classic Japanese sweet is given a new spin with a white bean paste and apple confiture filling, and while you might struggle to find this exact variety, there are many dorayaki with creative flavors available in Japan today! Popular non-traditional fillings include Nutella, chestnut paste, custard, and sweetened whipped cream. What kind of fillings would you like to have in dorayaki?
Onigiri, Japanese rice balls, probably isn’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think of delicious Japanese snacks. Unlike Kit Kats and Kinoko no Yama, these triangles of rice wrapped in seaweed can seem a little plain and boring—but the real secret to onigiri’s appeal is its flexible variety of fillings. Food Wars! showcases three adventurous new versions: pork, garlic, and honey onigiri; salt and spring onion onigiri; and salt, cheese, and kelp seaweed onigiri.
Although you probably won’t find these fancy fillings in any pre-packaged onigiri, that isn’t to say there isn’t a wealth of exciting varieties out there already! Along with the classic pickled plum and salmon fillings, you can also find delicious, snackier alternatives like fried rice onigiri, tuna mayonnaise, and omurice onigiri.
Despite being a popular staple of Japanese snack food, gyoza dumplings actually have their origins in the Chinese dish of jiaozi. Jiaozi are dumplings filled with ground meat or vegetables, wrapped in a thin layer of dough, and then cooked either by boiling, steaming, or frying. Over the years, Japanese gyoza have developed a unique identity of their own, with thinner wrappings and a stronger garlic flavor than their Chinese counterparts.
In Food Wars!, Soma and his classmate Megumi come up with a version of this dish called “Surprise-Filled Gyoza:” gyoza made up of random combinations of flavored gyoza dough and various fillings. While a typical gyoza includes ground pork, green onions, cabbage, ginger, and garlic, the recipe presented in the anime includes the creative addition of ingredients like kimchi, cheese, shrimp, and mustard leaf.
In Japan today, more and more specialty gyoza shops have broadened their menus to include creative fillings—although not quite as adventurous as what Soma and Megumi come up with! Some popular non-traditional fillings include minced prawn, cheese, and natto (fermented soybean), as well as gyoza filled with soft tofu and vegetables for vegetarian diners.
What are your favorite Japanese snacks from Food Wars!? With these unique takes on classic Japanese staples, this anime is bound to get you craving some creative varieties of Japanese snack food! Which of these unusual recipes are you most eager to try? Let us know in the comments!
Yen is a freelance writer and editor based in Tokyo, Japan. In their spare time, they enjoy playing video games with friends and experiencing all of the delicious traditional snacks and candy Japan has to offer!
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