Barbecue lovers have long been lamenting the lack of the good stuff in Japan. Understandably, Japan wasn’t big on meat-eating for extended periods in its history, so huge meat bonanzas became rare. Additionally, making a proper barbecue is often restricted, even if you have a big yard. However, Tokyo is the foodie paradise where dreams come true. If you have dreamed of a barbecue, you’ll be happy to know there’s good pulled pork in Tokyo and Yokohama.
The slow-cooked, shredded meat barbecue dish from the southern US is finally catching on in Japan. Here are five places where you can get great pulled pork.
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It will be a while before pulled pork becomes a staple food in Japan, but Toasty Guys in Shibuya isn’t planning on waiting that long. Their goal is to get there at lightning speed with Tokyo’s first pulled pork specialty store serving over 18 different pulled pork sandwiches such as Cheddar, Bacon, Potato Salad and more. Each sandwich can be additionally topped with 12 additional ingredients, including avocado and pineapple. Add to that their non-sandwich dishes like pulled pork taco rice or pulled pork yakisoba and you could feasibly visit Toasty Guys every day for half a year and eat something different every time.
Where: 1-9-30 Jingumae, Shibuya
When: 11AM—8PM (shortened SOE hours)
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Looking at their extensive menu, the “cosmos” part of this restaurant’s name is beyond apt. It offers everything from clam chowder to catfish, pasta, curry, burgers, rice dishes, salads and more. But meat lovers should concentrate on their robust barbecue selection, especially the pulled pork, which Microcosmos considers their signature dish. Made Carolina-style with a vinegar-based sauce, the shredded meat is incredibly tender and juicy and can be enjoyed on a burger bun or over rice. It is served with refreshing coleslaw, jalapenos inside and fries on the side.
Where: 1-25-6, Shibuya, Shibuya-ku
When: 12PM—8PM (shortened SOE hours)
Styling themselves as a “Brooklyn backyard barbecue” place, Freeman Shokudo’s vibe is that of a local secret hipster joint transplanted directly from New York to one of the less busy areas of Tokyo. That’s not just due to the décor but also their extensive menu, which besides pulled pork includes NY-style pastrami sandwiches straight out of the smoker. As for their pulled pork, regulars have praised its smokiness that’s flavorful without being overpowering. There are a variety of sides you can get with your pulled pork like red cabbage or potato salad, but the most popular option seems to be a cold craft beer from the restaurant’s well-stocked fridge.
Where: 2-27-4 Nishihara, Shibuya-ku
When: 12PM—8PM (closed on Mondays)
4. American House Diner (Yokohama)
Good pulled pork doesn’t sound like something that you could get from a chain restaurant, but American House Diner proves just how wrong that assertion is. Part of the American House company, which manages 18 different restaurant brands, American House Diner has two locations in Yokohama: one in Tsujido and another in Minato-Yamashita. However, only the latter seems to currently be serving pulled pork. Prepared daily, the pork sandwich at American House Diner strikes the perfect balance between the meat’s natural flavors, the unique blend of spices and brown sugar and the restaurant’s house-made barbecue sauce. The result is a mouthwatering dish that will keep you coming for more time and time again.
Where: 1-2-8 Shinyamashita, Naka Ward, Yokohama
5. Your Local Supermarket (Anywhere)
The Stock Meat brand microwavable pulled pork is Nippon Ham’s novel way of trying to bring the still elusive barbecue dish to neighborhood supermarkets around the country. The small chunks of meat (about 120g total) come in a plastic tray that you heat up at 600W for about 70 seconds, after which you open the pack to an incredibly aromatic piece of pork that you can easily shred with a fork. But while the smell is strong, the flavor itself is very subdued, most likely to try and appease as many people as possible.
Is it the best pulled pork you can get in Japan? No, but it’s definitely the most convenient. And at ¥600 a pack, it’s definitely one of the cheapest options available. If you hurry, some stores are still selling the microwavable meat for about ¥400 as a promotion.
Think of it in terms of hamburgers. Sometimes, when you can’t get to that little grill place for your favorite burger, you settle for McDonald’s. This is the pulled pork equivalent of that. The Stock Meat brand also offers pulled beef.
Foodies should check out more of our rare finds in Tokyo and nearby areas.