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LAist's Guide To Snacking In the City: My Favorite Little Tokyo Treats

A variety of brightly colored snack bags and snacks are laid out on a table, surrounding a large ceramic container containing different-shaped chips. There is also an open beverage can next to the container and a small bowl of purple gummy candy
Feast your eyes on the delicious snacks to be found in Little Toyko
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist )
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Little Tokyo's five city blocks in Downtown L.A. has origins dating back to 1885, when the first Japanese restaurant in the city opened at the intersection of 1st and Los Angeles.

About this series

Today it’s a food-fueled neighborhood, thrumming with folks munching on donburi, shabu-shabu, mochi and so much more. Since this is Snacking In The City: Little Tokyo edition, I'm heading to two markets, my favorite snack destinations.

One is Nijiya Market in Japanese Village Plaza; the other is Marukai Market, just across San Pedro Street. Both are great in their own right — Nijiya is smaller with more unusual and rare items while Marukai is larger and feels a little more like a supermarket.

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I go to both regularly, both to peruse new snacks I’ve never seen before and to pick up old favorites. All highlight those crowd-pleasing aspects of Japanese cuisine: seafood, seaweed, yuzu, soy, and ume.

Here are six of my favorite snacks.

Hot Chili And Seaweed-flavored Potato Chips By Koikeya

A split screen: on the left side is dark yellowish-orange potato chips seasoned with different spices against a white backdrop. A yellow bag with varying English and Japanese fonts for the chips' names is on the right side. Above the name is the word Karamucho which is surrounded by a fireball. At the bottom of the bags reads the word "Party Bag." A green oval on the bottom right reads "spicy, tasty, hot chill with seaweed.
These crispy potato chips are a flavor bomb of salty umaminess from the seaweed flakes, with hints of sweet and spicy.
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist )

If I were to pick only one snack to introduce someone to Japanese snacks, this would be it. Featuring the popular Karamucho cartoon character on the package, these thin and crispy potato chips are a flavor bomb of salty umaminess from the seaweed flakes, with hints of sweet and spice from the chili flavor. Don’t be intimidated by the flames on the bag — these are not spicy, more of a savory chili flavor than anything that would burn the house down. They hit every time.

Pizza Potato Chips by Calbee

A split screen: On the left are yellow ridged potato chips. On the right, a black chip bag with the name Calbee in red letters, Japanese characters in red font with white overlines and pictures of potato chips with a slice of pizza underneath them
Did someone say pizza chips? Yes! Do they taste like pizza chips? Of course not. But that doesn't make them any less snackable.
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist )

Have you ever craved having real cheese on your potato chips? No, we aren’t talking about a new nacho flavor combination. In this case, it’s these addictive chips that you never knew you needed. Do they taste like real pizza? Of course not. But they have all the components you want when you’re snacking — a crispy, ridged chip, salty cheesiness, and a slightly sweet tomato sauce with just a hint of basil. After one bite, you won’t be able to put these down.

Himemaru Japanese Rice Crackers by Amenoya

A split screen: on the left side is a pile of orange-ish yellow crackers that look like tater-tots. On the right side is a bag with yellow-green and black color blocks., with an image of the rice crackers in the middle. There is a small red block of Japanese characters and below it is the word Japanese Rice Cracker in English.
These tater-tot-looking rice crackers contain the perfect amount of crunch for your snacking pleasure
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist)
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This classic snack is simple, flavorful and delicious, ultra crispy and lightly glazed with a salty and slightly sweet soy-based gloss. At first glance, it looks like a smashed tater tot, and just like a tot, it's a great way to get some crispy saltiness into your life. There’s no denying its greatness once you bite into the cracker and hear its delightful crunch.

Pure Grape-Flavored Gummy Candy by Kanro

A split image: on the left a group of purple gummy hearts covered in sugar sits in a pile. On the right is a bag. The top part is pink with white lettering that reads Karo and Pure with some Japanese characters underneath. Below is the image of purple grapes covered in dew.
These Pure grape flavored gummies are heart-shaped because you'll fall in love with them with each bite.
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist )

Pure is a very popular brand of gummy candies in Japan, and for a good reason: each little heart is a perfect sweet and sour drop on the tongue. The gummies themselves are flavorful and fruity, and in the Goldilocks zone of texture — not too soft, not too firm. They come in various flavors, including white peach, lemon, and lychee. My favorite? Definitely grape.

Seaweed-Flavored Ramen Cubes By GGE

A split screen: on the left is a pile of round yellowish brown cylindrical crackers made of instant ramen noodles.  On the right is a green and white bag with GGE Wheat Crackers Seaweed flavor written on it. There's an image of a woman holding a bucket, wearing a diving mask and pink boots.
A classic combination of Japanese flavors, combined into a cute, yet utilitarian cube, perfect for instant snacking.
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist)

These are ubiquitous snacks in Asian communities, found in Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Filipino markets, and even recently in Ralph’s. This is the snack that I get from the market to eat in the car on the way home. (Only a few snacks get the car-ride honor, the ones I can’t wait even the the short ride home to devour.) They're a classic combination of Japanese flavors — seaweed, soy sauce, ramen — all combined in a cute, yet utilitarian cube shape, perfect for kids who enjoy eating raw ramen noodles straight from the pack! They have an entirely unique texture that's rare to find in any American snacks. And if you aren’t into seaweed, they come in a plethora of other flavors including spicy chicken, soy sauce, tempura, and BBQ.

Takoyaki Ball by Calbee 

A split screen: on the left is a small pile of puffed snack chips that are yellow and speckled with black and green seasoning. On the right is a bag that's colored blue like the night sky. The words Takoyaki Ball appear in English with an image of the puffed chips underneath them.
These Takoyaki snacks aim to transport you to the middle of a night market in Osaka
(Brian Feinzimer
/
LAist )

These little fried corn balls are a take on Takoyaki, the popular dish from Osaka which consists of a fried ball of batter stuffed full of octopus and aromatics, brushed with a sweet and salty sauce and then drizzled with tangy mayo and salty, fishy bonito flakes. This snack version replicates these flavors in a crispy, light corn puff. It's a flavor bomb that transports you to the middle of a night market in Osaka, enjoying a delicious bite of Takoyaki.

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