All the Karaoke Night Munchies You Need
From DIY takoyaki to Pocky sticks, here's what you should buy for your next karaoke night.
Singing karaoke in Japan is unlike any other experience I’ve had at my typical haunts in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo or Manhattan’s Koreatown. Perhaps it’s due to the liveliness of Shibuya, where certain karaoke rooms tower over the rest of the city and look out on swarms of people going about their nights. Maybe it’s because of the lack of a cool-kid factor; everyone is genuinely having fun singing their favorite tunes in private rooms among friends without worrying about their pitch or lack of vibrato. Or maybe it’s the food and drink: all-you-can-down glasses of Kahlua milk or plum wine served with steaming curry, mayo-glazed takoyaki, or smuggled assorted snacks from the Japanese convenience store -- often cheaper and better than karaoke bar offerings.
Regardless, since none of us are able to travel to Japan anytime soon or rent out our own karaoke rooms in our respective cities, we’re going to have to settle for belting out Beyoncé at home. If you’d like to recreate some of the snacks that can be found during a typical karaoke evening in Japan, here’s what to get:
Takoyaki is a pretty standard snack that you can find at most karaoke bars throughout Japan. These octopus-stuffed pancake balls are topped with a sweet and savory brown glaze, squeezes of Kewpie mayonnaise, and curls of bonito flakes. You can also have takoyaki served with slivers of pickled red gingers and green onions. Since takoyaki needs to be made and eaten fresh, opt for buying your own pan -- which doubles as a pan for Danish Aebleskiver.
Because karaoke is synonymous with post-work shenanigans, karaoke bars in Japan often have full meals you can order for dinner. Among the fried karaage and gyudons, you can usually find Japanese-style curry. Making this at home is supremely easy thanks to boxed curry mixes with cubes of intensely salty and aromatic curry bases. Just add potatoes, carrots, your favorite protein, and tons of water alongside the curry cube and let everything simmer together. Serve over white rice.
Calpis, which is sometimes also known as Calpico, is a popular yogurt-based drink from Japan that’s milky, sweet, and perfect mixed with soju, vodka, or even rum. The original Calpis has a similar flavor to Yakult, but there’s a variety of other options to pick from: strawberry, mango, and lychee are a couple of the fruit-forward flavors that you can find. If you’re not feeling boozy, Calpis is perfectly acceptable straight over ice.
Calbee’s Jagarico chips are reminiscent of well-done French fries, an impeccable karaoke snack wherever you are in the world. These potato straws come in flavors like seaweed, Hokkaido butter, and cheese. They’re the perfect salty and greasy addition that require zero effort to put out but achieve that common bar snack vibe that most karaoke food adheres to.
Onigiris are one of the simplest and most satisfying convenience store purchases you can make in Japan. Stuffed with tuna, salmon, fish roe, or pickled plum and other variations as well, these rice balls serve as an efficient method of satisfying hunger so you can get right back to singing. By buying your own onigiri mold, you can customize the fillings to your liking: bonito flakes, pork sung, and marinated beef are options, but feel free to fill in the blank with your favorite proteins or pickled veggies.
You may have seen Meiji’s chocolate mushroom biscuits, also known as Kinoko No Yama, around before. Takenoko No Sato are the mushroom’s slightly lesser known cousin, a chocolate-covered cookie molded in the shape of bamboo sprouts. Aside from being extremely cute and evocative of 2020’s favorite video game, Animal Crossing, it’s hard to go wrong with chocolate and cookies.
Whether you prefer chocolate, strawberry, or one of Pocky’s newer flavors, there never really is a wrong moment to indulge in the satisfying snaps of Pocky. Karaoke night at home is an opportune time for munching on these snackable sticks as you’re awaiting your turn to sing one of Elton John’s classics. Buy a variety of flavors so everyone can have their favorite
Keep your tongue buzzing in between songs with the help of Shigekix. If you’ve ever had a War Head, then you’ve likely experienced that same mouth-tingling effects of Shigekix, a sour-then-sweet chew candy that comes in flavors like plum, ramune soda, cola, and lemon. These cone-shaped candies are small but intense; don’t eat too many, lest you want your tongue burning from the acidity.