If you’ve ever been to an authentic Japanese restaurant, then you probably know three flavors of aisukuri-mu (ice cream): green tea, red bean, and vanilla. They all sound so normal, and they typically are  (red bean tastes similar to strawberry and it’s my favorite one to get at the sushi bar!). But when you are in Japan, or maybe just at a Japanese grocery store, such as Kim’s Oriental Market in St. Paul or United Noodles in Minneapolis, you’ll discover that there are many more flavors available  than just the typical three.

Instead of picking out a chocolate or vanilla, you could try squid ink, ox tongue, soy sauce, or even Dracula cool garlic mint.  Of course that’s not all…there are over 100 outrageous flavors in the Japanese ice cream world!  But besides the many quirky flavors available, nothing specifically sets regular Japanese ice cream apart from American ice cream. They generally have a similar consistency, although Japanese ice cream is not always as heavy.

The one very traditional type of ice cream, which is actually only 20 years old, that you should try in Japan is mochi ice cream. To most ice cream eaters, mochi seems like an odd creation. Made of an outer layer of soft dough (a type of sticky rice) and an inner layer of ice cream, this delicacy is considered finger food. Common flavors include green tea, vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, mango, and red bean paste.

Even to an avid ice cream eater, this stuff sounds a little scary.  Chicken wing ice cream doesn’t seem too tantalizing, and I’ve got my sources (a few Japanese friends) that tell me that even the scariest sounding ones are actually sweet flavors that go down oh so smooth. I’ve loved the regular flavors for years, but maybe it’s time to be adventurous.