Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Specialty Foods Around Japan

If asked what my favorite pastime was, I would unhesitatingly say, "eating!" Alright, so it's not the most cultured hobby out there, but food is, after all, the source of all energy and happiness!...No? Anyhow, I've previously shared some of my favorite types of Japanese foods on several occasions, such as onigiris and sakura-mochis (link to previous posts). Today, allow me to further introduce some other famous kyodo ryori, or regional specialty dishes, especially those outside the Tokyo region.

Starting from the top of Japan, if you ever find yourself in Hokkaido, don't miss Sapporo ramen and locally-made raw caramel. Sapporo, being the birthplace of miso-flavored noodles, offers the true original miso-ramen in addition to the equally popular Sapporo curry ramen. Next up, the Hanabatake Bokujo's raw caramel has stirred up quite the consumer sensation in recent years. It's not too milky, not too sweet, chewy and soft, yet not sticky—in other words, just right. Aside from the small boxes of caramel pieces, you can also find ice-cream covered with warm melted caramel. Once only available in Hokkaido, the farm company has recently opened up specialty stores in Tokyo as well, but if possible, I'd still recommend you head up to the farm to get the freshest tastes.

Moving down south into Tohoku region, Miyagi Prefecture's Sendai City might as well be a mandatory spot for gyuutan (beef tongue) lovers. Originating in Sendai in 1948, gyuutan is now a staple in all Japanese barbeque joints around the country. The thin pieces of meat are grilled to perfection within minutes, and you can enjoy the unique chewy texture of the meat in salt (tanshio) or sauce (tare) flavors.

From east to west, we'll jump from meat to more meat, as you hit Nagoya, Aichi and their famous miso-katsu. This dish is basically the renowned Japanese pork cutlets served with miso sauce, which gives it a refreshing and uniquely local twist. Also don't miss the local tebasaki, or chicken wings, which are marinated in a slightly sweet sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds. If you're looking for something aside from meat, Nagoya is also famous for their fresh eel atop rice, in the form of savory unagi-dons.

Moving further west, stop by Shikoku's Kagawa Prefecture for a bowl of refreshing sanuki udon. This udon takes the namesake of the Prefecture's previous name of "Sanuki," and is loved for its thick, slightly stiff yet chewy texture. This type of udon is arguably the most popular in Japan, and can be eaten hot or cold, dipped or in soup, and has also spread all over the country.

While I'd love to go on, I'll stop here before I start drooling over my keyboard! Stay tuned for more kyodo ryoris in the future!

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