Here we go with part 4 of our food tour of Japan. This time we are taking a look at the country’s culinary epicentre that is Kansai, including the legendary Kobe beef and more. The vast variety of dishes still amazes me and doing this research makes me feel very hungry and craving another trip to Japan. If you havn’t read the other parts to the series take a look and drop a comment on your favourite dish so far.
Kobe beef- The Rolls Royce of beef, Kobe beef is a prized delicacy known in Japan and abroad. Usually served as steaks, shabu shabu (thin slices of meat quickly boiled in a broth) or sukiyaki (meat slices simmered in a hot pot). Expensive but a must try.
Sobameshi- Similar to okonomiyaki this dish features yakisoba noodles, rice and stewed beef tendon all fried in a sweet and salty sauce on an iron plate and served piping hot! Its crispiness is what makes this dish special, making it a fantastic local gourmet dish.
Butaman – The steamed pork bun Mecca, packed with pork bun artisans, is the Nankinmachi Chinatown district. Popular as an easy food to pick up and eat while strolling around, featuring a thick and flavourful pork filling inside a chewy soft exterior, be prepared to queue at the most popular butaman shops as they sell out quick.
Akashiyaki- Like the more popular Takoyaki but made from a batter that includes eggs plus flour and wheat starch. Its mixed with delicious and crunchy octopus from Akashi. It’s then dipped in a dashi stock instead of a sauce before eating, which produces a soft and fluffy texture.
Yudofu- The high-quality water in Kyoto results in the production of delicate and creamy tofu. Yudofu consists of tofu added to hot kelp broth. Accompanied by a variety of dipping sauces such as a ponzu and soy sauce vinaigrette. The dish is high in protein, low calories and if you love tofu very tasty.
Yatsuhashi- One of the most popular souvenir sweets from Kyoto. Yatsuhashi is a traditional sweet, made from glutinous rice flour (mochi) and sugar. Its distinctive taste comes from the addition of cinnamon (nikki). Three main types exist, enjoy baked, steamed or filled with red bean paste, matcha, plum as well as many other tasty flavours.
Kaseiki ryori- served degustation-style and showcasing local, seasonal ingredients with beautifully plated and delicately portioned dishes handcrafted by skilled chefs and their apprentices. sakizuke (appetizer), nimono (a soup or simmered dish), mukozuke (a sashimi dish), hassun (a dish made with seasonal ingredients), yakimono (a grilled dish), hanmono (a rice dish) and, finally, a dessert. Kyoto’s more sophisticated dining experience.
Hamo Tempura – A Kansai region speciality, Hamo Is a dagger-toothed eel living in the seas around central Japan. Cubed and coated in a fluffy and crispy tempura and you have the perfect snack to match your ice-cold beer
Kamonabe (kamosuki)- A perfect winter dish, the fatty Siberian ducks that arrive in Lake Biwa to escape the harsh winter have sweet fatty layers and lean meat that is full of amazing umami flavours It is served with plenty of fresh vegetables such as mizuna and scallions in a hotpot.
Grilled mackerel somen- A much-loved local delicacy of Nagahama City. It has been enjoyed for many years. Grilled mackerel is cooked in a sweet and spicy stew paired perfectly with somen noodles that are flavoured with the broth from the same stew.
Takoyaki- The classic Osaka snack. The standard recipe for these ball shaped dumplings is a batter of eggs and flour filled with sliced octopus, ginger, spring onions, and tempura crumbs, cooked in a special takoyaki pan then pasted with a sweet brown sauce, and topped with mayonnaise, powdered nori seaweed and dried flakes of bonito. A favourite locally and beyond.
Okonomiyaki- A savoury pancake made from eggs, flour, grated yam and shredded cabbage. Into these basic ingredients you can add whatever you like, pork, squid, shrimp, cheese, tomato, in fact “okonomiyaki” basically means “grilled stuff you like”. Over the top is a dressing of brown sauce, mayonnaise, powdered nori seaweed, and dried bonito flakes.
Kushikatsu- Skewered kebabs of meat, seafood, or vegetables which are breaded and deep fried to a crispy golden finish.Served with a thin brown sweet dipping sauce. Everything from pork, beef, asparagus wrapped in bacon, shrimp, cheese, the list is endless. The sauce is used by everyone so its important to remember….no double dipping your skewer.
Fugu sashimi- The poisonous blow-fish must be prepared by specially trained licenced chefs. Best eaten in super thin slices of sashimi with a light and subtle but beautiful flavour. Can also eat it as shabu shabu style hotpot, in tempura, in a vegetable stew, or deep fried as fugu karaage.
Nara nyumen- Somen noodles came to Japan from China in the Nara period. Generally, once boiled, the noodles are then cooled in water and dipped in cold soup and eaten. However, Nara nyumen are eaten in warm soup. This dish has a pleasant gentle flavour.
Chagayu- A rice porridge traditionally made with green tea, but sometimes made with hojicha or sencha. The dish is often eaten at breakfast time to give you a great full start to the day. Nara residents will tell you that mornings begin with chagayu
Kakinoha-zushi- Sushi that is eaten days after its made doesn’t sound too appetising but the secret is the fact that the cured fish is wrapped in persimmon leaves that act as antibacterial layer killing any bad microbes while adding a distinctive taste.
Yokkaichi tonteki- The most typical way of eating this thickly cut pork is to roast it with garlic and lard, with a strong, sweet Worcester style sauce on top served with plenty of shredded cabbage. It is a stamina dish of large quantity so great if your extra hungry
kue nabe- If you want to try something upmarket to eat try kue nabe. Kue, known as long-tooth grouper in English, is a fish indigenous to the waters off Wakayama’s eastern coast. It is relatively rare and tends to fetch a high price. So, Kue will not be a cheap dish, but it is totally worth it. Paired with the kue is many vegetables, tofu, and another local delicacy shungiku (chrysanthemum leaves)
Wakayama ramen- Wakayama’s unique take on ramen (even though it is not known as ramen locally) features all your regular ramen staples such as pork and shoyu but with the addition of a variety of local seafood. Sounds divine.
So there we go guys, there’s our look at Kansai and all its wonderful food it has to offer, so many favourites here for me, too many to choose. Hope you have enjoyed the read and keep your eye out for the next edition where we will be travelling to the regions of Chugoku and Shikoku.