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These soft rice cakes are made from a type of plant called wormwood and then wrapped in bamboo leaves. You won’t miss it because of its unusual packaging and you can actually get some on the Joetsu bullet train. The reason why these rice cakes are wrapped in bamboo leaves is because it is said that bamboo leaves can preserve the rice cakes longer and it has been used as a form of food preservation since the good old days. Nothing should stop you from biting into one of these woodworm rice cakes that are filled with red bean paste.
2. Noppe 【Niigata】NISSANEV/Flickr
This is actually more of a homemade Niigata dish made of carrots, burdock root, shiitake mushrooms, gingko and chicken meat that are stewed in a light soy sauce broth. Taro is also added into the stew to create a thick consistency. Some would take it cold but having it warm is just as good. You can also top yours with some prawn roe or ikura.
3. Ika no Kurozukuri 【Toyama】t-mizo/Flickr
This squid dish is commonly served as an appetizer to go with your drink or to have it with your ochazuke. It is super delicious even though you might find the color a bit intimidating. It is black due to the squid ink that covers the briny and spicy squid. Have a bite of this and you will notice how well the taste of the squid goes with the thick squid ink. Even for those that might think that they aren’t fans of briny appetizers, this might change your mind.
4. Kani no Miso Shiru 【Toyama】
We all know that miso soup is commonly served at every Japanese household and here in Toyama, they have managed to upgrade miso soup to a whole new level by adding in sweet Echizen crabs. A spoonful of this wonderful miso soup will bring you up to cloud nine and you might be surprised but you are definitely getting your money’s worth because this soup always serves a generous portion of crab meat!
5. Jibu-ni 【Ishikawa】Asacyan/Wikimedia Commons
If you ever make your way to Kanazawa, this is one stew you must have! It is a stew made out of breaded chicken with Kanazawa’s special sudarefu, which is actually a gluten cake, and a variety of mushrooms. This local delight is really good and you must have some of it with wasabi on the side.
6. Kaburazushi 【Ishikawa】
This dish is made from salted yellowtail that is sandwiched between pickled kabura, a type of turnip, and then fermented. In the past it is usually eaten during winter and this dish is always served during the New Year celebrations and on other special occasions.
7. Imo Abekawa 【Fukui】
There was a time in the past when rice was scarce and so they came up with a creative way to make rice cakes by using potatoes and that is how we have imo abekawa. There are many that can’t help but think about the past when they take a bite into this yummy potato cake.
8. Yakisabazushi 【Fukui】
This is one of the most popular local delights found in Fukui, that uses grilled mackerel and you can also get this popular yummy food at Haneda airport as in 2000, it began its debut as a bento option for those that will be flying. It may not look like the ones prepared and sold in Fukui but it still tastes pretty authentic.
9. Kabocha Hoto 【Yamanashi】Nork22/Flickr
When it comes to Yamanashi, we will have to say that Hoto is the thing to have when you are there. Hoto is a type of noodles that you mustn’t mistake for as udon. In the hilly Yamanashi prefecture, there aren’t that many paddy fields and as you may have guessed now, due to that, the people here came up with hoto noodles as a source of carbohydrate because there isn’t that much rice to go around in the first place here. The noodles are usually stewed with a variety of vegetables including pumpkin slices and we all know that Japanese pumpkins are sweet and high in nutrients! This is really a yummy dish that is not to be missed.
This dish is called Oneri because it is has a very sticky texture as it is made from a few different starchy ingredients. Potatoes, pumpkins and taros are stewed with a wonderful broth and then corn flour is added into it to create a super sticky texture. Miso is then added on top for this yummy oneri dish.
Now who wouldn’t love a dumpling. This dumpling here is generously stuffed with vegetables that have been stir fried with miso and soy sauce. The dumpling is then pan-fried and then steamed. This local delight makes a wonderful bento to have at outdoor picnics.
12．Koikoku【Nagano】Miyuki Meinaka/Wikimedia Commons
Koikoku is originally from the Saku area in Nagano. As Nagano is a landlocked prefecture, the people here have no means to get fresh fish from the sea whenever they want. Hence they turn to the koi or carp for help. Hence don’t be surprised to find that Nagano serves many carp dishes. It may not be the type of fish that you commonly eat but it is not only delicious but also high in protein. This koikoku dish is usually served hot during winter to warm our bellies.
13．Akakabu no Tsukemono【Gifu】
These akakabu pickles are made from the red turnips cultivated in Gifu’s Hida area. Although the winters here in Hida can be extremely challenging, nothing can stop these red turnips from flourishing. They are commonly pickled in Hida and hence many visitors would buy akakabu no tsukemono as souvenirs for their friends and family. The pickles are really good and you won’t help but pop more of them into your mouth.
14．Gohei Mochi 【Gifu】
Don’t mistake this as ice lollies cause they are actually rice moulded and shaped onto ice-cream sticks, glazed with miso and then grilled. This grilled rice cake is really addictive and we wouldn’t be surprised if you end up eating as much as 5 cups of rice! That’s probably why it is called Gohei Mochi. Among the many types of gohei mochi sold here, there are some that use freshly harvested rice grains to be served during religious rituals.
15．Ashitaba no Goma Ae 【Shizuoka】
If we break down the name of the main ingredient in this dish, which is Ashitaba, we would have the words “ashita”, which means “tomorrow” and “ba”, which means “leaf”. This plant is known as the “Tomorrow Leaf” because even if you harvest it today, a new sprout would already be out the very next day! Although this is a green vegetable, it is not bitter as what you might expect and this sesame ashitaba dish is extremely delicious. You won’t be able to stop eating it.
16．Unagi no Kabayaki 【Shizuoka】Kossy@FINEDAYS/Flickr
When it comes to eel or unagi, there is no place to head to but Hamamatsu because that is where the best unagis are caught. Although we can get pretty decent eel from China at a lower price but nothing beats local produce and you might think that eels are high in calories but it actually isn’t so. It is rich in Vitamins A and D and it can really do lots of great things for your health.
17．Hitsumabushi 【Aichi】hirotomo/Flickr小太刀~commonswiki/Wikimedia Commons
It’s time for a Japanese cultural lesson. Here in Japan, hot steamed white rice is kept in a serving bowl called ohitsu and this dish is called hitsumabushi because grilled eel is sliced and arranged on top of hot steaming white rice in an ohitsu. This way of eating grilled eel with rice has been done since the Meiji period. Originally this dish was only about grilled eel and steamed rice but these days, many places have begun to add condiments like sliced Welsh onions and wasabi or introduced it as an ochazuke dish.
How could we ever say no to Nagoya’s misokatsu dish. The miso sauce that is served on top of the pork cutlet is made from the famous yummy Hatcho Miso. If you have the time, you should go around Nagoya to try out the many different styles of miso katsu in the area.