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Basashi (raw horse meat) is one of Kumamoto’s most popular gourmet dishes. It is also one of the symbols of regional Japanese cuisine and many tourists from around the country visit the area just to try it. The meat is well-loved for its subtle flavor and lack of a strong odor . It is also quite tender and grows sweeter with each bite, melting in your mouth. The Kumamoto variety is so perfectly prepared that once you try it, you’ll never want another type. Restaurants that are well known for their basashi include Umasakura andUmakatsuzo.
2. Homare no Jindaiko
Homare no Jindaiko is a snack with deep, elegantly sweet flavor crafted by wrapping a soft flower confection in anko red bean paste. It employs specially selected azuki beans from Hokkaido, while the mochi is made by craftsmen using crystal clear water from the Aso area. In both appearance and taste, it has become one of the representative confections of Kumamoto and the entire Kyushu region. It’s also available at many stores and restaurants, making it a slice of gourmet that is easy to try.
HP:www.kobai.jp (Japanese Only)
Taipinyen combines a wide variety of vegetables, pork or chicken broth, and bean-starch vermicelli in a soup dish that is somewhere between ramen and champon. Toppings include crab meat, mushrooms, pork, eggs, and corn, all mixed to create a rustically subtle flavor. Try it once and you’ll crave it again and again; many people even prefer it to actual champon or ramen. What’s more, it’s a variety of gourmet meal that can only be found in central Kumamoto. For the best on offer, try the restaurant Kourantei.
HP: www.kourantei.com (Japanese Only)
Address: 5-26 Anseimachi, Chuo-ku, Kumamoto-shi, Kumamoto (Google Map)
4. Kumamoto Ramen
Compared to the Hakata variety of ramen found in nearby Fukuoka, Kumamoto ramen uses thicker noodles. The broth blends chicken stock with a tonkotsu pork-bone base, creating a flavor that is mild yet robust. Perhaps its most recognizable feature is the use of uniquely aromatic kogashi garlic. It also has none of the pork odor of Hakata ramen, while still possessing an even richer flavor. The best location to try this dish is the popular restaurant Kokutei, open 7 days a week from 10:30 am to 8:30 pm.
HP: www.kokutei.co.jp (Japanese Only)
Address:2-1-23 Nihongi, Nishi-ku, Kumamoto-shi, Kumamoto (Google Map)
5. Ikinari Dango
Ikinari dango are sweet dumplings named for their ability to be made on a moment’s notice, whenever a customer requests one. They are one of the most famous regional treats from Kumamoto and can be enjoyed by children and adults alike. Though the ingredients are simple — yams, azuki beans, and wheat flour — the results are a nostalgic home-made delight. There are also many varieties, so trying them never gets old. If you’re looking for Kumamoto gourmet that can be enjoyed at a moment’s notice, try one out. They can be found at confectioneries and other stores across the area.
HP: www.higosyokuhin.com (Japanese Only)
Address: 3-11-51 Nirenoki. Kita-ku, Kumamoto-shi, Kumamoto (Google Map)
6. Akagyu Burgers
Akagyu burgers (red beef burgers) are made from 100% Akagyu beef, a special variety employing cows raised in the Aso area. They are soft, juicy, and taste great. Akagyu beef has plenty of volume but little fat, making it a popular choice for health fanatics as well. If you go searching for a gourmet meal in the Aso area, you’ll definitely want to try these. To do so, visit Denory’s Diner and Restaurant Rosso.
Address: 3814-1 Kawayo, Minamiaso-mura, Aso-gun, Kumamoto (Google Map)
7. Sakura Croquettes
Sakura croquettes are a famous variety of croquettes offered by a butcher in Kumamoto. They are made from fresh, high quality horse meat and very juicy, fit with a crunchy exterior to match the meat and onions inside. The sweetness of the horse meat is not overpowering but still possesses a deep aroma that fills your mouth as soon as you bite in. All this has made them a popular choice when looking for a light gourmet meal. They are available at the butcher shop Niku no Miyabe.
HP: www.298-miyabe.com (Japanese Only)
Address: 63-1 Mamihara, Yamato, Kamimashiki District, Kumamoto (Google Map)
8. Karashi Renkoninazakira / flickr
Kumamoto’s karashi renkon are chewy gourmet snacks made by stuffing renkon (lotus root) with a spicy karashi miso. The latter is a sauce made of mustard and miso that really hits the nasal passages. They were originally eaten for their nutritional value but many now enjoy them with with shochu, Japanese distilled liquor. The aromatic kick can surprise at first, but try enough and they’ll become an addiction. They are available at many stores, including Takami Shoten.
HP: www.karasirenkon.com (Japanese Only)
Address: 880-3 Omuramachi, Yatsushiro-shi, Kumamoto (Google Map)