Enjoy Regional Cuisine! Five Select Local Specialties to Try in the Chugoku Region
The Chugoku region, which consists of five prefectures – Hiroshima, Okayama, Yamaguchi, Shimane, and Tottori – has many specialty dishes that are popular among both tourists and locals. Below are five specialty dishes that are highly recommended!
1. Okonomiyaki (Hiroshima)
First up is "okonomiyaki", a regional dish from Hiroshima that is famous around the country. A batter of flour and water is cooked with a variety of ingredients, such as vegetables, meat, and fish, on an iron grill. It is known as a specialty of Osaka in the Kansai region as well, but Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is prepared differently.
In Osaka, the batter and ingredients are mixed together, and then grilled, whereas in Hiroshima, thin crepe-like rounds of the batter are grilled and the ingredients stacked up on top of them. The ingredients are also different, with Osaka-style okonomiyaki consisting mainly of meat (pork/beef) and cabbage, while Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki consists of Chinese-style noodles and vegetables like cabbage and bean sprouts. Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki also tends to use sweeter sauces that go well with the crunchy texture and aromatic flavor.
2. Matsuri-zushi (Okayama)
Next on the list is "matsuri-zushi", which is a regional specialty of Okayama. It is a festive and extravagant sushi dish with 10 or more ingredients on top of vinegared rice. Popular toppings include seafood from the Seto Inland Sea, such as shrimp, squid, conger eel, octopus, and mamakari (a small fish in the herring family). There’s also local vegetables, such as shiitake mushrooms and lotus root. Finally, there’s also kinshi-tamago (thin strips of omelet). It is called matsuri-zushi because it was traditionally prepared for matsuri (festivals) and celebrations. It is also referred to as "bara-zushi" or "Okayama-zushi".
3. Fugu-ryori (Yamaguchi)
“Fugu-ryori" (puffer fish cuisine) is a specialty cuisine that Yamagata Prefecture is famous for. Fugu is a high-grade fish with a light and delicate flavor. Many types of fugu have poison in their intestines, so fugu-ryori is prepared only by chefs with special licenses who make sure that the poison is taken out.
It is best in the winter and is generally available from the fall to spring, but there are now many restaurants that offer it throughout the year. Some popular fugu dishes include thinly sliced sashimi, a hot pot dish with the meat simmered with vegetables in a stock made from the head and bones, and zosui porridge, which is made by adding rice to the soup left over from the hot pot dish.
4. Izumo Soba (Shimane)
Next on the list is specialty soba noodles from Shimane. The Izumo soba noodles are darker than most soba noodles, because the buckwheat used for the noodles is milled with the shell. The noodles are characterized by a rich aroma and unique texture, and are generally eaten in two different ways:
Wariko-soba: Sauce is poured over cold noodles and eaten with condiments like negi (scallions). The noodles come in stacked containers. The noodles are consumed layer by layer, with the sauce left over from the previous layer added to the next, together with more sauce and condiments!
Kamaage-soba: "Soba-yu" (the water that the noodles were boiled in) is poured over hot, boiled soba noodles, and then eaten with sauce and condiments.
5. Kanimeshi (Tottori)
The last item on the list is a sushi dish made with kani (crab), which is a major winter delicacy in Tottori. It is an extravagant dish unique to Tottori, which is known to have the largest catch of kani in Japan. The main ingredient is, of course, kani, but there are different types - such as dishes with the kani on top of rice and ones with the kani mixed into the rice. You can use vinegared rice or rice cooked with kani stock. Kanimeshi is available in restaurants and as ekiben (bento boxes sold in trains and stations).
All of these specialty food items can be enjoyed in major tourist destinations and restaurants around large stations. Please do give them a try!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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