You’d Want to Eat Them Once You Know About Them! Top 7 Local Dishes in the Kanto Region
The Kanto region includes the Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, Saitama, Gunma, Tochigi, and Ibaraki Prefectures. In areas where lots of people live, there are many delicious local specialties! This article will showcase some of those special dishes that you will surely want to try when you find out what they are! Here are seven specialty dishes from the Kanto region.
1. Monjayaki (Tokyo)
Monjayaki is a dish that is made by making batter from wheat flour dissolved in lots of water, seasoning it with Worcestershire sauce and other spices, adding cabbage, agedama (bits of cooked tempura batter), sliced squid, and other ingredients into the batter, and then frying the mixture on an iron plate. It is a local food that has deep ties and is particularly familiar to working class families in Tokyo. While it may look like a strange, gooey dish, once you put it in your mouth, you are bound to enjoy the sticky and crunchy parts, as well as find its texture and taste quite interesting. You can leave the cooking to the crew at the restaurant, or you can try cooking it on your own. Monjayaki is best cooked with friends while drinking. If you want to eat monjayaki, the famous place for it is the Tsukishima Monja Street in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward.
2. Yokosuka Kaigun Curry (Kanagawa)
Curry was originally eaten by the British Navy. Yokosuka kaigun curry (“kaigun” means Navy) is a kind of curry that was reproduced based on the recipe that was released in 1908 by the Japanese Navy, who had incorporated it into their food rations. This dish is made from wheat flour and curry powder, so it is lighter than the usual curry. The rule when cooking this curry is that it must be served in a set with salad and milk in order to ensure nutritional balance. The current Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force eats curry every Friday in order to prevent the crew from losing sense of time while at sea, where the scenery does not change. It’s because of this tradition that many shops offer large servings and discounted services on Fridays. You can only eat Yokosuka kaigun curry at accredited restaurants in the so-called Curry City Yokosuka that’s inside Yokosuka City.
3. Namero (Chiba)
Namero is a local dish in the Boso Peninsula that is said to have been created so that the freshly caught fish can be cooked by fishermen on their boats. To make this dish, all you have to do is put ginger, shiso (perilla), spring onions, and miso on the sashimi, and then pound everything with a knife until the ingredients turn into gruel. They say that this dish got its name from the fact that it is so delicious that you would almost want to lick (lick is “nameru” in Japanese) your dish! Sometimes, the name of the fish that’s used in the dish is also added to its name, such as in the case of aji no namero (horse mackerel) and sanma no namero (saury). The fresh fish and miso bring out such rich flavors, so this dish is the perfect accompaniment to Japanese sake. You can also try to jazz up its taste by adding some vinegar. Try to eat namero with local sake!
4. Okkirikomi (Saitama and Gunma)
Okkirikomi is a local dish in Chichibu (northern part of Saitama) and Gunma that got its name from the act of cutting (“kirikomu” in Japanese) kneaded noodle dough straight into the pot from the top of the spatula. Raw wheat flour noodles that are not parboiled are cooked in miso-based soup together with root and seasonal vegetables. The sprinkled flour on the noodles melts, thickening the soup. This dish has come to be eaten as a home dish that will warm your body during the cold seasons. It is also served in many restaurants today. Enjoy okkirikomi that has substantially absorbed the full-flavored soup!
5. Konjac Dishes (Gunma)
Gunma produces about 90% of the konjac (konnyaku) consumed throughout Japan. Made from konjac yam from the satoimo (arum) family, konjac is low in calories and high in plant fiber, so it has been gaining popularity as a health food in recent years. It has a squishy texture that you can enjoy with various flavors. Over in Gunma, you can eat a wide array of konjac dishes – from traditional dishes that have been passed on for generations since ancient times, up to konjac jellies. The Konnyaku Park, which is a spot where you can learn about the deliciousness and culture of konjac, is extremely popular thanks to their unlimited konjac dishes that you can try free of charge! It is just 15 minutes away from Tomioka Silk Mill – a World Heritage Site – by car, so you can go to both places when you visit Gunma.
6. Utsunomiya Gyoza (Tochigi)
Utsunomiya gyoza (dumplings with minced pork and vegetables inside) began with the recipe for gyoza that was brought home by the soldiers of the Imperial Army from China, which is the birthplace of gyoza. Tochigi competes as the top or second biggest producer of garlic chives – one of the ingredients of gyoza – in Japan. It has an inland-type of climate that makes it hot in the summer and cold in the winter. The reason why this dish developed into the famous dish that it is today is because people love the gyoza and believe that it helps build stamina. There are many shops dedicated to gyoza in the city, so it’s a good idea to go and eat in several places in succession. At Kirasse Honten, there are five permanent gyoza shops and an outlet that changes daily, so you will be able to enjoy different tastes all at once. Each shop is characterized by the gyoza they serve, including age-gyoza (deep-fried), yaki-gyoza (pan-fried), and sui-gyoza (boiled). How about finding the gyoza shop you like while holding a beer in one hand?
7. Natto Dishes (Ibaraki)
Natto is a dish that has long been loved by the Japanese people. Natto refers to soybeans fermented with natto bacteria. It is known as a health food that will improve the health of your stomach and intestines. The production of natto in Ibaraki is flourishing to a point where the region now boasts of the largest natto output in all of Japan. People who eat natto for the first time probably hesitate because of its distinctive aroma and stickiness, but if you dig into it, it is actually delicious! At izakayas (Japanese pub) and restaurants in Mito, there are many dishes that incorporate natto, such as natto omelet, natto tempura, and natto parfait. So if you don’t like normal natto, you just might discover the taste that suits you in Mito - the home of Natto!
Local specialty dishes are filled with the history of each area and local affection that comes from the continued consumption of these dishes. If you ever visit these places, please try these specialty dishes!
*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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