4 Recommended Places to Try Chagayu, Nara’s Regional Specialty
Chagayu (tea gruel), a simple dish most representative of Nara, is prepared by cooking rice in tea. Although the preparation method is simple and easy, the taste differs according to the person who made it. Here are some restaurants where you can have a taste of this delicious dish!
1. Sabo Non-non
As mentioned earlier, chagayu is gruel prepared using tea to boil the rice, and is a dish that is frequently consumed in western Japan. Being a long-time famous regional specialty of Nara, there are many restaurants where you can have a taste of chagayu. One such place is Sabo Non-non. This tea house was converted from a 180-year old machiya (traditional merchant's house), and here you can enjoy both the cuisine and the feel of the good old days. A popular dish at this establishment is the Chagayu Gozen (1,350 JPY), which is made by boiling glutinous rice in either red bean tea or roasted green tea. Lounging around in the tranquility of a Japanese-style room, thinking of how people of the past used to live their lives as you taste the dig in, makes for a special experience. If you wish, the proprietor of this restaurant will gladly bring you for a tour around the property, so if you are interested in old buildings, this place is perfect for you.
2. Ajitei Yamazakiya
A restaurant long famed for its narazuke pickles, Ajitei Yamazakiya was opened with the idea of conveying Nara's traditional flavors to its customers. Skilled chefs meticulously prepare your meal using ingredients of the best quality. 13 set meals are offered at this establishment, some of them centered around traditional foods of Nara. Try the Chagayu Gozen (2,160 JPY), which comes with chagayu prepared with roasted green tea, and comes with hassun (one of the courses of kaiseki), kobachi small plates, pickles, and warabimochi. Yamazakiya carefully picks the fragrant roasted green tea that is used in the chagayu, which goes perfectly well with the narazuke. Other set meals also include traditional Nara foods such as kakinoha sushi (sushi wrapped in persimmon leaves) and Miwa somen, so why don't you taste the flavors of Nara after a pleasant day of sightseeing?
3. TOU NO CHA-YA
Next, we have TOU NO CHA-YA, which is famous for its chagayu kaiseki. This chagayu specialty store is so good that it frequently comes up in guidebooks. Preserving the traditional taste of chagayu, this place doesn't use the normal hojicha, but ryokucha green tea to cook the rice instead. The meticulously prepared chagayu allows you to smell the fragrance of the top-quality tea as well. There are only 2 items on the chagayu menu: the Chagayu Bento (2,000 JPY (excl. tax)), and the Chagayu Kaiseki (from 5,000 JPY during lunchtime, and 6,000 JPY during dinnertime (excl.tax)). Both set meals not only include chagayu, but also a variety of side dishes that will add some color to your meal. Your stomach will definitely be satisfied! Additionally, if you make an advanced reservation, you get to have your meal served to you in antique tableware.
※Picture shown is for the purpose of illustration only.
4. Machiya Cafe Kanna
Machiya Cafe Kanna was revamped from an old machiya. Entering the cafe and walking past a long and narrow pathway, you will find yourself in a traditional Japanese room with a bar counter and a good view of the inner garden. This place is overflowing with charms of a machiya, from the retro furnishing to the kimono sash that is on display. The Yamato No Chagayu (1,000 JPY) consists of a piece of persimmon mochi that is dipped in soy sauce, charcoal-grilled, and then placed on top of the chagayu. The fragrance of the soy sauce helps to bring out the full flavor of the chagayu. The sweet flavor is very fulfilling, and this place is perfect for when you feel like having a relaxing time with a meal and some tea in a traditional house setting.
Do you feel like having some chagayu now? Traditional foods of Japan are not all about sushi and sukiyaki! Depending on the region that you visit, you might be surprised at the number of traditional dishes that you might not have even heard of before! Do travel around Japan, and look for which flavors might tickle your taste buds!
*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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