Enjoy Local Flavors! Five Local Gourmet Foods in Nara
When traveling, you'll want to sample local foods unique to the region, so here are five famous gourmet foods from Nara.
Kakinoha Zushi is a traditional taste that has been protected and handed down over the generations. It is a traditional Nara dish of mackerel and salmon on packed vinegared rice wrapped in persimmon leaves and weighed down. Its origins is in the mountains. It is a regional dish that was created from a desire to enjoy fish during a time when modes of transportation were limited, so they marinated it in salt to prevent rotting during transport. Sohonke Hiraso, which has its main store in Yoshino, is a well-established store with a history of more than 150 years. It also has a branch around Sarusawaike, which retains visages of the old capital, where you can enjoy such items as a Kakinoha Zushi Mixed Plate (1,240 JPY).
Cha-gayu is a kayu porridge (gruel made from rice and other grains) cooked with tea ("cha"). It is a dish that has long been enjoyed around western Japan. Cha-gayu has a particularly long history in Nara, and is said to have been eaten about 1,200 years ago. If you'd like to savor this traditional flavor, try Tou-no Chaya in the old town of Naramachi. There, you can enjoy the light yet deep flavors of cha-gayu cooking such as their Cha-gayu Kaiseki (starting from 5,000 JPY (excl. tax)) and the Cha-gayu Bento (2,000 JPY (excl. tax).
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Dishes and sweets made using kuzu which is a Yoshino specialty of Yoshino, are also recommended. In particular, kuzu udon is a must try. Unlike regular udon that is made just with flour, kuzu udon has kuzu in the noodles so that it has a transparency and shine when it is cooked. It has a pleasant, slippery texture and is popular as an extremely easy-to-eat dish. The main brandh of Yoshinohonkuzu Tengyokudo Nara, run by a long-established kuzu manufacturer, offers a kuzu Udon Set (1,728 JPY (incl. tax)) and kuzu-gayu (1,404 JPY (incl. tax)) as well as Japanese sweets made with kuzu.
Asuka-nabe is a pot dish in which seasonal vegetables and chicken are cooked in a soup made with chicken stock and milk. It originates from the time when the capital was in the Asuka region of Nara more than 1,300 years ago. Milk-based products were brought over from China and became popular in the imperial household. Today, it is widely enjoyed as a common dish to eat at home. Narameshi Itadakiya, which is dedicated to serving food procured within the prefecture, has a full lineup of regional Nara dishes including Asuka-nabe (1,280 JPY (excl. tax)). Please enjoy the creamy, rich flavors.
Yamato-gyu, a beef brand from Nara, is beef from Japanese Black cattle raised in the rich climate of the Yamato Highlands. It is beautifully marbled with just the right amount of fat and and has deep umami flavors but is not cloying. The fat melts in your mouth so that the flavors seem light. It is also offered at a reasonable price. Yamato-gyu can be tried at Boboyaki Toriwaka, a restaurant two minutes on foot from Kintetsu Nara Station. Why not savor the beef's taste by ordering the Boboyaki, a specialty dish with the beef cooked quickly at a high temperature to bring out its umami and richness and add a hint of spiciness? (Average budget: 2,500 JPY)
Was there anything that piqued your interest? They are all recommended regional dishes and flavors, so please try them for lunch or dinner!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.